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Japanese director Naomi Kawase is Jury Head for the 27th SGIFF Silver Screen Awards Asian Feature Film Competition. Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.


The Singapore International Film Festival spotlights Naomi Kawase, one of the most respected and well-known filmmakers of contemporary Japanese cinema. The Jury Head of this year’s Asian Feature Film Competition held a masterclass as part of the festival, and here’s five things to know about this auteur. 

One of the most well-known contemporary Japanese filmmakers today, Naomi Kawase’s fiction and non-fiction works have transcended cinemas and theatres to make their way into museums and arts institutions. Her thematic explorations on the state of modern Japanese society, female representation, dysfunctional family structures, coupled with her own personal reflections, have attracted a loyal following of film programmers, critics and audiences.

The Singapore International Film Festival puts the spotlight on Naomi Kawase, one of the most respected and well-known filmmakers of contemporary Japanese cinema. The Jury Head of this year’s Asian Feature Film Competition held a masterclass as part of the festival, and here’s five things to know about this auteur.

1

It's location, location, location

Naomi revealed that although she used to stay in Tokyo, she has since moved out from there. She currently resides the small town of Nara, where the pace of life is slow - but she doesn’t mind it at all.

“It is actually that kind of environment that is conducive to discovering important things in life”, she says. “And the town has a long history, surrounded by Nature.

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Japanese director Naomi Kawase at the 27th SGIFF Masterclass held at the ArtScience Museum. Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

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Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

2

Things are names, and names are things.

“Is this water?” Naomi asks the audience, as she holds up a glass of water. “Or is it something else from somewhere?”

She explains that in this world, it’s by the act of naming that gives life to a thing. When you give a name to a thing, it becomes that thing. Naomi feels that our act of naming things is an act of something, an act of naming an object.

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Japanese director Naomi Kawase at the 27th SGIFF Masterclass held at the ArtScience Museum. Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

3

Permanance in the temporal

“It is something you can see or hear, but a moment that can only be reproduced in film.” Naomi explains about her an incident involving a misty mirror that inspired her to make films.

“I was lucky to have discovered that moment, and I feel that at that point of time, at the moment of discovery, I was lucky to have that in today’s world, where we have so many things, yet I could single out just one.”

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Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

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Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

4

She doesn't direct her cast.

Naomi reveals she doesn't direct that much during filmmaking. Instead, she relies on the cast to do what they feel or do on set, to behave according to what and how they feel.

“I don’t sit and face the actors during filming”, Naomi explains. “I would position myself on the side, so I can see what they are seeing.”

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Japanese director Naomi Kawase at the 27th SGIFF Masterclass held at the ArtScience Museum. Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

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Japanese director Naomi Kawase at the 27th SGIFF Masterclass held at the ArtScience Museum. Photo courtesy of 27th SGIFF.

5

From real life to reel life

“I draw inspiration from the things around me. In my film The Mourning Forest, the main character has dementia. This was actually inspired by my adoptive grandmother, who had dementia herself.” Naomi says. “The film was based loosely on this.”

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