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DIRECTOR Hirokazu Koreeda poses with the Palme d’Or award for his film Shoplifters at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. Koreeda is the fifth Japanese recipient of the top award at Cannes.
DIRECTOR Hirokazu Koreeda poses with the Palme d’Or award for his film Shoplifters at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. Koreeda is the fifth Japanese recipient of the top award at Cannes.

A JAPANESE film has won the top prize at one of the world’s most pre-eminent film festivals. This illustrates that the power of expression typical of superb Japanese movies was appreciated. This outstanding achievement should be highly praised.

Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) won the Palme d’Or in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Koreeda became the fourth Japanese director to win the highest award at the festival, following Teinosuke Kinugasa, Akira Kurosawa and Shohei Imamura. It is the first such happy news in 21 years from Cannes, since Imamura won the top award with his film Unagi (The Eel) in 1997.

Koreeda’s work was nominated for the fifth time in competition at Cannes. For his film Daremo Shiranai (Nobody Knows), Yuya Yagura received the Award for Best Actor in 2004, and his film Soshite Chichi ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son) won the Jury Prize in 2013.

Koreeda’s latest win can be seen as appreciation for his ability, which has already reached a high level. Koreeda, 55, said that winning the prize has encouraged him to keep making films for another 20 years. His voracious desire to create films will surely produce more masterworks.

Manbiki Kazoku is the story of an impoverished family living on a grandmother’s pension and by shoplifting. Despite their having turned to forbidden criminal acts, Koreeda warmly depicts a family who live shoulder to shoulder.

Next generation inspired

By making films such as Soshite Chichi ni Naru, which is about infants switched at birth, Koreeda has questioned what a family should be like. Manbiki Kazoku is undoubtedly an extension of this theme.

The weakening of family connections is a phenomenon shared with other countries as well. The film has been praised likely because it tackles the universal theme of the “loneliness of modern-day people”. One of the jury members said the jury had fallen in love with the film.

Most of Koreeda’s work is based on his original stories and scripts he has written. While many movies have been brought to the screen that are based on best-selling novels, manga or other sources, Koreeda stands out as an author who does not depend on other people’s original work.

Many Japanese movie directors have won international acclaim, including Takeshi Kitano and Hayao Miyazaki. This latest award will be a source of great encouragement and inspiration for the generations to follow.

There has been much good news in the world of Japanese cinema. The number of films released has increased to about 600 a year, compared with the 200-a-year range in the 1990s. Such big hits as Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) and Shin Gojira (Godzilla Resurgence) are fresh in the memory.

In April the National Film Archive of Japan was created, an institution that is expected to serve as a key base for the promotion of Japanese films.

The government is tackling the oversea deployment of the Japanese film industry. With the latest festival win as a tailwind, the appeal of Japanese films should be conveyed ever more widely. —The Japan News

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2018