Shoplifters (2018): One of Year’s Best Foreign Films (Japan)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters won the top award, the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Fest.  The film, a highlight of foreign language cinema, is now being released by Magnolia Pictures.

Set on the margins of Tokyo, The tale centers on a dysfunctional band of outsiders, who get united by various forced: fierce loyalty, penchant for petty theft and playful grifting.

When the young son is arrested, secrets are exposed that upend their tenuous existence. They also test their radical belief that it is love—not blood—that defines a family.

Interview with Director Hirokazu Kore-eda

Families Illegally Receiving Pensions of Dead Parents:  Depicting Family from Different Angle Compared to Previous Films?

Kore-eda: The first thing that came to my mind was the tagline: “Only the crimes tied us together”. In Japan, crimes like pension frauds and parents making their children shoplift are criticized severely. Of course, these criminals should be criticized but I am wondering why people get so angry over such minor infractions even though there are many lawbreakers out there committing far more serious crimes without condemnation. Especially after the 2011 earthquakes, I didn’t feel comfortable with people saying repeatedly that a family bond is important. So I wanted to explore it by depicting a family linked by crime.

Bond and its Elements

I started to think about which elements were unfolded and would be examined deeply after the casting. As a result, this film is packed with the various elements I have been exploring these last 10 years. It’s the story of what family means, a story about a man trying to be a father, and a coming-of-age story of a boy.

Impoverished Family in this Film Vs. “Nobody Knows” ?

Shoplifters might be similar to Nobody Knows in the sense that this film also explores closely the sort of “punished” families we regularly see in news reports. It wasn’t my intention simply to describe a poor family, or the lower levels of the social strata. The family in the film ended up gathering in that house not to collapse there. I wanted to shine a light on such a family from a different angle.

Family Split Up–Social Injustice

It’s true, maybe not since Nobody Knows. The core emotion when I was making this film might have been “anger”. Since Still Walking, I have dug desperately deeper and more narrowly into the motif of personal things and after finishing After The Storm, I put the end to this approach of not broadening my vision to society, of minimizing as much as possible. It could be said that I have gone back to where I started.

Collaborating with cinematographer Kondo Ryuto and composer Hosono Haruomi?

I have always wanted to work with Mr. Kondo as I think he is one of the finest cinematographers currently working in the Japanese movie industry. He has very much a “director’s” point of view, with a deep interpretation of story and character. So it was a good balance that allowed me to focus on directing the actors without having to worry about the cinematography. Before the shoot, I was thinking of this film was kind of a fable and sought ways to find and build poetry within reality. Even if the film was realistic, I wanted to describe the poetry of human beings and both the cinematography and music came close to my vision. As for the music, I have been a fan of Mr. Hosono’s film scores in his previous works so I have always looked for an opportunity to work with him. In this film, his music captures the fantasy side of the story.

About HIROKAZU KORE-EDA: Director, Writer, Editor 

Born 1962 in Tokyo, Japan. After graduating from Waseda University in 1987, Kore-eda joined TV Man Union where he directed several prize-winning documentary programs.

In 2014, he launched his production company BUN-BUKU. In 1995, his directorial debut, Maborosi, based on the original novel by Miyamoto Teru, won the 52nd Venice Film Festival’s Golden Osella.

After Life (1998) brought Kore-eda international acclaim. In 2001, Distance was selected in Official Competition at the Cannes Film Fest, and Yagira Yuya, the star of his fourth work Nobody Knows (2004) garnered attention for becoming the youngest person ever to receive the Cannes Festival’s Best Actor Award.

In 2006, Hana, a film centered on vengeance, became his first attempt at a period piece. In 2008, he presented the family drama Still Walking, which reflected his own personal experiences, and received high praise from around the world.

In 2009, Air Doll made its world premiere in Un Certain Regard at the 62nd Cannes Film Fest and was widely-praised for marking a new frontier in its depiction of a sensual love fantasy.

In 2011, I Wish won the Best Screenplay Award at the 59th San Sebastian Film Fest.

In 2012, he made his TV series directorial debut with Going Home. Like Father, Like Son (2013), winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Fest, received the audience awards at San Sebastian, Vancouver, and Sao Paulo Film Festivals and broke the box office records of his previous films in many territories.

In 2015, Our Little Sister premiered In Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and received four awards, including Best Film and Best Director at the Japan Academy Prize, as well as the Audience Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

In 2016, After The Storm premiered in Un Certain Regard at the 69th Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, The Third Murder premiered In Competition at the 74th Venice  Film Fest and won six awards, including Best Film and Best Director at Japan Academy Prize.

On September 23rd, 2018 Kore-eda accepted the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Kore-eda has also produced films for young Japanese directors. Kakuto, directed by Iseya Yusuke, premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2003. Wild Berries (2003) was written and directed by Nishikawa Miwa, whose second feature Sway premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2006. Ending Note: Death of a Japanese Salesman (2011) by Sunada Mami moved audiences worldwide.


1991 However… (Shikashi…) – TV documentary

1991 Lessons from a Calf (Kougai ha Doko he Itta) – TV documentary

1994 August Without Him (Kare no Inai Hachigatsu ga) – TV documentary

1995 Maborosi (Maboroshi no Hikari)

1996 Without Memory (Kioku ga Ushinawareta Toki) – TV documentary

1998 After Life (Wonderful Life)

2001 Distance (Distance)

2004 Nobody Knows (Dare mo Shiranai)

2006 Hana (Hana yorimo Naho)

2008 Still Walking (Aruitemo Aruitemo)

2008 Wishing You’re Alright – Journey Without an End by Cocco

(Daijoubu de Aruyouni Cocco Owaranai Tabi)

2009 Air Doll (Kuuki Ningyo)

2010 The Days After (Nochi no Hi) – TV drama

2011 I Wish (Kiseki) 2012 Going Home (Going My Home) – TV series

2013 Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi ni Naru)

2015 Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary)

2016 After the Storm (Umi yorimo Mada Fukaku)

2016 Carved in Stone (Ishibumi) – Documentary

2017 The Third Murder (Sandome no Satsujin)

2018 Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku)