Kore-eda Hirokazu, the celebrated Japanese director of the Palme d’Or winning film Shoplifters, is developing multiple projects for Netflix.
He is currently developing a big budget movie that he will direct and a series, in which he will be the showrunner and direct some episodes. The moves are an extension of Netflix’s current schedule of ramping up Japanese live-action content, which is critical to success in the local market and is also increasingly viewed by an international audience.
Kore-eda gave few details on the subject of the projects, but in a video message on the Netflix Japan Festival 2021 showcase on Wednesday, he teased their scale and his willingness to experiment.
“Netflix and I are teaming up to create a high-budget drama series and movie that is unlike any of my previous works. You have to wait a while before they are ready and delivered to you. I use elements other than those in theater films and try to create exciting works. Please look forward to it,” he said. “Probably the scale of the new movie will be different from the movies I’ve made before. Also, the drama series wouldn’t be realized if I didn’t partner with Netflix.”
“I’m not the only director currently working on the drama, I’m directing as showrunner, and [will] direct some episodes yourself. But this time I’m trying to involve young directors and work with them. This is also a big call for me to work on this project.”
Kore-eda, who calls himself an outsider in his homeland, has previously shown a willingness to oversee emerging Japanese talent. In 2018, he came on board as producer of ‘Ten Years Japan’, an omnibus film asking filmmakers to imagine their country ten years in the future.
The global streaming giant has had significant success in East Asia, but had to dig deep into local content to achieve success in Japan and South Korea. It has licensed, co-produced and developed original content in both places.
Netflix said Tuesday it will add 50 new pieces of Japanese content to the 90 it already offers. In particular, it plans to expand its position in Japanese feature film.
Local industry conditions mean this could be an area of significant opportunity. The predominant practice in Japan is that films are supported by production committees made up of various companies from across the production, financial, distribution and advertising spectrum. While this ensures coordinated marketing efforts and minimizes individual financial exposure, it is also a risk-averse system prone to slow decision-making. Also, despite the size of the local market, Japanese films have very low average production budgets.
A company like Netflix that can provide centralized decision-making, creative freedom and greater production resources has the potential to attract significant local writing and directing talent. While the Korean market conditions are not identical, these attributes were responsible for attracting “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho to Netflix to make the 2017 fantasy film “Okja” and ensured that other talent followed suit.
Kore-eda signaled his interest in experimentation and the freedom to challenge stereotypes offered by long series and streaming platforms.
“Realistically, radical films normally have little chance of hitting theaters. In the end, they would not be seen by the public. It’s not just in Japan, but in every country. Streaming actually allows these movies to be born into the world. I think it’s important,” he said.
“Take American films, for example. These are streaming movies that win the Oscars, including documentaries. And the amount is growing. By breaking through old boundaries and limitations, there are opportunities to bring forth new creators and new works. There is certainly a stage for that. I think it’s a very positive situation.”
Kore-eda became the first Japanese director in 21 years to win the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival with ‘Shoplifters’, a masterful story about a family of professional thieves who take in an orphaned girl. He could very well return to Cannes with ‘Broker’, an adoption drama, which is currently in post-production.
The photo isn’t his first in a foreign language — his 2019 film “The Truth” was mostly told in French — but will be his first in Korean. Featuring three of South Korea’s top actors Song Kang-ho (“Parasite”), Gang Dong-wan (“Peninsula”) and Bae Doona (“The Host”, “Cloud Atlas”).