Cannes 2022: Korean wave, strong Middle East presence, first film from Pakistan

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This year’s Cannes official selection has something for everyone – leading arthouse auteurs and former Palme d’Or winners; new talents and discoveries; US studio movies including Top Gun: Maverick, and many other films that will pepper the red carpet with big stars.

It feels like a return to business as usual for Cannes after two years of disruption and contingency plans. So far, the official line-up has 47 titles, compared to more than 80 last year, but Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux says more will be announced soon. Below we take a look at the films in the selection from outside the Americas and Europe:


As expected, South Korea will feature prominently at this year’s Cannes film festival, and not just through Korean filmmakers, although leading Korean director Park Chan-wook has secured a competition slot for Decision To Leave, and Squid Game star Lee Jung-Jae has his directorial debut, Hunt, in Midnight Screenings.

In addition to these two titles, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda has his first Korean-language film, Broker, in competition, while All The People I’ll Never Be, which Cambodian-French director Davy Chou filmed in Korea, has been selected for Un Certain Regard.

Starring Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Gang Dong-won (Peninsula) and Bae Doona (The Silent Sea), Broker follows two men who take a child from a ‘baby box’, a small space where parents leave infants they’re unable to look after themselves. The film is produced by Zip Cinema with CJ Entertainment financing and handling international sales. Kore-eda, who won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2018 for Shoplifters, is one of five returning Palme d’Or winners in competition this year, along with Cristian Mungiu, Ruben Ostlund and the Dardenne brothers.

All The People I’ll Never Be follows a young woman who returns to Korea to explore her roots after being adopted and raised in France. The cast is headed by Korean actors Park Ji-Min and Oh Kwang-Rok, along with France’s Louis-Do De Lencquesaing. MK2 Films is handling international sales and Films du Losange is distributing in France. Chou is returning to Cannes after his 2016 debut narrative feature, Diamond Island, played in Critics Week in 2016.

All The People I’ll Never Be

Decision To Leave is one of the few links that China will have to Cannes this year as Chinese actress Tang Wei stars in the film with Korea’s Park Hae-il. Also financed and sold by Korean powerhouse CJ Entertainment, the film revolves around a detective drawn to a mysterious woman while investigating her husband’s death. Park was last in Cannes with The Handmaiden in 2016 and has previously won the Cannes Grand Prix for Oldboy (2004) and the Jury Prize for Thirst (2009).

Lee Jung-Jae also co-wrote and stars alongside Jung Woo-Sung in Hunt, a 1980s-set thriller about two special agents in Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who are separately tasked with tracking down a North Korean mole. The film is one of three announced for Midnight Screenings along with French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux’s Fumer Fait Tousser and US director Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream. Korea’s Megabox Plus M is handling international sales.

Cannes competition also includes two films from Iranian filmmakers – Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider and Saeed Roustaee’s Leila’s Brothers – and one from Egypt, Tarik Saleh’s Boy From Heaven. Ali Abbasi previously won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes in 2018 with Border. His new film revolves around a religious man whose quest to free society of corruption sends him on a killing spree.

Saeed Roustaee and Tarik Saleh are new to Cannes and were not tipped to appear in competition, so there’s some excitement about what they might bring. Based in Sweden, Saleh is known for films such as Sundance award-winning crime drama The Nile Hilton Incident and recently made action thriller The Contractor starring Chris Pine. He returns to Egypt for Boy From Heaven, which explores the issue of rivalry within a religious community. Roustaee won best director at Tokyo International Film Festival in 2019 for Just 6.5, which premiered in the Orizzonti section of Venice.

Turning to Un Certain Regard, which focuses on emerging talent, the line-up also includes Burning Days from Turkish director Emin Alper, who won Berlin’s Caligari Film Prize for his debut Beyond The Hill (2012) and the Special Jury Prize in Venice for his second film Frenzy (2015). Burning Days follows a young prosecutor who finds himself being pulled into a political conflict during his first murder investigation. German sales company The Match Factory is handling international sales.

Un Certain Regard also includes the debut features of Japanese filmmaker Chie Hayakawa, Plan 75, and US-based Pakistani filmmaker Saim Sadiq, Joyland.

Based on her segment from omnibus film Ten Years Japan, Plan 75 is a Japan-Philippines-France co-production about a government programme that encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanised to remedy a super-aged society. An elderly woman whose means of survival are vanishing, a pragmatic Plan 75 salesman, and a young Filipino labourer face choices of life and death. Urban Distribution is handling international sales.

Not much has been revealed about Joyland, but that may be to prevent controversy in Pakistan ahead of the festival, as Indiewire reported that the film may feature a Pakistani transgender character. Sadiq previously won the Orizzonti Award for best short film at the Venice film festival in 2019 for Darling, which also featured a transgender character. Film Constellation is handling international sales, with WME Entertainment repping North America.

Apart from Joyland, the only other South Asian film in the line-up is Shaunak Sen’s documentary, All That Breathes, which won the Grand Jury Prize in World Cinema Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has been selected for Cannes Special Screenings. The film follows two brothers who have devoted their lives to saving thousands of birds from Delhi’s suffocating pollution.

China is so far missing from the official selection, which is not a huge surprise given the country’s political tightening, which has resulted in a bigger focus on patriotic films and made it difficult to gain approval to screen films at international festivals. It may also be the case that filmmakers are nervous to submit after Cannes screened Hong Kong filmmaker Kiwi Chow’s Revolution Of Our Times, about the Hong Kong protests, last year.

On the other hand, there are some interesting Chinese projects in the pipeline, so perhaps these are among the titles Fremaux has yet to announce, or will pop up at festivals later in the year. Likewise, in addition to Davy Chou’s film, there are several more projects in production from Southeast Asian filmmakers that we can expect to see at festivals at some point this year.

Another gap is cinema from Africa, with Berlin film festival currently more active in showcasing African films (this year screening Father’s Day from Rwandan filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza; No Simple Way Home, from South Sudanese director Akuol de Mabior and No U-Turn, by Nigerian director Ike Nnaebue).

After a Japanese film, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, won this year’s best international film Oscar, there are so far no Japanese productions in Cannes official selection. But there is a Japanese connection to the opening film, Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy Z, which is a French remake of Japanese 2017 cult hit One Cut Of The Dead.

Judging from reports so far, Cannes attendance looks like it is returning to usual levels, with around 30,000 accredited participants, but Asian talent and industry, and the Chinese in particular, are not likely to be out in force. Many Asian countries still have some form of quarantine or Covid-related border control that makes it difficult to return home. China is in the midst of a huge Omicron outbreak, resulting in swathes of the country being locked down as authorities stick to their guns on a zero Covid policy.

Having said that, as buzz mounts about this year’s line-up, more industry folk in Asia are succumbing to FOMO and checking out those last-minute flight and apartment deals. So you never know who you’ll bump into on the Croisette.