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'Hanagatami' wins top prize at 72nd Mainichi Film Awards

A scene from "Hanagatami," winner of the top prize at the 72th Mainichi Film Awards. (C) Karatsu Film Project

The film "Hanagatami" has been tapped for the top prize at the 72nd Mainichi Film Awards, while "Aa, Kouya" was chosen as the outstanding Japanese movie.

The two films both convey powerful messages to society, with "Hanagatami" (Flower basket), the newest work by veteran director Nobuhiko Obayashi, 80, and "Aa, Kouya" (Ah, wilderness) by former television director Yoshiyuki Kishi, his second movie production to date.

Obayashi planned "Hanagatami" even before he made his commercial movie debut with the title "House" in 1977. The story is based on a novel by Kazuo Dan of the same name set in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, before the outbreak of World War II, portraying the transcendence of youth. By connecting the present with a time period where the footsteps toward war can be heard, the selection committee praised the film as "a work that merged experimentalism and a message for the current age." Koichi Takeuchi also received an award for his work as the film's art director.

"I have always made movies true to my individuality as a director. I feel that the prize was awarded (to the movie) as well as to my 40 years of that kind of film making," Obayashi commented.

A scene from the 72th Mainichi Film Awards outstanding Japanese movie winner "Aa, Kouya." (C) 2017 "Aa, Koya" Film Partners.

"Aa, Kouya" is an adaptation of a novel by Shuji Terayama by director Kishi. Split into two parts, the movie is a monumental piece over 5 hours long. Set in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward in 2021, it tells the story of lonely youth who foster friendship and love through boxing. Masaki Suda also won the lead actor prize for his performance in the film.

"It was an award that I had on my mind, so I am delighted," said Kishi. "I paid particular attention to the sound and filming, putting a lot of physical effort into the production. I wanted to create a film that crossed generations and stressed the importance of seeking emotional connections in times of loneliness."

While "Aa, Kouya" took outstanding Japanese film, the 2016 British film "I, Daniel Blake," directed by Ken Loach, received the Mainichi Film Award for best foreign film. Other winners include Katsuya Tomita for best director for the 2016 film "Bangkok Nites," Masami Nagasawa for best lead actress for her role in the 2017 movie "Before We Vanish." Veteran actress Kumi Mizuno received the Kinuyo Tanaka award.

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