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INTERNATIONAL PRESS DREAMACHINE In Cannes 4th Floor Villa Royale, 41 la Croisete (1st door N째 29) Gordon Spragg M : + 33 6 75 25 97 91 gordon@celluloid-dreams.com Magali Montet M : + 33 6 71 63 36 16 magali@celluloid-dreams.com WORLD SALES DREAMACHINE London 24 Hanway Street London W1T 1UH Tel. + 44 (0) 207 290 0750 Fax + 44 (0) 207 290 0751 info@hanwayfilms.com www.hanwayfilms.com Paris 2 rue Turgot 75009 Paris, France Tel. + 33 1 4970 0370 Fax + 33 1 4970 0371 info@celluloid-dreams.com www.celluloid-dreams.com In Cannes 2, La Croisette, 3rd floor Tel. + 33 4 93 38 64 58

Fax + 33 4 93 38 62 26


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Shigeki lives in a small retirement home. He feels comfortable and happy here with the other residents and the gentle and caring hospital staff. Machiko, one of the home’s staff pays special attention to him. However she is secretly haunted by the loss of her child. After celebrating Shigeki’s birthday, Machiko decides to take him for a drive in the countryside. Making their way along the scenic back-roads, the car is forced into a ditch and it is here that they embark on their journey of discovery together. As Shigeki determinedly heads off into the forest, Machiko has no choice but to follow. After two exhausting days trudging through the dense wood they finally arrive at Shigeki’s wife’s tomb. It is in this peaceful place that Machiko discovers that Shigeki has been writing to his beloved wife for 33 years. It is time for him to write his last letter. Devoted Machiko is there to help him reach his mourning’s end, and in doing so finds peace within her heart.


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Original title is Mogari No Mori. Mogari : The period devoted to mourning, to missing the honoured deceased. Or the place of mourning. Origin of this word : " moagari " (the end of mourning).

NAOMI KAWASE on THE MOURNING FOREST

The Setting The film is set in the district of Tawara, in the eastern mountains outside Nara City in Western Japan. The old people’s home that you see is something we created for the film. In planning it, we asked for the professional advice of doctors who are at the forefront of research and treatment regarding the elderly in Japan. We also had the participation of professionals involved in Japanese public television’s campaign this year for " senile dementia awareness " to help build the set and brief the actors who played the roles of the care workers. Some of the actors who played these roles are actually professionals in this field. The principle of the retirement home is for nine people to live together in a group and provide an environment that’s as close as possible to their former lives. This means the facilities should not be sterile and impersonal, but rather each person should live in an individual space of their own and share a living room so they live more like a family. With this idea, a small but comfortable community is formed, so that even elderly people with dementia can live their lives in a more natural way. The system is cutting-edge in Japan for people to live in more humanistic surroundings. The innovation is in the face of an increasingly elderly society (with less children being born and the working population shrinking) in a country known for its long-living. Nevertheless, the majority of Japanese old people’s homes are large-scale facilities, and the idea of the " group home " system is a fresh concept.


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The Actors and Directing Uda Shigeki, who brilliantly played the role of a senile man is an amateur who’s had no acting experience whatsoever. He began by going to a real " group home " three months before shooting began to eat and sleep with the senile elderly. As a result, I believe he was able to embody the eye and physical movements of the real patients. There was a script, but especially after we entered the forest (it was in fact a deep forest where there were many surprise events including a sudden thunderstorm, strong wind, and falling tree trunks) I tried to adapt the story so that these realistic elements could be depicted in the film. At the same time, It would be fair to say that the general direction and core of the film was already firmly rooted in my mind, so I would, if necessary, readjust the actors’ direction if I felt they were being swayed by realistic conditions too far in the wrong direction. Machiko is the actress who made her cinema debut with the role of Michiru in SUZAKU, which won the Camera d’Or ten years ago. I don’t think the film is notably different from my previous feature films in the sense that I like to work with realism as the guiding concept. With the participation of a French editor in the final stages, however, the fictional side of the film became more developed. With David Vranken as sound designer, we re-recorded 80 percent of the dialogue and recreated almost all the environmental sound. Since these methods did not undermine the realism of my world, but rather enhanced it, I feel the film has become a work progressing beyond my previous films.

