is a Japanese film director. She was also known as , with her then-husband's surname. Many of her works have been documentaries, including ''Embracing'', about her search for the father who abandoned her as a child, and ''Katatsumori'', about the grandmother who raised her.

Early life

Growing up in the rural region of Nara, Kawase's parents split early on in her childhood leaving her to be raised by her great-aunt, with whom she held a combative, yet loving, relationship. The youth she spent in Nara has had a drastic effect on her career. Many of her first forays into filmmaking were autobiographical, inspired heavily by the rural landscape.Karatsu 2009, p. 168. She originally attended the Osaka School of Photography to study television production and later became interested in film, deciding to switch her focus.


After graduating in 1989 from the Osaka School of Photography (Ōsaka Shashin Senmon Gakkō) (now Visual Arts College Osaka), where she was a student of Shunji Dodo, she spent an additional four years there as a lecturer before releasing ''Embracing''. Employing her interest in autobiography, most of her first short films focus on her turbulent family history, including her abandonment and her father's death. Between 1994 and 1996, she released a trilogy of films about her great-aunt: ''Katatsumori'', ''See Heaven'' and ''Sun on the Horizon''. She became the youngest winner of the la Caméra d'Or award (best new director) at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for her first 35mm film, ''Suzaku (film), Suzaku''. She Novelization, novelized her films ''Suzaku'' and ''Firefly''. In 2006, she released the forty-minute documentary ''Tarachime'', which she prefers to be screened before her film from the following year. ''Tarachime'' revisits Kawase's relationship with her great-aunt, tackling very personal themes such as her aunt's growing dementia. Kawase completed production on her fourth full-length film ''The Mourning Forest'' (''Mogari no Mori''), which premièred in June 2007 in her hometown Nara and went on to win the Grand Prix (Cannes Film Festival), Grand Prix at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Her 2011 film ''Hanezu'' premiered In Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Pop star Utada Hikaru asked Kawase to create the music video for her 2012 single "Sakura Nagashi" (桜流し, lit. "Flowing Cherry Blossoms/Cherry Blossoms Sinking"), later to be included on Utada's 2016 album ''Fantôme (Utada Hikaru album), Fantôme''. In 2013 Kawase was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Her 2014 film ''Still the Water'' was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Her 2015 film ''Sweet Bean'' was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. In April 2016 she was announced as the President of the Jury for the Cinéfondation and short films section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. On October 23, 2018, it was announced that Kawase had been selected by the IOC to shoot the official film for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Scheduled to be released in 2022, the film places the 2020 Olympics within the wider context of the covid-19 pandemic and the mixed reactions to the games from Japanese society. The documentary attracted controversy upon its release on December 26nd over allegations made that protesters were being paid to attend anti-Olympics rallies. On January 9th NHK Osaka issued an apology citing "editorial oversights" and "deficiencies in research." The man originally interviewed in the documentary later stated he was "unsure" if he had attended any anti-Olympics rallies.

Styles and themes

Kawase's work is heavily concerned with the distorted space between fiction and non-fiction that has occurred within the state of modern Japanese society, approaching "fiction with a documentarian's gaze." She employs this documentary-realism to focus on individuals of lesser cultural status, challenging prevailing representations of women within the male-dominated Japanese film industry. This theme is also connected to her own personal reflections on contemporary issues in the current climate of economic depression such as the declining birthrate, alienation, and the collapse of traditional family structures. She frequently shoots on location with amateur actors. Kawase's style also invokes the autobiographical practices related to documentary style. Familiar and personal objects such as childhood photographs, and to explore her family history and identity. Her work reflects the personal, intimate, and domestic. Themes that are often associated with feminist practices and Women’s Cinema. However, Kawase herself does not classify as a feminist due to Japanese feminism’s tendency to persist collective identity and view women’s problems through a narrow ideological lens. Instead, she looks at gender as a creative and fluid realm, rather than as a negative fixation. In an interview Kawase explains: Kawase’s films lack political commitment towards social change, but her works nonetheless challenge cinematic conventions. Instead she chooses to focus on herself through self-expression and self-determination. Her subjects are primarily family and friends, and she frequently depicts the relationships between the filmmaker and the subject, and is self-reflexive of her own thoughts and emotions in her works. Through an idiosyncratic gaze, she paints an authentic and intimate social reality that is strongly feminine in terms of aesthetics and perspective.


