Interview with Hanae Kan: Japanese audience expects us to move them emotionally through a film rather than to let them think about the film by themselves

We speak with Hanae Kan about her latest films, her career, the Japanese audience, her double ethnicity, and many other topics.

Hanae Kan was born on November 7, 1990 in Mishima City, Shizuoka, Japan as Han Yong-hye, as her father is Korean. She made her debut when she was just 11 years old, in Seijun Suzuki's "Pistol Opera", and in 2004 she played in Hirokazu Koreeda's "Nobody Knows". Her career continued until today, with some her latest roles including "West North West,"Yamato (California)" and "Love And Other Cults" .

On the occasion of the latter screening at Fantasia International Film Festival, we speak with her about her latest films, her career, the Japanese audience, her double ethnicity, and many other topics.

This year has been quite good for you, with roles (apart from "Love and other Cults") in "Inumukoiri" and "Yamato (California)". Can you tell us a bit about these experiences? 



I’ve been working with  director Katashima of "Inumukoiri" for a long time. Actually, he was the producer of my debut film "Pistol Opera", by Seijun Suzuki director and it was my third time working with him.

"Yamato" (California) is a film about rap music. It was my first time working with director Miyazaki . Also the first time for me to do rap, so I was a little perplexed and hesitated to take the role at first. But he wanted me to try and interpret the freshness of my first experience, so I gladly accepted. Miyazaki  is a very free person. Even if there is a script, he says completely different things at the scene. It’s a good thing about him. I had the feeling of creating the film with everyone together, and we enjoyed it.

In general, how do you choose the films you act?

When I get an offer, I think what influence I can have to the audience, the meaning of the film and what I will be in it, and if I can truly live the role in the story. These are the only things I care about when I decide to take an offer or not.

Is it difficult for an actress to make a decent living in the Japanese movie industry at the moment?

Yes, I think it is difficult. In my case, I only work for films so I don’t know about others, but for me continuing making films to live is quite tough, so I may say that the reality is severe. It is necessary to play in a lot of movies every year


I found the Reika-Kenta relationship one of the most interesting in "Love and other Cults". Can you tell us a bit more about this, and your part in the film?

Thank you. I heard that the part of Ai and the part of Reika-Kenta was originally two different stories and the director made it one. Kenta is a mischievous boy at a lower position in a yakuza group. I played the role of Reika who is attracted to Kenta. In this love story, the most important thing is that she is attracted by the pureness of Kenta. In spite of their appearance, these characters have very pure minds. I wanted to interpret how a pure heart can get contaminated easier, like black paint spread quickly in clear water. I think in real life in Japan, or maybe it’s the same everywhere, pure people often take unstable positions, and are easily subjected to bad influences. 

How did Eiji Uchida guide you and how did you interpret your role? 

It was my first movie with director Uchida. He discussed a lot about the script before starting to film. He tested many times. He doesn’t film until we get really ready for it. I think it does not happen very often to film in only one shot.

Before we start filming, I talked with the director to know what is his way of approach, and how is the Reika he wants me to be. I also went to eat out with Kenta to be close with him. When we start filming, there are not so many things that we can do so I did what I could do before. I prepared the story before the episode in the film, like an epilogue.

The script revolves around bands of misfits, living on the borders of society. Do you think that characters like that exist in Japanese society, and what is your opinion of them?

 I do believe they exist. We filmed in Yamanashi prefecture, which is next to Shizuoka prefecture where I live. We can see mount Fuji from both sides and it’s very beautiful. However, many people in these regions feel isolated and lonely. Tokyo is a very populated city but it doesn’t mean that there is more connection between each other. Some try hard to change the situation but it doesn’t always work, and they go the wrong way. I wanted these people to watch this movie.

You have collaborated with Seijun Suzuki, Hirokazu Koreeda and Sang Il-lee. Can you tell us a bit about these experiences?


With Suzuki, it was my very first movie. I didn’t know anything when I went to the audition. I don’t even remember much about the audition. It was like, when I realized I was at the scene, I really didn’t know what I was doing at all, but now I appreciate a lot that I had that experience to work with him. I still remember what he told me. Just like Koreeda, he doesn’t like very much over making a performance. Suzuki told me one day, “ You have never done acting have you?” I said no. It was my debut film. He said, “little miss, in that case you wouldn’t be good at it even if you try. So you don’t need to do acting”. I thought “Oh I don’t need to do it! Yay!” Since then, it was just like playing around every day. 

Koreeda didn’t give me the script. There was a story but he told me what to do orally so I could stay natural.

With  director Lee, we did a lot of rehearsals, even though I didn’t have many scenes to play. He wanted us to put our soul into the roles. 

