Japanese Win Big at Montreal Film Festival

Okuribito, DeparturesThe Japanese movie “Okuribito” (Departures) has won the top prize at the 32nd Montreal World Film Festival. One of the 12 big film festivals worldwide, Montreal is the biggest in North America with a competition category and its top award is aptly called the Grand Prix of the Americas. Okuribito won in a field of 32 entries from around the world, making director Takita Yojiro (52) the second Japanese winner in three years – Okuda Eiji’s “Nagai Sanpo” (A Long Walk) took the top jury prize in 2006. But neither he, the cast or any of the movie’s staff were on hand to receive the prize. Star Motoki Masahiro (42) was already back in Japan filming an NHK drama when he heard the news. “I learned from this film that the themes of life and death, and the ties that bind them are universal and beyond culture,” he said. In a moving and often humorous drama of human dignity and family bonds, “Mokkun” plays an out-of-work cellist who leaves Tokyo to return to his hometown to become an undertaker, ritually cleansing and placing the deceased into coffins at funeral ceremonies. “Okuribito,” which also stars Hirosue Ryoko (28), opens in Japanese theaters on September 13.

Meanwhile, director Kimizuka Riyoichi and writer Suzuki Satoshi won a share of the screenplay award for their work on “Dare mo Mamotte Kurenai” (Nobody to Watch Over Me), a serious drama starring Sato Koichi (47) as a police detective whose mission is to protect the sister (Shida Mirai) of a juvenile arrested on suspicion of murder. Sato’s father, actor Mikuni Rentaro (85), was a two-time major award winner in Montreal in the 1980s.

• Musician Daigo (30) is enjoying a high profile these days. The grandson of former prime minister Takeshita Noboru (1924-2000), he is also the vocalist of rock band Breakerz. Their song “Shakunetsu” (literally “red hot”) is to be used as the closing theme for the Japanese dub of the Hollywood comic book adaptation “Wanted.” Daigo also dubbed the lead role of Wesley Gibson, played by James McAvoy (29), who was on the PR trail in Tokyo on Monday. See a photo and read more in our Japan Forum thread “Stoopid is the new Cool in Japan”.