BUSAN: Cannes Palme d´Or-winning Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda says he has come to South Korea to show "solidarity" with his fans and fellow filmmakers as governments in Seoul and Tokyo fight out a bitter trade war.
"Through showing support for each other we can solve and overcome these political problems," Kore-eda said Saturday as he formally accepted the Asian Filmmaker of the Year of Award from South Korea´s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF).
"I believe in solidarity."
Although the 10-day BIFF features Japanese films throughout its programme, eyebrows were raised at the end of September when it was revealed that the upcoming Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) had not selected any Korean productions for its main award.
The trade war between the two countries was ignited after a South Korean court ordered that Japan pay compensation to the relatives of those affected by its colonisation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Japan refused to acknowledge the ruling and first placed trade restrictions on tech exports to South Korea before downgrading the country´s trading status.
South Koreans have since mounted a widespread boycott of Japanese goods, including beer, cosmetic products and cars, among others.
Kore-eda pointed to BIFF´s own history with problematic politics as an "inspiration" to filmmakers and to the world.
The Korean festival had come under intense governmental pressure in 2014 when it screened a controversial documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster that claimed the lives of more than 300 people, many of them children. The documentary highlighted what it saw as misconduct by the then-government of Park Geun-hye.
The festival was told to withdraw the film but kept it on the programme and then faced budget cuts and criminal charges filed against senior management. The matter was only really resolved with the arrival of the government of Moon Jae-in in 2017.
- ´Film brings us together´ -
"When Busan was under political suppression many international film people showed their support and I was one of them," said Kore-eda.
"Now, after all those years of difficulty Busan has been able to come this far. That´s why I am able to visit this day. Back then solidarity with Busan showed it could endure through the problems it was having with politics. And I hope we can do the same today."
The 24-year-old BIFF has long championed Kore-eda´s work and the filmmaker believes this helped people from the two nations understand more about each other over the years.
"Film brings us together and reveals things about each other that we all share," said Kore-eda who sent a video message to BIFF on opening night before arriving in Busan early Saturday.
The 57-year-old won the prestigious Palme d´Or last year for his family drama "Shoplifters", a cutting look at a family living on the edges of Japanese society.
He has returned to BIFF this year with the family drama "The Truth", his first non-Japanese feature. It stars iconic French actresses Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche and swirls around a emotional family reunion and the publishing of an error-strewn memoir. Hollywood A-lister Ethan Hawke also features as the son-in-law.
"This process of working overseas with overseas actors was very different for me," said Kore-eda. "But I think people all over the world are interested in the same types of stories."
BIFF runs until October 13.
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