Yanagawa: Busan Icon Zhang Lu Continues his Exploration of East Asian Identity

The Busan International Film Festival will be a homecoming of sorts for Zhang Lu. The celebrated art-house director was born in China, but is of Korean ethnicity, and has enjoyed many of his successes in Busan, at the festival or through the project market.

Zhang’s new film “Yanagawa” has its world premiere in Busan’s Icons section and will next travel to the Pingyao festival where it is set as the opening title. His past track record suggests that further globe-trotting is likely: “Grain in Ear,” “Fukuoka,” “Dooman River,” “Desert Dream” and “Gyeongju,” have gone on to win prizes in Cannes, Berlin and Locarno.

For what is his first Chinese-made picture after a decade making films in Korea, Zhang has secured the services of top actors Ni Ni, Zhang Luyi and Sosuke Ikematsu (“Killing,” “Shoplifters”). The film nevertheless continues Zhang’s exploration of cultural, political and emotional spaces.

“Yanagawa” again allows him to tackle the issues of East Asian identity and the impact of history, this time through the prism of a love story that blurs memory with the present.

The story involves two brothers with very different personalities. Both live in Beijing, but they have remained estranged from each other. The narrative takes a turn when the younger one proposes that they travel together to Yanagawa, Japan, to seek out the woman that they both loved in their youth.

The production was backed by Chinese firms Midnight Blur and HiShow Entertainment, with Midnight Blur’s sales arm Parallax Films handling international rights.

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