Personal Themes My parents had already divorced when I was born, and my mother entrusted me to her aunt Kawase Uno before remarrying. When I was in my twenties, my mother told me clearly, " If I had been a weaker person when I fell pregnant I would not have had you. " With this realization, I learned that the alienation I feel is something I could trace back to the moment of my birth.


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The fact that I was nurtured in my mother’s womb means that I had a connection to her then, yet the moment the umbilical cord was cut, my " loss " became permanent. Thanks to my great-aunt and uncle, however, who were always close to me, I learned to understand love and kindness, and perhaps some notion of divine presence etc. They introduced me to the beauty of nature (especially the mountains) and the experience of coming face to face with nature taught me that the world isn’t all about human beings. In the film, I think my own personal view of life is reflected in the character of Shigeki and his living through the memory of his dead wife. But these factors aren’t autobiographical. The story of THE MOURNING FOREST is rather a reflection of the emotions within me.

Origins of the Project This project began when Kawase Uno, my mother’s aunt and my foster mother, began to show signs of dementia. I was troubled by the future, and how best to deal with the situation. I eventually met a specialist in the senile elderly. I greatly admired a system of care, which held the patients’ point of view so centrally. Despite the Japanese notion that disclosing family problems to outsiders is shameful, I felt that it was important not to be afraid to take advantage of professional support, as otherwise the family would simply buckle under the weight of its own problems. From my own experiences, I learned that if people think and act selfishly, the world will always be a disrupted and disconnected place, but if we think of others and try to adapt for them, a situation can drastically change for the better. I came to realize that it was not only me looking out for my fostermother, but there were actually moments when she was offering peace of mind to me. Gradually an image of an elderly person trekking a mountain in order to visit his wife’s grave came to me. By adding a person to care for him, I began to imagine the moment when the standpoints of carer and patient turn upside down. As I did more research on graves, I began to think about the emotions of the bereaved. I learned about the history of the funeral and bereavement.


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This region of Tawara has traditionally kept the custom of burial without cremation, and the village graveyard can still be found spread out within the forest. In reality to this day, they still conduct the funeral procession we see at the opening of the film. I was struck by the resilience of a people who are strongly connected with the departed even after death. The villagers themselves conduct the act of burial and requiem for their own neighbours without ever relying on conventional cremation and commercial funeral services.

An Older Generation I am often moved by the words and attitudes of the elderly. Living involves the good and the bad, and as a young person, one will easily lose hope, face disappointment, and experience indecision. Elderly people, however, are not so easily agitated. In fact, they often give sage and worldly advice in their awareness of life’s natural path. Its as if their attitude towards life reflects the divine providence of natural affairs.

Nature Nature exists purely, far beyond any human speculation. There is a feeling of security to be embraced by something on such a huge scale. On a sunny winter day, I often look at the trees swaying in the wind and the tiny young buds blossoming. I sometimes find myself shedding a tear at its beauty. When I want to express this sense of security of being embraced by some force that is not visible, I choose to use images of nature.

Intuition I always use intuition to make my decisions scene by scene. This is true however detailed a blueprint we prepare, because its much more fresh and rewarding to listen to your heart than to shoot a film according to a detailed plan. When I’m directing spontaneously, the actors do really react in a natural way, occasionally laughing or crying in the process. It’s only in this way I can record such " manufactured reality. "


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The Bond Between Shigeki & Machiko I think the bond between Shigeki & Machiko is empathy. They share something one cannot control : the time they spent with the departed. But it’s certainly not only a sharing of sadness. In human existence, those who’ve experienced loss often become kinder to others. This only happens, however, if there’s someone who understands them. In the film, I delegated this role to Wakako (the head care worker of the home). After the two enter the forest, the forest itself becomes the force that supports them. It watches over the two of them, sometimes gently, sometimes more strictly.

