In an ideal world, Kogonada’s work would speak for itself. He came to prominence with a series of short but powerful video essays that focused on a single aspect of a director’s work: faces in Hitchcock’s thrillers, mirrors in Bergman’s dramas, and the gentle quotidian pace of Yasujirō Ozu’s family sagas. Ozu, in particular, is a big influence on Kogonada, who adapted the name of Ozu’s screenwriter—Kôgo Noda—as an alias. “I’ve never identified much with my American name,” he has said, “which always feels a little strange to see or hear. My family uses a nickname that I’ve had since I was a kid.”
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Families played a big part in Kogonada’s 2017 debut, Columbus, in which an Asian-American man (John Cho) is forced to reflect on his past in the Midwestern U.S. town after his architect father falls ill. For his follow-up, After Yang, which premieres in Un Certain Regard, Kogonada hasn’t travelled far, moving the action to an unspecified nearby city in the near future. “I didn’t imagine that my next film would be in the sci-fi genre,” he said. “That wasn’t something that was on my mind. When I watch blockbuster sci-fi movies where the whole world is at stake, I’m often curious about the people in the background who have to make a living—what are they doing within that landscape? What are their families like?”
Based on the 2016 short story Saying Goodbye to Yang by Alexander Weinstein, the film stars Colin Farrell as Jake, the father of an adopted Chinese girl who buys an android (Yang) to teach his daughter about Asian culture. But when the android breaks, Jake finds himself considering more than just the cost of repair. “A lot of times when a story deals with this kind of subject matter, it’s about an AI wanting to be human,” said Kogonada. “But in this case, it’s about a human trying to make sense of the loss and value of a non-human being.”
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