From Korean actor Song Kang-ho to Chinese director Jianying Chen, these are the top Asian winners at the Cannes Film Festival that showed our prowess and talent on the world stage
In addition to the glamorous fashion on the red carpet and the dazzling jewellery pieces, the Cannes Film Festival is a celebration of cinema. Filmmakers, celebrities and people from the movie industry flock to the prestigious film festival every year.
As the 75th edition of the festival comes to a close, several Asian stars and directors have won and gained recognition for their work and performance. Here, we break down some of the Asian winners from the festival who truly showcased Asian excellence to the world.
Song Kang-ho, ‘Broker’
South Korean actor Song Kang-ho made history as the first Korean male actor to win an acting award at the Cannes Film Festival. Song brought home the prize for his performance in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker.
He plays Sang-hyun, the owner of a laundrette. To make extra money, he steals babies left in a nearby church and sells them to parents who want to have children.
Song has starred in other Cannes-winning films including Parasite in 2019 and Thirst in 2009.
Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave’
South Korean director Park Chan-wook returns to directing after six years and with this, won Best Director for Decision to Leave. This award makes him the second Korean director after Im Kwok-taek in 2002 to win Best Director.
Park’s other movies such as the critically acclaimed Oldboy, Thirst and The Handmaiden competed for the Palme d’Or. Oldboy won Grand Prix in 2004 while Thirst took home the Jury Prize in 2009.
Zar Amir Ebrahimi, ‘Holy Spider’
Zar Amir Ebrahimi clinched the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Iranian actress won for her role in Holy Spider. She plays a journalist trying to solve the murders of prostitutes in Mashhad, a holy city in Iran.
The movie is inspired by a real-life case of a man who killed prostitutes in the early 2000s and became known as the Spider Killer.
Dolly de Leon, ‘Triangle of Sadness’
While she did not win any award, Filipino actress Dolly de Leon was a strong contender for Best Actress. She earned raves for her portrayal as a luxury yacht worker in the 2022 Palme d’Or-winning film, Triangle of Sadness.
The satirical film by Ruben Östlund follows a celebrity couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the ultra-rich. The cruise sinks and they become stranded on a deserted island.
In an interview with Variety, the actress says her role is an ode to OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).
Stefanie Arianne, ‘Plan 75’
Chie Hayakawa’s Plan 75 earned the Camera d’Or Special Mention award at the festival. In the movie, Filipino actress Stefanie Arianne plays an OFW who moves to Japan to provide for her ailing daughter in the Philippines.
The movie takes place in Japan “in the near future” where a government program called Plan 75 encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanised in order to control an ageing population.
Saim Sadiq, ‘Joyland’
Joyland makes history as the first Pakistani film to be selected as an official entry for the Cannes Film Festival. The movie won not one but two prizes: Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and Queer Palm Award.
Directed by Saim Sadiq in his debut feature, the movie tackles gender and sexuality issues and is led by transgender actress Alina Khan.
It follows the youngest son of a patriarchal family who is expected to continue his family’s line by producing a baby boy. Having other plans, he joins an erotic dance theatre instead and falls for the troupe’s director who is a trans woman.
Li Jiahe, ‘Somewhere’
Li Jiahe’s short film Somewhere won the second prize in the Cinéfondation Selection which consists of student films chosen among 378 film schools.
Li Jiahe is a student at Hebei University of Science and Technology’s School of Film and Television in China.
Saeed Roustayi, ‘Leila’s Brothers’
Saeed Roustayi’s (also spelt Saeed Roustaee) third movie Leila’s Brothers took home two awards from the Cannes Film Festival: the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prix de la Citoyenneté.
The Iranian movie centres around 40-year-old Leila who has spent much of her life looking after he parents and four brothers. The family is crushed by debts and it’s up to Leila to formulate a plan that would save them from poverty.
Hirokazu Kore-eda, ‘Broker’
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-reda returns to the Cannes stage with his first Korean film Broker. The movie won the Ecumenical Prize at the festival and received a 12-minute standing ovation after its screening—the longest for any Korean film.
Kore-eda previously won the Palme d’Or for his family drama, Shoplifters in 2018. His other films such as Nobody Knows (2004), Like Father Like Son (2013) and Our Little Sister (2015) also competed at the Cannes Film Festival.
Shaunak Sen, ‘All That Breathes’
Indian filmmaker Shaunak Sen and his documentary All That Breathes scored the L’Œil d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is the top award given to documentaries.
The movie marks Sen’s feature-length debut and is India’s lone entry to the festival. It tells the story of siblings Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad who have made it their life’s mission to protect black kite birds.
Shuli Huang, ‘Will You Look at Me’
Shuli Huang’s short documentary, Will You Look At Me brought home the Queer Palm award.
The 20-minute movie revolves around a young Chinese filmmaker who returns to his hometown after 10 years of silence about his sexuality, to search for himself and have a long-overdue conversation with his mother.
Jianying Chen, ‘The Water Murmurs’
The Water Murmurs by 27-year-old director Jianying Chen clinched the Palme d’Or for Short Film. It is the third time that a Chinese short film has won the top prize at Cannes.
The 15-minute short film follows a young woman (Annabel Yao) as she bids farewell to her hometown which is set to be destroyed due to rising tides caused by a meteorite. With each encounter before her departure, her memories of the town become clearer.
Abinash Bikram Shah, ‘Lori’
Abinash Bikram Shah’s short film, Lori is the first Nepali film to be selected for the Main Competition category and the first to win an award. It received the Special Mention of the Jury for a Short Film.
The 14-minute movie tells the story of a mother who sings lullabies to her young daughter. When the lullabies end, reality hits the mother and daughter. The movie also explores the patriarchal reality in the Southeast parts of rural Nepal.