Naomi Kawase is among the most renowned contemporary Japanese filmmakers. She began making films in 1988, when she was 18 years old, and has been garnering awards for the intimate and timeless tenor of her work ever since. Her earliest films, shot in an experimental style on Super 8mm and 16mm film, had an autobiographical bent, focusing on her family life and finding the way to meet her own father (Embracing, 1992), or the loving but charged interactions with the foster mother who raised her (Katatsumori, 1994). While she continued to explore nonfiction, Kawase began developing fiction films, and in 1997 she released her debut dramatic feature, Suzaku. Focusing on the trials of a family living in a rural area of Japan in economic decline, the film won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or—making Kawase the award’s youngest recipient at that time. Ten years later The Mourning Forest, her feature about the intertwined fates of a young woman and an older man, won the Cannes Grand Prix.
Kawase’s films are often based in her native Nara Prefecture, the woodsy, rural area of one of the ancient capitals of Japan. Nature, the elements, and the seasons are important signposts in all of her films, signifying both permanence and the cycles of life. Japanese culture, traditional ritual, and music are also significant elements in her films, and she often works with a combination of professional and non-professional actors.
Kawase studied television and film at Visual Arts Osaka, graduating in 1989. She founded Kumie Inc. Production Company in 1996, and the Nara International Film Festival in 2010. Kawase received the Chevalier des Arts et des Letters of France in 2015. This series was organized on the occasion of the 2016 Flaherty Seminar, Play.
This series was organized on the occasion of the 2016 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Play.
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with David Pendleton, Programmer, Harvard Film Archive, and Anita Reher, Executive Director, The Flaherty Seminars.