The Korea Herald


Jeonju IFF opens with Cannes-winning ‘Tori and Lokita’

Auteur directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne say they were inspired by news article about missing migrant children

By Kim Da-sol

Published : April 27, 2023 - 17:42

    • Link copied

Luc Dardenne (right) and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (third from right) speak to reporters during a press conference for their film, “Tori and Lokita,” held at the Jeonju Cine Complex on Thursday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Luc Dardenne (right) and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (third from right) speak to reporters during a press conference for their film, “Tori and Lokita,” held at the Jeonju Cine Complex on Thursday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

The 24th Jeonju International Film Festival kicked off on Thursday, opening the 10-day event with the Korea premiere of award-winning Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s tight, gripping moral thriller, “Tori and Lokita.”

The Dardenne brothers tell the story of two underage African migrants, Tori and Lokita, who struggle to settle in Belgium. Staying at a temporary shelter for young new settlers, they work as drug dealers by night under the direction of the owner of a local pizza shop.

The film was screened at Cannes last year and won the festival’s special 75th anniversary prize. It will be released in Korea on May 10.

“I read a newspaper article which said that hundreds of underage migrants go missing every year and (the article) concluded that the future of these children is dark. I was inspired by the thought that it makes no sense to see these children go missing,” said Jean-Pierre Dardenne during a press conference held after the screening at the Jeonju Cine Complex, Thursday.

“We began to write a scenario to tell an unprecedented story, specifically the friendship between two children, and how far their friendship can go despite the hardships,” the 72-year-old auteur told reporters.

Starting their film career making documentary films in the late 1970s, the Dardenne brothers are known as creators of intensely realistic films about the vulnerable in Belgian society. The directors said that they were able to depict parts of the movie realistically such as the marijuana farm thanks to a friend working in the police.

“We know a friend who works at a police drug squad and he showed us several photos of a marijuana farm from when they had arrested the gang. We can say that the sets were as real as the actual illegal farms,” said Luc Dardenne, 69.

Pablo Schils, who stars as Tori, and Mbundu Joely, who stars as Lokita, acted for the first time in their lives in the film, and the Belgian duo said working with them was more like “betting.”

“For the first time for us as well, it was our first trial to cast non-actors. It was stressful at first so we practiced all the scenes for five weeks, going over all the scenes together with the camera director as well. This not only helped us but also gave us a chance to figure out how to film what scenes,” said Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

The directors said that they hope the Korean audience embraces Tori and Lokita as friends.

“Children are already vulnerable groups in society, but being foreigners without parents, Tori and Lokita encounter various struggles when they face adults and show how their world and friendship are more noble than anything,” said Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

“Tori says this line in the film, how if only Lokita had the visa to stay, she could have become a domestic helper and I could have stayed at school. This is exactly what we wanted to portray: the ugly side of our society,” he added.

According to Min Sung-wook, co-director of Jeonju IFF, the Dardenne brothers were invited to the Jeonju IFF three years ago, but the invitation was canceled due to the pandemic.

Under the slogan, “Beyond the Frames,” Jeonju IFF will continue to take on new challenges, he added, saying that the slogan emphasizes the film festival’s mandate of breaking away from traditional film formats and screening methods.

This year’s Jeonju IFF takes place in different spaces across the city, while previous events had only been held in the vicinity of Jeonju Film Street in the downtown area.

Large-scale screenings, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, are being held at Jeonju's Sori Arts Center and the Jeonbuk National University Cultural Center.

The awards ceremony will be held on May 3 before the festival comes to an end on May 6 after showcasing 247 films from 42 countries.

“Tori and Lokita” (Jinjin Pictures) “Tori and Lokita” (Jinjin Pictures)