Japanese Director Naomi Kawase Accused of Violence Towards Staff

Japanese Director Naomi Kawase Accused of Violence Towards Staff thumbnail

Japanese auteur, and Cannes favourite Naomi Kawase was accused of violent behavior toward her staff and crew. She is also accused of an attack that left one employee’s face swelling.

In May 2019 on the set of True Mothers, an assistant director touched Kawase to point out there was an issue with a shot. Although there is no evidence that the contact was inappropriate, Kawase apparently shouted at the assistant director “What are you doing?” and kicked him in his stomach.

The entire cinematography crew, including Yuta Tsukinaga , resigned following the incident. The story was first reported by the Tokyo-based Weekly Magazine and Scoop Factory Shukan Bunshun . Kawase stated on her company’s website, that the matter was resolved internally.

However, the magazine then wrote about an incident in October 2015, when Kawase reportedly assaulted a staff member at her production company Kumie’s office in Nara City. The director, who was nominated for an award, punched a male employee and continued to beat him, while other staff fled the office in fear.

The victim’s face was visibly swelling when the staff returned. The employee, who immediately resigned, confirmed to Shukan Bunshun that the assault took place but did not want to comment publicly.

Japan‘s film industry has also been hit this year by a string of accusations of sexual abuse of actors by directors.

Kawase was named a UNESCO ambassador for goodwill in November. He stated at a Paris press conference: “I believe that my role is to shine a light on people who are not being talked about around the world and portray them on the global stage .”

On Friday, Kawase’s Tokyo 2020 Side A, the official film of last year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, opened in Japan to little fanfare, no public appearance from the director and poor ticket sales.

It is unclear if the controversy surrounding Kawase has affected audience enthusiasm. The Japanese public was mixed about the postponed Summer Games taking place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. However, sentiment did improve when the host nation won a flurry medals and no major infections emerged.

On Friday evening, the film was sitting in 13th place on the advanced sales ranking, with just 2,716 tickets sold, compared to more than 60,000 for chart-topper Top Gun: Maverick on its second weekend.

Ticket sales did pick up on Saturday, but the two-hour documentary, which premiered at Cannes to some acclaim, failed to make the weekend top 10.

Suzaku won Kawase the Camera d’Or best new director award at Cannes in 1997, catapulting her onto the international stage. 10 years later, she won the Grand Prix with The Mourning Forest, and has since sat on juries and had other films shown in competition at the festival.

Kawase’s new documentary was almost destined to suffer in comparison with Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, the ambitious and seminal chronicle of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which held the admissions record for a Japanese film with 23.5 million until it was broken 35 years later by Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Although Ichikawa’s film was more artistic than organizers expected, Tokyo was buoyant for the Games as Japan returned from post-WWII devastation. This contrasted with last year’s spectator-less events, marred by scandals and cost-overruns, and concerns about the coronavirus.

The second part of Kawase’s Olympic film, Tokyo 2020 Side B, focusing on events away from the athletes, including opposition to the Games, is set for release next year.

THR contacted Kawase’s office for comment on the assault reports and lack of promotional appearances for her new film, but had not received a response at the time of writing.

Read More