Japan's Kei Kumai dies at 76


TOKYO -- Award-winning Japanese director Kei Kumai died Wednesday morning in Tokyo at the age of 76.

Best known for his works on social issues, Kumai won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1987 for "Umi to Dokuyaku" and the Silver Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival for "Sen no Rikyu" as well as top awards at the Montreal World Film Festival in both 1990 and 1995.

Born in Nagano Prefecture, in northern Japan, Kumai began his filmmaking career in 1954 by joining production company Nikkatsu Corp. He wrote his first screenplay, "Muteki ga Ore o Yondeiru," six years later and directed "Teigin Jiken: Shikeishu" in 1964.

His 1974 film "Sandakan Hachibanshokan Bohkyo" was released overseas under the title "Sandakan 8" and received widespread acclaim for tackling the issue of a woman forced into prostitution in Borneo before the outbreak of World War II.

Other titles that were well received overseas include "Death of a Tea Master" in 1989 and 2001's documentary-style "Darkness in the Light,"which was critical of the police and media in their coverage of a man wrongly accused of releasing sarin gas in Nagano in 1994. That attack was eventually pinned on the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

Kumai's final screen appearance was in a documentary released in November title "What's a Director?"