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MoMA will showcase comprehensive retrospective on Japanese Filmmaker Naomi Kawase


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June 25–July 14, 2016
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC

The Museum of Modern Art will present the most comprehensive American retrospective of Japanese filmmaker, Naomi Kawase, from June 25 through July 14. MoMA will screen 36 films directed by Kawase, ranging from experimental short documentaries shot on 8mm and 16mm film to dramatic feature films. A native of the Nara Prefecture, many of Kawase’s films are based in the woodsy, rural area of one of the ancient capitals of Japan. Japanese culture, tradition, and nature are hallmarks of Kawase’s films.

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The series opens with Kawase’s debut feature film, Suzaku (1997). Focusing on the trials of a family living in a rural area of Japan in economic decline, the film won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or—making Kawase the award’s youngest recipient. Kawase will be present to introduce the film. Ten years after winning her first honor at Cannes, Kawase’s film The Mourning Forest (2007) won the Cannes Grand Prix.

The series includes numerous films where the filmmaker turns the camera on herself and on her family. Embracing (1992) captures Kawase’s restless pursuit to know her absent birth father. Silent fields of windblown daisies and wheat are juxtaposed with probing offscreen conversations with Kawase’s foster mother (“grandmother”), mother, and father as she explores the meaning of family and happiness. Nearly a decade after making Embracing, Kawase filmed a sequel—Sky, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth (2001)—about her family, after learning that her birth father has passed away. She connects the threads between her original search for him, the aging “grandparents” who took her in as an infant and adopted her, her birth mother’s insistence that she was always planned and wanted, and her unfulfilled longings. Finally, in 2012, Kawase filmed an intimate portrait of her foster mother at the end of her life, Chiri (Trace). It is a loving tribute to the woman who raised her since infancy, and the final documentary in a series of three self-exploratory films about her family that began with Embracing.

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On Sunday, June 26, Kawase will join Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, and David Pendleton, Programmer, Harvard Film Archive, on-stage at MoMA for a discussion on her subjective approach to filmmaking. The discussion will include a selection of film clips spanning her entire career.

This series was organized on the occasion of the 2016 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Play.
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with David Pendleton, Programmer, Harvard Film Archive, and Anita Reher, Executive Director, The Flaherty Seminars.

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