Busan: Top Asian Actresses Make Filmmaking Debuts

Hitomi Kuroki - Konkona Sensharma - Ngo Thanh Van - H - 2016
Busan International Film Festival

Japan's Hitomi Kuroki, Vietnam's Ngo Thanh Van and India's Konkona Sen Sharma are among first-time filmmakers in the spotlight at Busan.

While the number of female filmmakers remains pitifully low in Hollywood, leading Asian film industries are seeing more and more women in the director's chair. The 21st Busan International Film Festival's lineup reflects the trend, spotlighting in particular the filmmaking debuts of prominent local actresses.

"Save for a select number of Asian countries, the overall amount of films being produced in each country across the region is not very big. But proportion-wise, there is an impressive number of female directors being noted for their unique work in countries like India, and this shows in our program selection," Kim Young-woo, BIFF's Asian cinema programmer, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Japanese veteran screen star Hitomi Kuroki and popular Vietnamese actress-singer-producer Ngo Thanh Van arrived in Busan as first-time directors. Kuroki took the director's chair for the first time in her 36-year acting career for Desperate Sunflowers, while Ngo has branched out yet again, from modeling and singing to producing indie films, to helm her own story, Tam Cam: The Untold Story.

"It feels new to attend a film festival as a director rather than an actress," Kuroki said about Desperate Sunflowers, which is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Nozomi Katsura.

"I didn't think I'd have anything to do with directing since I've been acting for so long. But once we began shooting, I forgot that I was an actress, as if turning off a switch," said the 56-year-old, adding that she would be willing to direct a film again if she came across a story that she finds as compelling as Desperate Sunflowers.

Hailing from South Asia are a range of works featuring female-centric themes and gender issues such as Honeygiver Among the Dogs by Bhutanese director Dechen Roder. Indian household name Konkona Sen Sharma has finally made her feature film debut with Death in the Gunj, 11 years after making the short film Naamkaran in 2006; while another Indian actress, Ananya Kasaravalli, has been invited to Busan as a first-time filmmaker for Chronicles of Hari.

Works by esteemed Asian female auteurs include The Long Excuse by award-winning Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa and By the Time It Gets Dark by Thailand's top talent Anocha Suwichakornpong. The New Currents section for up-and-coming filmmakers features Someone to Talk to, the first feature by Beijing-born and New York-trained filmmaker Liu Yulin, while Taiwanese-Canadian director Tiffany Hsiung's The Apology is showing in the Wide Angle's documentary showcase.