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Japanese winner of Cannes Jury Prize directs movies based on theater experience

Koji Fukada, left, is seen with animator Michael Dudok de Wit after an award ceremony for the "Un Certain Regard" section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival at Debussy Theater, on May 21, 2016. (Mainichi)

Movie director Koji Fukada, a young champion of Japanese movies, won the hearts of Cannes Film Festival judges with techniques he learned through working in a theater company.

    "I'm really happy. I want to thank the production crew and cast," the 36-year-old rising director commented from a podium after receiving the Jury Prize in the "Un Certain Regard" section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for the movie "Fuchi ni Tatsu" ("Harmonium"). Though choking up for words, Fukada managed to say, "I want to work to strengthen ties between Japanese and French movies," as he was showered with applause from the audience.

    Having a huge movie fan as a father, Fukada grew up in an environment surrounded with hundreds of VHS tapes. He was inspired to become a movie director after seeing the French film "Les Enfants du Paradis" ("Children of Paradise") and the Spanish movie "El espiritu de la colmena" ("The Spirit of the Beehive") when he was a junior high school student. "They were nothing like movies I had seen before," the young Fukada thought.

    Fukada enrolled in a film school while attending university. In 2005, he joined the production unit of the theater company, "Seinendan," led by renowned playwright Oriza Hirata.

    Fukada says that his award-winning movie, which he had been planning for 10 years, is based on what he learned during years in the theater company. In "Harmonium," the director used a theatrical technique called an "alienation effect," in which something strange is thrown into what is considered as the familiar to provoke latent consciousness.

    The movie depicts the life of a couple who owns a small metal processing factory. Their secrets and differences surface when another man comes into their lives.

    Fukada says he wanted to depict the fundamental loneliness of humans through the relationships of a family. Cannes Festival juries praised Fukada's work for illustrating an issue symbolizing modern society by featuring a regular family.

    Fukada called for support for young people in movie production at the award ceremony, saying, "There are a lot of young and talented film directors in Japan, but it's difficult to make movies without restriction."

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