Nohara Tadashi is one of only two Japanese directors with films in the Tokyo International Film Festival’s main competition section. “Third Time Lucky” is his first theatrical feature.

Born in 1983 and a 2009 alumnus of the Graduate School of Film & New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts, Nohara is no industry newcomer. He served as assistant director on “Passion,” the 2008 graduation project of fellow film student and now widely celebrated Hamaguchi Ryusuke.

After co-directing another student film, “Elephant Love,” Nohara worked as AD for a satellite broadcaster and as a production manager for a CG production company. After moving to Kobe in Western Japan, he directed a short, “talk to remember,” that screened at the Hiroshima International Film Festival in 2015.

His big professional break, however, was Hamaguchi’s “Happy Hour,” a 2015 ensemble drama that Nohara co-scripted with the director and one other writer. Premiering at Locarno, where its four leads won a collective best actress award, the film earned raves from critics and a shelf full of prizes. Hamaguchi and Nohara next co-wrote the script for “Wife of a Spy,” the WWII suspenser by Kurosawa Kiyoshi that won the silver lion at Venice in 2020.

Hamaguchi went on make the Berlin silver bear winner “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” and the Cannes best screenplay award winner “Drive My Car.” Now, perhaps, it is Nohara’s turn.

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Japanese film director Nohara Tadashi. Neopa Inc.

For “Third Time Lucky,” Nohara cast “Happy Hour” star Rira Kawamura as his lead, playing a lonely woman who tries to find human connection as she battles mental illness. In a statement Nohara said Kawamura “has an overflowing strength and the sincerity in her voice.” “The film has something in common with ‘Happy Hour’ in that I wanted to photograph people, but I think it has a different flavor,” he said.

And as in “Happy Hour” his setting is Kobe, a port city with a strongly international flavor. “Kobe, where mountains, sea and city compactly co-exist, was as attractive as ever,” Nohara said.