Kawase's work was originally produced in various media: 8mm film, 16mm film, 35mm film, and video. *''I focus on that which interests me'' (1988, 5′) *''The concretization of these things flying around me'' (1988, 5′) *''My J-W-F'' (1988, 10′) *''Papa's Icecream'' (1988, 5′) *''My Solo Family'' (1989, 10′) *''Presently'' (1989, 5′) *''A Small Largeness'' (1989, 10′) *''The Girl's Daily Bread'' (1990, 10′) * ''Like Happiness'' (1991, 20′) * ''Embracing'' (; 1992, 40′) * ''White Moon'' (1993, 55′) * ''Katatsumori'' (; 1994, 40′) * ''See Heaven'' (; 1995, 10′) * ''Memory of the Wind'' (1995, 30′) * ''This World'' (1996, 8′) * ''Sun on the Horizon'' (; 1996, 45′) * ''Suzaku (film), Suzaku'' (; 1997, 95′) * ''The Weald'' (; 1997, 73′) * ''Kaleidoscope'' (''Mangekyō'') (1999, 81′) * ''Firefly (2000 film), Firefly'' (''Hotaru'') (2000, 164′) * ''Sky, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth'' () (2001, 55′) * ''Letter from a Yellow Cherry Blossom'' (''Tsuioku no dansu'') (2003, 65′) * ''Shara (film), Shara'' (''Sharasōju'') (2003, 100′) * ''Kage'' (''Shadow'') (2006, 26′) * ''Tarachime'' (2006, 43′) * ''The Mourning Forest'' (''Mogari No Mori'') (2007, 97′) * ''Nanayomachi'' 「七夜待」(2008) * ''In Between Days'' (2009) * ''Visitors'' (2009) (segment "Koma") * ''Genpin'' (2010) * ''Hanezu'' (2011) * ''60 Seconds of Solitude in Year Zero'' (2011) * ''Chiri'' (2012) * ''Still the Water'' (2014) * ''Sweet Bean'' (2015) * ''Radiance (2017 film), Radiance'' (2017) * ''Vision (2018 film), Vision'' (2018) * ''2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo 2020 Official Film'' (2020) * ''True Mothers'' (2020)


This is a list of some of her awards: *1997: Camera D'Or, Cannes International Film Festival: ''Suzaku (film), Suzaku'' *1999: Special Mention Prize, Vision du Reel: ''The Weald'' *2000: FIPRESCI Prize: ''Hotaru'' *2000: CICAE Prize: ''Hotaru'' *2000: Best Achievement Award in Cinematography and Directing, Buenos Aires International Film Festival: ''Hotaru'' *2007: Special Prize, Yamagata International Film Festival: ''Tarachime'' *2007: Grand Prix, Cannes International Film Festival: ''The Mourning Forest'' *2015: Chevalier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France *2017: Ecumenical Jury Prize, Cannes International Film Festival: ''Radiance (2017 film), Radiance'' *2021: Mainichi Film Award for Best Director: ''True Mothers''



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External links

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Interview with Kawase Naomi
– Documentary Box (Interviewer: Aaron Gerow)
Interview with Naomi Kawase
– Meniscus Magazine

at Punto de Vista Documentary Film Festival of Navarra
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Kawase, Naomi 1969 births Living people Japanese women cinematographers Japanese women film directors Japanese cinematographers Japanese documentary filmmakers Japanese film directors Japanese film editors Japanese film producers Japanese screenwriters People from Nara, Nara Japanese women screenwriters Asian film producers Chevaliers of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres Women film editors Women documentary filmmakers Directors of Caméra d'Or winners