Asia has a strong presence in the official selection of this year’s Cannes Film Festival with a total 8 films included in the first lineup announcement.
However, Asia is only being represented by Japan and South Korea, already considered regular presence on the Croisette.
South Korea has a total of five films, including two in the competition: Hong Sang-soo’s black-and-white drama The Day After (그 후) and Bong Joon-Jo’s Okja (옥자), though the latter was financed entirely by Netflix and Plan B with a cast made up of Korean and western actors.
Okja marks Bong’s first time in the competition. His last visit to Cannes was in 2009 with Mother (마더), which was in the Un Certain Regard section. Meanwhile, The Day After marks Hong’s fourth time in competition.
Hong also appears in the special screenings section with Claire’s Camera (클레어의 카메라), which he filmed partly at last year’s festival. Hong’s Cannes spotlight marks an incredible comeback for the director after his extramarital affair with actress Kim Min-hee became gossip fodder for Korean tabloids and local netizens last summer.
South Korea also takes up two of the three midnight screening slots with Byun Sung-hyun’s The Merciless (불한당: 나쁜 놈들의 세상) and Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess (악녀).
Produced by CJ Entertainment, The Merciless is an action film about a power struggle among inmates of a prison. The Villainess, from Next Entertainment World (which also sent Train to Busan to last year’s midnight slot), is about a female assassin caught between a man who trains assassins and the man who watches over her. It also marks the return of actress Kim Ok-bin to the Croisette after starring in Park Chan-wook’s Thirst (박쥐).
Japanese titles in the selection include frequent Cannes visitor Naomi Kawase’s Radiance (光) in the competition, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish (散歩する侵略者) in Un Certain Regard and Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal (無限の住人) in Special Screening.
Immortal is set for theatrical release on April 29th in Japan, while Radiance is set for release on May 27th.
This is Kawase’s fifth film in the competition, Kurosawa’s fourth time in Un Certain Regard and Miike’s fourth time in Cannes (and second time with an out of competition film).
Festival director Thierry Frémaux teased that more films will be added in the coming weeks (at least two more in Un Certain Regard), but as the selection currently stands, the rest of Asia has been effectively shut out.
Additional Asian titles may also show up in festival sidebars Director’s Fortnight and Critic’s Week (whose lineup will also be announced later), but Asian presence in those sections have been weak in the past two years.