When we last spoke with Davy Chou, we caught him at the debut of his sophomore film, “Return to Seoul” in Cannes. This time, we speak with him again at a different point of the movie: during its awards tour. Among the many accolades — including recognition at Cannes Un Certain Regard, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards, and more — “Return to Seoul” also represented Cambodia’s shortlisted bid in the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film.
Though star Park Ji-min, who plays the indomitable Freddie Benoit in the film, could not make it last-minute to our conversation in San Francisco, Chou maintained his composure throughout the interview. He faced our questions headfirst through the Zoom screen. “I’m very grateful, to be honest, for the honors,” he admitted. “For a smaller production, you spend so much time doing it [without knowing how many people will watch the finished film]. There’s a lot of passion, but also a lot of doubt.”
The irony of the Oscars shortlist was not lost on him, however. Even as Cambodia’s Oscar nomination, “Return to Seoul” does not reference Cambodia at all. In fact – as a story about an ethnically-Korean adoptee who “comes back” to South Korea after years of living in France – the film pushes against the typical nationalist ideas of a singular nationality. “I think it’s fun,” Chou says with a twinkle in his eyes. “The real theme of the film [revolves around] the question of identity and the impossibility of defining things.” He presses on to open the conversation up to the multiplicity of man. “As much as it is uncomfortable, this sort of [constant instability] is also – I find – very inspiring and liberating.”