I was still very young when I worked with Suzuki and Koreeda  so it was more like trying to have nothing in my mind rather than acting.

In your twitter page, your signature writes "between Japan and South Korea". How do you feel about this double ethnicity and what role does it play in the way you act? 


Unlike in Europe, Canada or the US, the majority of people in Japan are Japanese. I hardly meet half-Japanese people. There are second-generation Korean people but it’s still a little different from my case. When I was concerned about my two nationalities, I wanted to be in the middle of it forever. I wanted to be fair to both countries, including their opinions and cultures. I still feel that way today. I want to take only the good parts of the both sides and mix it, and go ahead to the future. This is why I wrote "between Japan and South Korea" on my twitter.

I try not to forget it when I act. When I receive a story, I consider if I can adapt to its spirit and situations, and try to do what I can to be fair to both ethnicities.  I think this has an impact to the way I act. Rather than thinking how I act when I start a play, I attend a play after judging if I really can do it right. Well, it’s difficult to describe.

Would you be interested in acting in a Korean movie in the future? 

Yes of course! 
What do you think of the film industry in Japan today ?

The number of movie theatres is decreasing in Tokyo and other regions.  For many things, what the audience or the clients want is getting cheaper. What I realise when I’m outside of Japan is that Japanese audience expects us to move them emotionally through a film rather than to let them think about the film by themselves. I think the filmmakers in Japan, including actor,s adjust to what the audience wants when we make the stories.

Who is your favorite movie director ?

Xavier Dolan ! I like how he films people. His movie is very poignant. It makes me feel like I’m watching human nature rather than a film.  Straight, live and real.

Can you tell us a bit about your future projects? 

 I have a project to work with a director outside of Japan, it is not official yet so I can’t tell you more but I’d like to try more new things like this.

I also played in a film of female sumo which will be in theatre next year. I’d be glad if this film could make an occasion for people around the world to think about Japan through its culture.


