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Director Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival!

AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda who is the professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and a graduate of  the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I in 1987 won the best film award Palme d’Or at the Cannes 2018 Film Festival.

In October 2017, the Global Japanese Studies Model Unit at Waseda University has jointly held the event named “Hirokazu Kore-eda Retrospective – Cinema from the Outside In” with University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) under the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities.

The congratulatory message arrived from Michael Emmerich, Associate Professor UCLA with a joint appointment at Waseda University.

Associate Prof. Michael Emmerich

Congratulations to Kore-eda Hirokazu on Receiving the Palme d’Or

In 2014, Mr. Yanai Tadashi, Chairman and CEO of Fast Retailing, provided a generous gift to create the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities, a project dedicated to education and cultural programming that exists as a partnership between Waseda University and the University of California.

I had the great honor of being asked to serve as the Yanai Initiative’s Director. And one of the very first ideas that occurred to me when I took on this role was to see if we could persuade Director Kore-eda Hirokazu to let us organize the first retrospective of his works in this city of film. In part, this was because Mr. Kore-eda was a Waseda graduate, and I knew that for the next few years he would be teaching at Waseda. But more importantly, it was because I myself had long been a fan of his films—ever since I first saw Maborosi as a graduate student, when it was on the syllabus for a class I helped teach.

Over the years, I’ve taught a number of Mr. Kore-eda’s films in undergraduate classes, and they have always moved students, and gotten them thinking. Even students who don’t usually watch films as pensive and deliberate as Mr. Kore-eda’s come away with a deep appreciation for his carefully composed scenes; and for his brilliant use of music, and silence, and spontaneity, and humor. They are struck by the warmth of his films, and by the moral questions they pose.

I was sure, in 2014, that if we could make the retrospective I envisioned happen, it would be a success. And yet even I couldn’t have predicted just how successful it would be. Almost every show was sold out. The questions audience members asked Mr. Kore-eda after each screening were insightful and probing, and Mr. Kore-eda answered them all seriously and with care. He kept answering questions for about an hour and a half each night, even though we had agreed in advance that the post-screening discussions would only last about forty-five minutes.

When Mr. Kore-eda left Los Angeles after what must have been an exhausting stay, I felt even more keenly that I had before just how important a director he is—which is to say, how deeply he touches audiences from all kinds of backgrounds, from all around the world. It’s a delight to know that his ability to create works of art that move audiences, that help them see the world in new ways, has been recognized anew by the judges at Cannes. I’m sure many film-goers here in Los Angeles are celebrating, too, and looking forward to his next visit.

Michael Emmerich (Associate Professor at UCLA and Waseda University)

We also received a message from Kenji Iwamoto (Professor Emeritus at Waseda University) who knows the young Kore-eda when he was a student.

Prof. Emeritus Kenji Iwamoto

When the Director of Nobody Knows Was Young

Hirokazu Kore-eda, congratulations on winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival!

I happened to evaluate your graduate thesis, so let’s begin with my personal recollections.

During your university studies, you were enrolled in the Department of Literature, and I was a faculty member of the Theater Department, but I was placed in charge of the course “Scenario Studies” under the Department of Literature. I am not a screenwriter, myself, but if I recall correctly, it was a seminar on various aspects of film scenarios, including their history and formats. I did not provide one-on-one, close supervision of your graduate thesis, and so I was surprised by the uniqueness of your finished work, which has always remained in my memories since. What I found so interesting and memorable about the film scenario that you submitted as your graduate project was its style: You adopted a creative format of your own devising—entirely distinct from the typical format for scenarios used in the Japanese film industry—that created a collage consisting of an American-style continuity-based format (a shooting script) interspersed with your own drawings and (if memory serves) pictures taken from other sources, resulting in an experience that involved both reading and viewing. You seemed already to be writing scripts with the eye of a seasoned director.

After graduation, you joined the TV Man Union production company and would occasionally send me tapes—this was the VHS era!—of television programs of your creation. Your directorial gaze, focused on those marginalized within society, has remained constant since those days. Behind the scenes of your works there was a gentle, delicate sensibility, free from the rigidness and pushing of ideology found among the “social school” of filmmaking. You have continued to direct from this perspective even after the debut of your first dramatic film, Maborosi.

Incidentally, I taught an intensive course a few years back at the world-famous Beijing Film Academy. Interestingly, while conducting a question and answer session in the large lecture hall, the enthusiastic questions of the students attending the course focused on one subject: you. I was asked, “In China, Kore-eda is sometimes called the successor to Yasujiro Ozu. What do you think about this?” I responded that Ozu, as a director, may have depicted the post-World War II presages of the breakdown of the family but that you were depicting what happened next; you were perhaps fixated on the state of families after this breakdown and interrogating the incorporation of these broken families into society.

I hope that my personal view here is not terribly wide of the mark, and I wish for your continued success as a filmmaker.

Kenji Iwamoto (Professor Emeritus at Waseda University)

 

 

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