'Departures' clinches Oscar nomination

Yojiro Takita's pic has a shot at best foreign-language film

BANGKOK -- "Departures," a film by Japanese director Yojiro Takita, is the only Asian-made movie from 2008 to be nominated as the best foreign-language film by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Japan's last Oscar nomination for best foreign language film was in 2003, for "Twilight Samurai" by Yoji Yamada. The same year, Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" won the Oscar for best animated feature.

"Departures," about a man who accidentally falls into a job ceremonially preparing corpses for burial, also is up for a dozen Japan Academy Awards, won the audience award at the Hawaii International Film Festival and earned the audience award for best narrative film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The film's lead character and his job shed light on life, death and forgiveness, the director told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview in December: "I wanted to make a film from the perspective of a person who deals with something so universal and yet is looked down upon, and even discriminated against."

"Departures" is up against "The Baader Meinhof Complex" (Germany), "The Class" (France), "Revanche" (Austria) and "Waltz With Bashir" (Israel).

The Academy Award winners will be announced in Los Angeles on Feb. 22.

Gavin J. Blair in Tokyo contributed to this report.