Hope At the end, Shigeki says, " Let’s sleep in the soil ". This could be taken to mean death, but for Shigeki, this is a place of peace. Lying together with his wife, humming the melody that his wife used to play, he is truly at peace. This is also the 33rd year since his wife passed away, which means in Japanese Buddhism that this is a way post year. Its the year when a departed person will never return to this world again, going instead to the land of the Buddha. In other words, Shigeki did not come just to meet his wife at her grave. He came to say goodbye and thank you for the last time. He wanted to thank her for watching over him for so many years. Shigeki thus releases his wife. This also means that Shigeki himself is freed. Machiko understands this principle of nature. In her case, she’s not elderly, so with this understanding, she begins to walk forwards. It’s the moment when she commits herself to the future. This will not necessarily resolve her sense of loss, as loss is something that can’t be reconciled easily, but the moment will help provide her with the key to understanding, release and hope.


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BIOGRAPHY – Naomi Kawase Born in 1969 After graduating from the Osaka School of Photography (currently the School of Visual Arts) in 1989, worked as a lecturer at the school for four years. In 1993, Embracing, which put on film her search for the father who abandoned her in her youth, won the Encouragement Award at the Image Forum Festival. At the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 1995, Embracing was given a Special Mention FIPRESCI Prize and Katatsumori, her portrait of the grandmother who raised her, won an Award for Excellence in the New Asia Currents program. In 1997, released This world, 8mm film correspondence with director Hirokazu KOREEDA. Naomi Kawase directed and wrote the screenplay for the first 35mm fiction film Suzaku, which in 1997 won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Best Actress Award at the Singapore International Film Festival, and the Camera D'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. In the same year, she completed The Weald, a portrayal of the six groups of elderly people living in the mountains of NishiYoshiro, Nara, which in 1999 won the Special Mention Prize at Vision du Réel; The Next year at the Vision du Reel, ten of her works were shown in a retrospective, including Manguekyo (released at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

FILMOGRAPHY 1992 1993 1994 1995

co-directed with Kore-eda Hirokazu

1999 2000 2001 2002

Hi wa Katabuki, The Setting Sun, 8mm/16mm, 45 min. Moe No Suzaku, Suzaku, fiction, 35 mm, 95 min. Somaudo Monotogari, The Weald, documentary, 8mm/16mm/Beta, 73 min. Mangekyo, Kaleidoscope, documentary, 16mm, 85 min. Hotaru, fiction, 35 mm, 164 min. Kya ka ra ba a, Dans le silence du monde, Beta SP, 50 min. Tsuioku no dansu, Letter From A Yellow Cheery Blossoms,

2003 2004 2006

documentary, Betacam, 70 min. Sharasojyu, Shara, fiction, 35 mm, 99 min Kage, Shadow, documentary, Beta-cam, 25 min. Tarachime, birth/mother, documentary, Digital Beta-cam, documentary, 45 min.

1997 Hotaru, had its world premiere in competition section of the Locarno International Film Festival, where it was awarded both the FIPRESCI Prize and CICAE Prize. In 2002, two retrospectives of her works are organised, one at the Alba Infinity festival (Italy) and another one at the Jeu de Paume’s Gallery in Paris. In 2003, her third long feature film, Shara is selected at the Official Competition in Cannes. In 2006, Naomi Kawase directed a documentary about her pregnancy and childbirth.

Ni Tsutsumarete, Embracing , documentary, 16 mm, 40 min. Shiori tsuki, White Moon, fiction, 16 mm, 55 min. Katatsumori, documentary, 16 mm, 40 min. Utsishiyo, This World, documentary, 8 mm, 60 min,


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Cast Shigeki

Shigeki Uda

Machiko

Machiko Ono

Wakako

Makiko Watanabe

Shigeki’s Wife

Kanako Masuda

Machiko’s Husband

Yoichiro Saito

Crew Author-Director Director of Photography Gaffer Sound Engineer Art Designer Make-Up Artist Music Sound Editor Sound Mixer Editor, Japan Editor, France

Naomi Kawase Hideyo Nakano Masami Imura Shigetake Ao Toshihiro Isomi Yuka Sumimoto Masamichi Shigeno David Vranken Vincent Mauduit Yuji Oshige Tina Baz

Producer Executive Producer Associate Producer

Naomi Kawase Hengameh Panahi Christian Baute Syunji Dodo

Production Co-producer

Kumie Inc Celluloid Dreams Productions Visual Arts College Osaka

with the participation of the Centre National de la Cinématographie (France) and the Cultural Agency (Japan).


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The Mourning Forest