Saturday, February 28, 2009

Japanese Film Wins Oscars

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ryoko Hirosue, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo. Director: Yojiro Takita. Writer: Kundo Koyama.

The Japanese movie OKURIBITO (Departures), which won the Grand Prize of the Americas at last September's Montreal World Film Festival, reaffirmed its merit by winning the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) of 2008 at the 81st Academy Awards®, 22 February 2009.

OKURIBITO, directed by Yojiro Takita, 53, is the first Japanese film to receive an Oscar in the category. SAMURAI I: MUSASHI MIYAMOTO was given a special award in 1955, a year before the BFLF category was officially established in 1956. Takita and lead actor Masahiro Motoki accepted the award at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Vine®.

With a humorous touch, OKURIBITO portrays how a mortician observes people's lives and deaths. For the film, which was in the pipeline for more than 10 years, Motoki, who plays the mortician, studied relevant techniques under a real mortician. During his training he wiped the faces of bodies and dressed them.

The four other finalists in the BFLF category were: THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, Germany; THE CLASS, France; REVANCHE (Revenge), Austria; and WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Israel.

Actually, two Japanese films picked up Oscars® at the 81st annual Academy Awards. TSUMIKI NO IE (The House of Small Cubes) was named Best Animated Short Film. The French title is,
La Maison en Petits Cubes. The animation was painstakingly drawn by hand, taking about seven months to complete the 12-minute film.

The animated short, directed by Kunio Kato, 31, was Japan's first Oscar in that category - the nation's only other animation success was in 2003 with Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY in the Best Animated Feature category.

The 2008 Montreal World Film Festival's International Jury was headed by Oscar-winning American director MARK RYDELL, along with French actress EVELYNE BOUIX, JOHANNE DUGAS, representing the general public (Canada), Chinese director XIE FEI, Czech director VOJTECH JASNY, and Montreal writer and director DANY LAFERRIÈRE.

The next Montreal World Film Festival will take place 2 August to 7 September 2009, and the next Oscars will be in March 2010.

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