Hirokazu Kore-eda On His Next Project, A Samurai-Focused Streaming Series & Why Japan’s Film Industry Is In Danger: “Staff Are Not Making A Living”

With four TV and film projects in as many years, few filmmakers right now are more prolific than Hirokazu Kore-eda.

The veteran Japanese filmmaker behind titles like the Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters and Still Walking continued his hot streak after landing his third directing honor from the Asian Academy Sunday night for his last feature, Monster. Last night’s win was Kore-eda’s second consecutive Best Director win at the Asian Film Awards after nabbing the gong with the Korean-language Broker in 2023.

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“I’m in a really good spot right now,” Kore-eda told Deadline shortly before picking up the award on Sunday. “I’m not forcing myself at all. I’m constantly working. I have good stamina.” The filmmaker told us that he has no intentions of slowing down.

“I’m currently working on a streaming drama I shot last autumn. I’m in the editing phase for that now,” he said before adding that he can’t say much about the plot, but he is still unsure where the show might land when completed.

“We aren’t sure which streaming service is going to get it yet. But it’s based on a popular NHK series made 40 years ago. It’s a very samurai story. In total, there will be seven episodes,” he said.

Another Japanese filmmaker, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, also won big at the AFAs last night, taking Best Film with Evil Does Not Exist. This is the second year running that a film helmed by Hamaguchi has picked up the award. He won the top prize last year with Drive My Car. While the repeat Hamaguchi-Kore-eda leading double has solidified a new era of dominance for Japanese cinema in the region, Kore-eda told Deadline the success is not reflective of the conditions endured by film workers back home.

“We are seeing a lot of new people entering the industry; however, if people think that means there is a renewal in audiences or the movie scene is happier than before, I can say that is not true,” Kore-eda said.

“Staff are not making a living in the industry, and it is very hard to keep them working on films. There are now a lot of shows, but they’re not making a living at all. That is the point we have to work on and improve, otherwise it will be very difficult to keep making Japanese movies in the future.”

Debuting at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it picked up the Best Screenplay award for writer Yuji Sakamoto, Monster follows a single mother who suspects there is something wrong at her son’s school when he starts behaving strangely. She storms into the school and accuses a teacher of bullying her son, only to have the teacher claim the boy is bullying another pupil, an eccentric child who appears to be having problems at home. The pic is the first Kore-eda has directed from a screenplay he hadn’t written since his debut feature, Maborosi.

“It was a dream to work with Sakamoto. I have always admired his work and saw similarities between us. I learned a lot from him,” Kore-eda said of Sakamoto.

Sakamoto is a veteran writer in Japan with over three decades worth of credits on titles such as the popular romantic drama We Made A Beautiful Bouquet, and a string of hit drama series, including Tokyo Love Story and Mother, which was remade in several different languages. With Monster, however, Sakamoto told Deadline that he feels he has finally achieved a genuine connection with international audiences.

“I never thought that my past work would ever reach international audiences because I write squarely for Japanese audiences but through this work, even though I was thinking through a Japanese lens, I feel international audiences can understand the work.”

Following Monster Sakamoto told us he plans to get straight back to work.

“I signed a five-year contract with Netflix, so I’m going to be their worker for the next few years,” he joked.

Sakamoto inked the deal last year with Netflix. His first project for the streamer was the romantic murder mystery In Love And Deep Water. Directed by Taki Yusuke, In Love And Deep Water takes place on board a luxury cruise ship where a devoted ship butler encounters a female passenger, who claims their respective partners are on the verge of cheating on them. Ryo Yoshizawa (Gintama franchise) and Aoi Miyazaki (RageThe Great Passage) head the cast.

Kore-eda also has a wide-ranging deal with Netflix, which started with the series The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House, launched last year.

“Maybe we will collaborate on another new film,” Kore-eda said of his and Sakamoto’s work at the streamer.

Last night’s AFAs kicked off a month of film events in Hong Kong. On Monday, Hong Kong’s Filmart, the biggest market in Asia, kicked into gear. On March 28, the Hong Kong International Film Festival will open with All Shall be Well, directed by Ray Yeung.

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