Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' among films in the running for Cannes' top prize

This image provided by CJ Entertainment shows a scene from the film "Parasite."

With one day to go before the opening of this year's Cannes Film Festival, whether South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's latest will be able to take home the top prize is drawing public attention here.

"Parasite," the seventh feature flick from Bong, is one of the 21 films chosen to compete for the Palme d'Or, Cannes' highest prize, at the 72nd edition of the festival.

Among other strong nominees are "Pain and Glory" by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and "Ahmed" by the Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne.

It is the second time Bong has been in contention for the top prize in Cannes, following his adventure film "Okja" in 2017. "Parasite" is Bong's fifth film to be screened at the film festival -- others include "Host" and "Mother."

The new film, scheduled to premiere on May 21 in Cannes, is a tragicomedy about a poor family becoming obsessed with a rich one after their son gets a job as a tutor for the wealthy family.

 

This image provided by the Cannes Film Festival shows the official poster of the 72nd event. (Yonhap)

This image provided by the Cannes Film Festival shows the official poster of the 72nd event.

"I am honored and nervous. ... (The Cannes Film Festival) is a place that is exciting, new and tense no matter when I go," said the 49-year old director in a Seoul press conference last month.

But he is not hung up on winning a prize in Cannes as his film may be too nuanced and subtle for the international festival.

"Foreigners, I think, would not be able to grasp (the significance of) the film 100 percent," he said. "It's such a Korean film, filled with details and nuances that could only be understood 100 percent when Korean audiences see it."

He has to carry the day against big-name directors in the competition lineup, five of whom have previously won the highest honor at Cannes. For instance, Ken Loach of "Sorry We Missed You" is the 2017 winner of the Palme d'Or, and Terrence Malick of "A Hidden Life" was awarded the gong in 2011.

Film critics also say that it will be hard for Bong to clinch the most prestigious award this year because Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda won it last year for "Shoplifters".

"Cannes will hesitate to grant the grand prize to another Asian director two years in a row, beating out all these heavyweights," said Kang Yoo-jung, a film critic and professor at Kangnam University in Yongin, just south of Seoul. "But we can expect other awards like best actor prize."

"Parasite" is not the only South Korean title invited to this year's Cannes.

The action-adventure film "The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil," directed by Lee Won-tae, has been included in Cannes' non-competition lineup. In the Directors' Fortnight category of the festival, Jeong Da-hee's animated film "Movements" will screen in the short and medium-length films section.

"Cannes now looks into the Korean movie industry in a deeper way. It pays attention not only to masters, but also to up-and-coming directors in Korea," said Kang.

The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival is slated for May 14-25, with "The Dead Don't Die" by Jim Jarmusch opening the event.

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