Korea has its best Cannes Film Festival ever

Director Park Chan-wook, left, and actor Song Kang-ho pose with their trophies after the closing ceremony of the 75th annual Cannes International Film Festival on Saturday. [NEWS1]

It was a great night for Korean cinema as actor Song Kang-ho took home the Best Actor Award for his performance in “Broker” and director Park Chan-wook won Best Director for his 11th feature film “Decision to Leave” at the 75th annual Cannes International Film Festival on Saturday.

It was the first time that Korean films won two prizes in Cannes.

Song’s Best Actor Award was the first for a Korean male actor, and the fourth for an Asian actor.

Upon hearing his name called, Song hugged co-star Gang Dong-won and director Hirokazu Kore-eda, and, as he made his way to the stage, director Park Chan-wook and actor Park Hae-il as well.

“Merci beaucoup,” he started his acceptance speech in French, then spoke the rest in Korean. “I’m very, very grateful and honored. I express my deepest gratitude to the great artist Hirokazu Kore-eda.”

Song Kang-ho poses for the Award Winners' photocall at the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival for winning the Best Actor Award for his performance in Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Broker." The festival ran from May 17 to 28. [EPA/YONHAP]

He thanked co-stars Gang, Lee Ji-eun, Lee Joo-young and Bae Doo-na, Korean production company Cinema Zip’s CEO Lee Eugene and the film’s distributor, CJ ENM.

“My loving family came [to the festival] with me too," he said. "I’m so happy because I believe this is a great, big present [for me and my family] and I dedicate this trophy to eternal love.

“I [also] dedicate this glory to countless cinephiles, Thank you.”

“Broker” is Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first Korean-language film. It follows a group of people who embark on a journey to find a new family for a baby delivered to an unwed mother.

A scene from "Broker" starring Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Lee Ji-eun, Bae Doo-na and Lee Joo-young [CJ ENM]

Song portrays Sang-hyun, a man who calls himself a broker of goodwill.

The previous Asian male actors to receive the award were Ge You from China in 1994, Tony Leung Chiu-wai from Hong Kong in 2000 and Yuya Yagira from Japan in 2004. Although Korean films had won the Palme d'Or, Best Director, Best Actress, the Grand Prix and Jury prizes, it was the first Best Actor Award for a Korean male actor.

This was Song’s seventh time to be invited to the festival. Last year, Song was a member of the Cannes’ jury, following in the footsteps of director Shin Sang-ok in 1994, director Lee Chang-dong in 2009, actor Jeon Do-yeon in 2014 and director Park Chan-wook in 2017.

Song first attended the Cannes festival as the star of director Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 film “The Host,” which was screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 59th edition in 2006. He also attended when co-star Jeon Do-yeon became the first Korean female actor to receive Best Actress Award for director Lee Chang-dong’s 2007 “Secret Sunshine” the following year. Other films that Lee starred in that have been shown at Cannes include Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst” (2009), which competed for the Palme d’Or, and “The Good, The Bad, The Weird” (2008) by director Kim Jee-woon and “Emergency Declaration” (2022) by director Han Jae-rim, which were screened in the category of filmsout of competition.

In 2019, Song was in Cannes when Bong’s acclaimed “Parasite,” in which he starred, won the Palme d’Or.

Director Park Chan-wook poses for the Award Winners' photocall at the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival after winning the Best Director Award for his film "Decision to Leave." [AP/YONHAP]

Park Chan-wook, who was named Best Director, hugged Park Hae-il warmly, then Miky Lee, the vice chairwoman of CJ Group, before he took the stage to receive the prize.

“As we faced the age of Covid-19 pandemic, there were times when we raised our national barriers but we also unanimously shared fear and worries,” he said in Korean. “We faced a time when theaters were cut off from the people, and it was a time for us to all realize the value of theaters. As we had the strength and hope to overcome this outbreak, I believe that our film, our cinephiles, will forever uphold the value of films and theaters.

“I also thank CJ and Miky Lee who gave their endless support to make this film, and our crews including screenwriter Jeong Seo-kyeong […] Above everything else I cannot express my love in words for [the lead actors] Park Hae-il and Tang Wei… I will refrain from going into details.”

A scene from "Decision to Leave" starring actors Park Hae-il and Tang Wei [CJ ENM]

“Decision to Leave” revolves around a married police detective (portrayed by Park) who finds himself attracted to a mysterious widow (portrayed by Tang Wei) after she becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

Park is also no stranger to Cannes. His 2003 film “Oldboy” won the Grand Prix at the 57th edition and his 2009 film “Thirst” won the Jury Prize at the 62nd edition.

In the category of Best Director, Park is the second Korean director to win after Im Kwon-taek for his 2002 film “Chihwaseon” at the 55th edition.

According to CJ ENM, which oversees distribution of both “Broker” and “Decision to Leave,” distribution rights have been sold to 171 countries for the first and 192 for the second. “Broker” is slated for local release on June 8. “Decision to Leave” will be released on June 29.

Meanwhile, the Palme d'Or went to "Triangle of Sadness" directed by Ruben Ostlund, and the Grand Prix was shared by "Close" by Lukas Dhont and "Stars At Noon" by Claire Denis.

Best Screenplay went to Tarik Saleh, who wrote and directed "Boy from Heaven," while Zar Amir Ebrahimi won the Best Actress Award for "Holy Spider."

The Jury Prize was shared by "EO" by Jerzy Skolimowski and "The Eight Mountains" by Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch.