• Golden Globe Awards

Return to Seoul (Cambodia)

The story centers on a 25-year-old woman, Freddie (Park Ji-min), who was born in South Korea but speaks no Korean. She is looking for her birth parents after being adopted more than 20 years ago.
Return to Seoul is not the story of her search for identity after spending most of her life in France. Rather, it describes to us a serendipitous encounter with a place she is visiting for the first time. Director Davy Chou was inspired to tell this story during a visit to the Busan International Film Festival a few years ago.
“A friend of mine, who was born in South Korea and then adopted in France when she was just one year old, accompanied me to show me ‘her country’. This was the first time that she had returned. We took a bus. Then, I found myself having lunch with her biological father and grandmother. This experience really moved me. During this encounter, there was a whole mix of emotions: sadness, bitterness, incomprehension, regrets…this situation touched something deep down inside me, so I told myself that I would make a film about it someday,” the French Cambodian director told in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival.
It was Director Chou’s first film to screen in the Un Certain Regard section. Like Freddie, Chou spent most of his life in France. He discovered his grandfather was a film producer in Cambodia when he was in high school.
Davy Chou started his career with the documentary Golden Slumbers, in 2011. The piece revealed to us the origins of Cambodian cinema, in the 1960s, and its horrific suppression by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. His debut narrative feature, Diamond Island, premiered 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week. One of the central elements in his filmmaking is his attention to multiple cultures and heritages.
Lead actress Park Ji-min is not a trained actor. She is a French plastic artist of Korean origin. Chou continued looking since he was certain the movie required an actor with Korean ancestry. Even though Chou wrote and directed this movie, he claims that female artists’ views were generously integrated into the script.
“While preparing, Park Ji-min really challenged me. She came to me with concerns and even criticisms regarding the screenplay. She had questions about the character’s relationship with femininity, gender, and men. These discussions, which were sometimes difficult and lasted several months, forced me to question myself. I realized that my position as a male director might have led me to reproduce certain types of clichés. I understood that I needed to change my perspective. That was liberating.”
The city of Seoul, navigated here by two outsiders, represents a distinct atmosphere, different from that of a Korean director or a Western filmmaker. It is both close and far, like the relationship between Freddy and her biological parents.