CANNES, France — “Shoplifters” director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the Cannes Film Festival with “Broker”, another story about society misfits.
This time, the film revolves around the use of a “baby box,” a controversial method used in Japan, South Korea and other parts of the world to anonymously hand over newborns for care by others.
“In Japan, the biggest criticism was that the baby box made it too easy for mothers to relinquish their responsibility for bringing up the child. But on the other hand, some people said that these boxes actually save lives because otherwise the children could die,” he said. “I just thought that was an interesting argument for a movie.”
The director says his interest in the issue dates back to 2013. “When I was making ‘Like Father, Like Son.’ I researched the Japanese adoption system and learned that Kumamoto Prefecture was Japan’s only baby box. So I got interested and started researching it. And I learned that Korea had the same type of baby boxes, but Korea put about 10 times as many babies in baby boxes than Japan,” he said.
“And then in 2016 I came up with the idea for a short storyline based on the Korean baby box with Song Kang-ho acting as a broker.”
Alongside Song (“Snowpiercer,” “Parasite,” “The Throne”), the South Korean drama also stars Bae Doona (“The Host,” “Jupiter Ascending,” “Cloud Atlas”), Gang Dong-won (“Secret Reunion” , “The Priests”) and South Korean singer-songwriter Lee Ji-eun, known as IU.
“Broker” marks the sixth time the director has been in contention for the Palme d’Or. He was first nominated for the Cannes Grand Prix in 2001 for Distance, then again in 2004 for Nobody Knows, in 2013 and for Our Little Sister in 2015.
The Japanese director won the 2013 Cannes Jury Prize for Like Father, Like Son and won the Palme d’Or at the 2018 festival for his critically acclaimed film Shoplifters.
Single mothers have long been stigmatized in South Korea because pregnancy out of wedlock is considered inappropriate. They are often pressured and shamed into giving up their children because of a deeply sexist and conservative culture, birth registration laws aimed against them, and a largely privatized adoption industry.
“They can be disadvantaged by the system,” he said. “And the mother is the easiest to criticize because the father is no longer there. This is how he escapes criticism.”
When asked if the film raises the question of what it means to be a family today, Kore-eda called the story “the story of a pseudo-family.”
“But more important in this case are the two women who chose not to be mothers. They are central to the story, as is this thrown away life. So for me, in this case, the focus of the film was life and not family.”
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