by Chris MaGee
For the past eight months I've been asked multiple times if I thought that it was a fluke that Yojiro Takita's "Departures" ended up winning Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars. Depending on what day you ask me I have a different answer. Sometimes I think that "Departures" in just the kind of feel good film that Academy members would gravitate towards and that they might have seen echoes of films like Juzo Itami's "Tampopo" and Masayuki Suo's "Shall We Dance?" in its story of an out of work cellist who takes a job at a small funeral home. Other times I think that the Academy members have a very spotty track record with foreign films and that it might have been a bit of a coin toss as to who took home the golden statuette. Either way "Departures" won and that has people around the world taking a second look at Japanese film, and that's always a good thing. Another thing the film's win did, though, was have everyone and their dog looking for "the next 'Departures'". Now word comes via Tokyograph about the next contender for this title.
Yesterday the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan announced that Ryoichi Kimizuka's police procedural "Daremo Mamotte Kurenai (Nobody to Watch Over Me)" will be entered into the race for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards taking place in February in Hollywood. The film stars Koichi Sato as a police detective who is assigned to protect a girl (Mirai Shida) while her older brother is arrested and tried for murder. "Daremo Mamotte Kurenai" already tied for Best Screenplay with Jesús Gil Vilda and Xavi Puebla for their script for "Bienvenido a Farewell-Gutmann" at last year's Montreal World Film Festival, the same year that saw "Departures" pick up the fest's award for Best Film. Could that be why they've chosen Kimizuka' film to represent Japan this year? Maybe a little of that magic will rub off? Having not seen the film yet it's hard to say, and with "Departures" surprising everyone by taking home the Oscar last year I think it's safe to say the Best Foreign Language Film race is wide open at this point.