26 July, 2021
08 August
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Basketball a passion for revered Tokyo 2020 Olympics Movie Director Naomi Kawase

TOKYO (Japan) - When renowned Japanese Movie Director Naomi Kawase was appointed to direct the Official Film of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, basketball was always going to be one of her main ports of call.

A former player and also now the Chair of the Women's Japan Basketball League (WJBL), Kawase is passionate about a sport that is close to her heart.

Tasked with bringing a unique editorial angle to the Olympic Games experience, Kawase must aim to capture the soul of this specific edition while also considering the broader social and cultural context. She was chosen for the strength of her proposal. Her overture reflected a nuanced understanding of Japanese culture and the Olympic values that was backed by her strong track record and outstanding international recognition.


Her work has won numerous awards at international film festivals, including when she became the youngest director to receive the Camera d’Or at Cannes Film Festival with her first feature, SUZAKU (1997). In addition to several appearances at Cannes, Kawase’s films have been featured at other top international film festivals, including Toronto, San Sebastián and Rotterdam. 

Looking to build on a legacy of more than 100 years of Olympic Film, Kawase reverberated excitement to be at the Saitama Super Arena to take in Japan's clash with USA. Being courtside evoked those feelings that make basketball special to her.

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"I love the moment when the ball is just about to go through the basket. There is that moment of silence and it can be both touching and moving," she explained.

One of the main challenges faced by Kawase was not getting too involved in the game itself at the Arena and concentrating on her main purpose of the visit.

"We want to complete the film and make it in a beautiful documentary style and of course, that is the main goal and purpose.

"But through the actions of the players and their performances, I can get taken out of the script sometimes," Kawasa reflected. "I become purely just a fan of the basketball when I am watching and living in the moment. I always have to remember that we have to do the documentary and we have to try to stay focused on the details to give more elements to the film itself."

The language, rhythm and rhyme of basketball that Kawase sees in the game is born out of experience.

"I think that sometimes I feel that I am unique because I also played basketball, so I do know how to focus on the things I need to for the movie," she said.  "I know the game and the excitement. This is a weapon of mine that I can use this and that I can put it into the documentary itself."

While already revered for her past body of films and documentary work, Kawase hopes that this project will help maintain one her wider goals.

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"After I played basketball, I jumped into the film industry and for me, I wanted to use it as a way of trying to change negatives into positives. My mission and motivation is to bring more positive power through the film to deliver messages out.

"I think one of the things that I can do is to show that players must be thinking about a second career after their sports life because these choices can be very limited. I want to help enlarge how the players think about their choices when they stop playing."

Added Kawase: "Also there are examples to highlight like Kim Gaucher of Canada who is here playing even though she has just given birth and has her baby - this is seriously incredible for us to even imagine here in Japan."