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Japan picks ‘Departures’ for Oscars

Singapore selects Eric Khoo's 'My Magic'

TOKYO — The Motion Picture Producers’ Association of Japan (Eiren) has selected the Yojiro Takita helmed drama “Okuribito” (Departures) as Japan’s contender for the foreign language Oscar, the pic’s international distrib, Shochiku, announced Friday.

Pic stars Masahiro Motoki as an out-of-work cellist who moves back to his provincial hometown and becomes a “nokanshi” — a professional who ritually washes and clothes bodies prior to the funeral. This unusual change of careers gives him a new purpose in life — and brings him into conflict with his young wife (Ryoko Hirosue).

The pic was awarded the Grand Prix des Ameriques at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival and has wowed Japanese critics following its Sept. 13 bow, with Shochiku distribbing.

Earlier this week, Singapore selected Eric Khoo’s “My Magic” as the country’s Oscar contender.

Pic, which preemed in competition in Cannes, was chosen by a special committee of the Singapore Film Commission.

“Magic,” which tells the story of the relationship between an alcoholic magician and his 14 year-old son, has mostly Tamil dialogue, with incidental Hokkien. Khoo’s previous film “Be With Me” was disqualified at the 2006 Oscars for having mainly English dialogue.

Originally planned for a late October release in Singapore, “My Magic” is now set for a local theatrical run stating Sept. 26, to comply with Academy rules.

Both pics will play at next month’s Pusan Intl. Film Festival.

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