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Korean presence felt at Cannes 2021

July 18, 2021 - 15:31 By Kim Hae-yeon
From left, actor Yim Si-wan, director Han Jae-rim, Lee Byung-hun, and Song Kang-ho pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film “Emergency Declaration” at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in southern France on July 16. (AFP-Yonhap)
Two years have passed since the 2019 film, “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival. Although Korean films were not among the 24 competing feature films at the festival’s 74th edition, the firm presence of the Korean cinematic scene was acknowledged by the appearance of its star directors and actors.

Director Bong Joon-ho proudly announced the opening of the festival on July 6, while actor Lee Byung-hun took the stage to close the festival’s 12-day run in the Grand Theatre Lumiere at the Palais des Festivals.

Bong, whose attendance festival organizers kept a secret until the very day, appeared as a surprise during the opening ceremony. Bong expressed the endless passion he felt toward great filmmakers and artists at the scene during his three-minute speech.

“The festival had a break (due to the pandemic), but cinema has never halted. Cinema continues to advance, ever since the train started running in the Lumiere brothers’ film,” Bong said.

Two Korean films -- disaster-action film “Emergency Declaration,” directed by Han Jae-rim, and Hong Sang-soo’s drama film, “In Front of Your Face” -- were invited to the non-competition categories. 

Director Han Jae-rim arrives with actors Yim Si-wan (Left) and Lee Byung-hun (Center) for the screening of the film "Emergency Declaration" at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in southern France, on July 16. (AFP-Yonhap)
Han’s film about a bio-terrorist’s virus attack on a plane was made before COVID-19 hit the globe, but the audience clearly resonated with the piece under current circumstances.

A round of applause broke out four times during the screening, and audience members gave a 10-minute standing ovation as the closing credits rolled.

“I felt so happy to see the audience clap and enjoy the scenes,” director Han Jae-rim said excitedly after the premiere.

Song Kang-ho was the first Korean actor to participate as a jury member at the festival. With five women and four men from seven nations, this year’s jury marked one of the most diverse in the history of Cannes.

Lee Byung-hun, who took the stage with short greetings in French to the audience at the closing ceremony, continued his speech in English: “This year’s film festival is very special to me. Director Bong Joon-ho, who opened the film festival, and actor Song Kang-ho, the judge this year, are my colleagues, and Spike Lee, the chairman of the jury, has the same surname as me.” The witty comments made the audience and director Lee smile.

For the 24th Cinefondation Selection, a category dedicated to young student filmmakers, Yoon Dae-won’s short film “Cicada” won second prize, forecasting a bright future for Korean films to come.

By Kim Hae-yeon (