“True Mothers” by Kawase Naomi has been selected as Japan’s nominee for a best international feature film Academy Award. The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, which supervises the selection process, made the announcement on Thursday.
Based on a novel by Tsujimura Miyuki, film focuses on a couple (Nagasaku Hiromi and Iura Arata) who adopt a child and, years later, are asked by its birth mother to return it.
A Cannes label selection, the film premiered at Toronto. It opened on Oct. 23 for commercial release in Japan.
The last Japanese film to be a finalist in the international film Oscar competition was Koreeda Hirokazu’s “Shoplifters” in 2019. Takita Yojiro ‘s “Departures” is the only Japanese film to win the award, in 2009.
“The director’s contemplation of motherhood and adoption (…) is her most plot-driven but least visually lustrous film yet,” wrote Variety in its review of the film. “Resembling the relationship-based ‘Sweet Bean,’ this dip into less mystical waters may give the film wider reach beyond French devotees to non-art-house fans of melodrama, especially in Asia.”
Though a regular at Cannes, beginning with a Camera d’Or win for “Suzaku” in 1997, Kawase has not always been a favorite with critics and audiences at home in Japan. But she had a rare domestic hit with “Sweet Bean,” a 2015 drama starring the late Kiki Kirin and Kawase regular Nagase Masatoshi. Kawase has also been a central force behind a film festival in her native Nara prefecture that promotes younger filmmakers, further raising her profile at home.