Cannes: 5 Japanese Directors Defining the Reiwa Era

9:45 PM 5/13/2019

by Gavin J. Blair

As the "4K" group — Kore-eda, Kawase, Kitano and Kurosawa — did the past three decades, these five directors, from debutants to accomplished helmers, look poised to follow in their footsteps.

'Blood of Wolves'
'Blood of Wolves'
'Blood of Wolves'

  • Kazuya Shiraishi

    Paying his dues under the controversial Kôji Wakamatsu, the 44-year-old helmer appears to have inherited some of his late mentor’s fearlessness. His 2010 debut, Lost Paradise in Tokyo, dealt with learning difficulties and sexuality, and Blood of Wolves won a 2019 Asian Film Awards best actor gong for Kôji Yakusho as a hardboiled detective.

  • Yûki Yamato

    A philosophy grad from Tokyo’s Sophia University, Yamato, 30, who sometimes goes by U-ki Yamato, comes from a generation of notable young female directors. Her award-winning debut feature, 2012’s That Girl Is Dancing by the Seaside, set attendance records at the Tokyo Student Film Festival, and she followed it with a series of shorts and music videos.

  • Yoko Yamanaka

    Yamanaka caused a stir with her accomplished debut, 2018’s Amiko, a coming-of-age story about a high schooler in a small town who is struggling to find meaning in her life. After dropping out of film school, Yamanaka made it on a budget of $2,500 at age 20. While she’s been praised for her originality, some say it’s too early to assess her true potential.

  • Ryusuke Hamaguchi

    Coming to feature directing relatively late, Hamaguchi, 40, caught the attention of the industry with his 2008 graduation film, Passion. His 2015 film Happy Hour was more than five hours long, featured a number of first-timers in leading roles and won acclaim on the international festival circuit. His next film, Asako I & II, competed for the Palme d’Or in 2018.

  • Nanako Hirose

    Working as an assistant to Hirokazu Kore-eda for seven years, Hirose was able to undertake the kind of comprehensive apprenticeship that has disappeared from Japan’s major studios. Her debut, His Lost Name, won a special jury prize at 2018’s Tokyo Filmex fest, where it was called "a perfectly written and executed family drama." 

    This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 14 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.