Hirokazu Kore-eda tells tale of unexpected family in Palme d'Or nominee 'Broker'

“Six years ago I thought of this plot, and there was this specific scene I envisioned in my mind — of Song Kang-ho as a priest, holding a baby, and the narrative started off with a premise: ‘On the surface, this character [of Song] seems to be benign, however…’”

Filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda described how he began to envision his upcoming film “Broker” at a local press event Tuesday at the Yongsan I’Park Mall branch of CGV in central Seoul. Kore-eda joined the cast — actors Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Lee Ji-eun and Lee Joo-young — online from Tokyo.

“Broker” follows a group of people who embark on a journey to find a new family for a baby who was found in a baby box, where babies can be anonymously dropped off to be cared for by others.

Song portrays Sang-hyeon, a man who calls himself a broker of goodwill; Gang plays Sang-hyeon’s partner Dong-soo, who firmly believes that a child should be raised by a family; Lee Ji-eun is a single mother named So-young who leaves her baby, Woo-sung, out to the baby box but changes her mind and comes back for the baby; Bae Doo-na and Lee Joo-young are the undercover detectives who follow the trio in their journey to find the baby a proper home.

Scenes from "Broker" [CJ ENM]

Palme d’Or winner Kore-eda has again been invited to compete for the Palme d’Or at the upcoming 75th Cannes Film Festival, which runs from May 17 to 28 — this time with "Broker." Kore-eda and the cast will soon depart for Cannes for a red carpet premiere of their film.

According to the filmmaker, he has been racking his brain for years to get a chance to work with Korean actors, especially with Song and Gang, whom he’s met time to time on film events. Kore-eda initially came up with the plot about seven years ago and met with Song to discuss the film at the 2015 Busan International Film Festival.

On the other hand, Kore-eda said that he became “a huge fan” of Lee Ji-eun and Lee Joo-young in relatively recent years during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As I was stuck at home during the pandemic, I began to binge-watch Korean drama series on streaming services,” the filmmaker said. “I became an enormous fan of Lee Ji-eun through her performance in ‘My Mister’ [2018]. Near the series’ end, I found myself crying whenever she appeared on screen, and strongly felt that only this actor could portray the role of So-young.

“As for Lee Joo-young, I became mesmerized with her in ‘Itaewon Class’ [2019],” he continued. “I saw that series twice. Her presence in the narrative left a strong impression on me, and I contacted her first because I wanted to work with her.”

The filmmaker also sung praises about Bae, whom he has worked with for his prior film “Air Doll” (2010).

“I felt that [Bae’s] acting has matured even more since ‘Air Doll,’” he said. “She lacks nothing in acting — for this film, there were a lot of scenes with Bae in the car, but I felt the actor was missing nothing even during those brief moments in her motions during the scenes.”

As the characters travel from Busan to Seoul, they become a sort of family of their own, Kore-eda hinted during the event. The filmmaker’s movies often involved familial relationships that are not merely formed through blood and heritage, but through bonding with their close ones or, as can be seen in “Broker,” through strangers as well.

“I did initially think that, through what the characters go through in ‘Broker,’ they become a family of their own,” Kore-eda said. “There are people who gave up on becoming part of family and there are still people who desire to become part of one. […] However, as I look back on the film after its completion, I think it’s a story about this one life — how we strive to protect the baby and how we will do so in the future.”

The film will hit local theaters on June 8.