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Lee Sang-il,1,Rahul Jain,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Rajkumar Gupta,1,Ram,1,Ram Gopal Varma,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Re:Born,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Beard,1,Red Persimmons,1,Reipu zonbi: Lust of the dead 3,1,Resistance at Tule Lake,1,Respeto,2,Resurrection,1,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,8,Reviews,294,Reviews.,2,Reviews. Panos Kotzathanasis,1,Rima Das,1,Riri Riza,3,Ritwik Ghatak,2,River of Exploding Durians,2,River's Edge,2,Robin Weng,1,Roger Lee,2,Roman Porno,1,Ronja,1,Rouge,1,Roya Sadat,2,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,1,Ryota Sakamaki,1,Ryu Kaneda,1,Ryuki,1,Ryutaro Ninomiya,2,S. Korea,73,S.Korea,2,Saayak Santra,9,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Sade Sato,1,Salaam Bombay,1,Samui Song,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,13,San Diego Film Festival,1,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,2,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,30,Sarita Khurana,1,Satan's Slaves,3,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Satya,1,Satyajit Ray,1,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,6,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Sea Fog,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Serga Mathang,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shake Rattle and Roll,1,Shakti Sounder Rajan,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shanker Raman,1,Shaw Brothers,2,She Remembers He Forgets,2,She's the Boss,1,Shehjar,1,Shiboprosad Mukherjee,1,Shift,2,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,13,Shikhar Verna,3,Shim Sung-Bo,1,Shinichi Fukazawa,1,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,shinjuku Swan II,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,2,Shinya Tsukamoto,4,Shireen Seno,2,Shirley Abraham,1,Shock Wave,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shoot for the Contents,1,Shorts,7,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shuna Iijima,1,Shunji Iwai,2,Shutter,1,Shuttle Life,2,Shyam Ramsay,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidharth Bharathan,1,Sidi Saleh,1,Signature,1,Silent Mist,1,Silver Spleen,2,Singapore,3,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,10,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Slavemen,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,2,Smriti Mundhra,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Solanin,1,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Someone To Talk To,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,22,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Sopon Sakdapisit,1,Soul,1,Soul Mate,1,SoulMate,2,South Korea,21,Sri Lanka,3,Sridevi,1,Srijit Mukherji,7,Stammering Ballad,1,Stanley Kwan,1,Stanley Tong,1,Steel Rain,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Steve James,1,Still the Water,1,Stoneman Murders,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,Studio Ghibli,1,StudioCanal,4,Subenja Pongkorn,2,Suffering of Ninko,2,Sugihara Survivors: Jewish and Japanese,1,Suicide Club,1,Suman Mukhopadhay,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,3,Sunday Beauty Queen,1,Sung-hong Kim,1,Sunk Into the Womb,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Sweating the Small Stuff,2,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,27,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahide Hori,1,Takahiro Miko,1,Takahisa Zeze,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takaomi Ogata,4,Takashi Miike,10,Take Care of My Cat,1,Take Off,1,Takeo Kikuchi,2,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Talop Wangchuk,1,Tamil,4,Tamura Senichi,1,Tang Seng Kiat,2,Tanit Jitnukul,1,Tanvir Ashraf,2,Taste of Rice Flower,2,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teenkahon,1,Teppei Nakamura,1,Tetsuo the Iron Man,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,21,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Apology,1,The Bad,1,The Blue Redemption,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Brink,1,The Chase,1,The Cinema Travellers,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Discloser,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,2,The Executioner,1,The Eye's Dream,1,The Forest Whispers,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Gangster's Daughter,1,The Girl Who Never Knew War,1,The Golden Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Buddha+,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Hungry Lion,1,The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles,2,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The Kid from the Big Apple,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Long Excuse,1,The Looming Storm,1,The Lowlife,1,The Magic Blade,1,The Man Without a Map,1,The Mayor,1,The Merciless,2,The Mermaid,1,The Muse,1,The Naked Island,1,The Name,1,The Net,1,The Night of the Earthquake,1,The Outlaws,1,The Prison,1,The Promise,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,the Robber's Daughter,1,The Room,1,The Sacrament,1,The Salesman,1,The Seen and Unseen,1,The Shoot Must Go On,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,1,The Swindlers,1,The Table,1,The Third Murder,1,The Thousand Faces of Dunjia,1,The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale,1,The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,1,The Tooth and the Nail,1,The Truth Beneath,1,The Vanished,1,The Villainess,3,The Violin Player,1,The Way We Are,1,The Weird,1,The Windmill Palm Grove,1,Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,This Is Not What I Expected!,1,Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tiffany Hsiung,1,Tik Tik Tik,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tokyo Vampire Hotel,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Torico,2,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshihisa Yokoshima,3,Toshimasha Kobayashi,1,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Town in a Lake,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,84,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Trapped,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Treb Monteras II,2,Trinh T. Minh-Ha,3,Triple Threat,1,True Fiction,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Tulsi Ramsay,1,Twenty Two,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Udine,1,Um Tae-hwa,1,Unbowed,1,Uncovered,1,Up Down and Sideways,1,V.I.P.,1,Vagabond,1,Vaishali Sinha,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,2,Vanishing Time A Boy Who Returned,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,2,Varnyathil Aashanka,1,Verena Paravel,1,Vesoul International Film Festival,20,Victor Vu,1,Vidya Balan,1,Vietnam,6,Vikram Zushi,1,Vikramaditya Motwane,1,Village Rockstars,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vinay Shukla,1,Vincent Kok,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Vivien Qu,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Walking Past the Future,1,Wang Bing,3,Wang Chao,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,We Make Antiques,1,Weeds on Fire,1,Wei-Hao Cheng,1,Wellgo USA,2,West North West,2,What a Man Wants,1,What A Wonderful Family 2,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,Whispering Star,1,White Sun,1,Who Killed Cock Robin,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wiman Rizkidarajat,1,Wine War,1,Winter Vacation,1,With Prisoners,1,Without Memory,1,Wol-Ha: Very Bad Moon Rising,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,3,Wong Jing,2,Wong Kar-wai,2,Woo Ming Jin,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xu Bing,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),4,Yan Pak Wing,2,Yang Chao,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yang Woo-seok,1,Yao Tian,1,Yash Chopra,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yeti Obhijaan,2,Yin Liang,1,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoji Yamada,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yoonsuk Jung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Hanno,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,3,Yoshimasa Jimbo,1,Yoshinari Nishikori,1,Yoshishige Yoshida,1,Yoshitaka Mori,1,Yoshiyuki Kishi,1,Yosuke Takeuchi,2,Yotsuya kaidan,1,You Losers!,1,Your Name,1,Youth,1,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yu Sang-wook,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yuji Shimomura,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,2,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,2,Yukuhiro Morigaki,2,Yusaku Matsumoto,2,Yutaka Ikejima,3,Yutaro Nakamura,1,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,2,Zhang Lu,1,Zhang Nan,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zig Dulay,1,Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight,1,Zoo,1,Zuairijah Mou,1,Zuri Rinpoche. Bhutan. Five Flavours,1,
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Asian Film Vault: Interview with Hanae Kan: Japanese audience expects us to move them emotionally through a film rather than to let them think about the film by themselves
Interview with Hanae Kan: Japanese audience expects us to move them emotionally through a film rather than to let them think about the film by themselves
We speak with Hanae Kan about her latest films, her career, the Japanese audience, her double ethnicity, and many other topics.
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