Five things to know about Hirokazu Kore-eda, the Japanese director who won the top prize at Cannes

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda posing with his Palm d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2018.
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda posing with his Palm d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Cannes (AFP) - Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, tells stories about struggling ordinary people that never fail to touch.

His gentle slices of ordinary life have been praised for their humanism. His Palme d'Or-winning film, Shoplifters, about a group of Tokyo misfits and crooks who form a kind of alternative family, has been called a "modern day Oliver Twist".

Here are five things to know about the 55-year-old.

1. Born in Tokyo, Kore-eda set out to be a novelist

But then he began making documentaries for Japanese television.

2. His first film is Maborosi

The 1995 film about a young mother haunted by her husband's inexplicable suicide won prizes at the Venice Film Festival.

3. Kore-eda first made the shortlist for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2001 with Distance

The film examines the grief and shame of the families of cult members who killed themselves after carrying out a massacre. The cult is modelled on Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult that released nerve gas in coordinated attacks on the subway system in 1995.

4. He had a big breakthrough outside Japan with Nobody Knows in 2004

Like many of his films, it was inspired by a real-life story - four young brothers and sisters abandoned in an apartment by their mother. It won Best Actor at Cannes for Yuya Yagira, then 14.

Kore-eda also scored an international arthouse hit with his baby-swap tale Like Father, Like Son, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2013.

5. Kore-eda has constructed his own cinematic family of actors who appear in many of his films

They include Hiroshi Abe and Kirin Kiki, who have played son and mother in Kore-eda's family dramas, Still Walking (2008), and After The Storm (2016). Kiki also plays the grandmother figure in Shoplifters.

Kore-eda says: "We are all about the same generation, and we have made a film together in our 40s and 50s and maybe we will do another in our 60s."