When she was only 17, her short Imitation Interior became the first film to win the PIA Film Festival Scholarship. She's gone on to write and direct feature-length films focusing on 20-somethings struggling with adulthood in modern Japan: How Old is the River (1995), Mars Canon (2002), and Sekai no Owari (2005).
Kawase Naomii. In 1997, for her autobiographical documentary Embracing, she became the youngest person ever to win the Camera D'Or (for best new director) at Cannes.
Ten years later, for her feature film The Mourning Forest, she won the Grand Prize.
Tanada Yuki. Winner of the 2008 Directors Guild of Japan award for her film One Million Yen and the Nigamushi Woman, Tanada is a filmmaker who places women at the center of her stories, and gives them agency and freedom. Her films tackle a heady host of issues including teen sexual exploration, queer identity, female sexual empowerment, and coming of age in modern Japan.
Quote from Tanada's Midnight Eye Interview: "I want to be known as a filmmaker, not a woman filmmaker. As you know, there are male directors and women directors who produce interesting and not so interesting films, regardless of their sex. I don't think there's any difference in approach or subject matter between men or women. I think if you had the same script and you gave it to a different filmmaker, it doesn't matter if they were male or female, a different movie would come out. I don't think gender has anything to do with it. It's the individual who defines how the film turns out."
Ninagawa Mika. Renowned and award-winning photographer, cinematographer, and director, you can see her trademark color-bursting style in the AKB48 MV "Heavy Rotation", which she directed, or in her fashion shoots for Vogue Japan. Her directorial debut, Sakuran (2007), is scripted by Tanada, and is a critically acclaimed, color-saturated depiction of female sexuality.
Ando Momoko and Ando Sakura.
The daughters of famous filmmaker Okuda Eiji, both have achieved success and critical acclaim: Sakura notably through her award-winning role in Love Exposure, which Jasper Sharp calls "the most exciting film to come out of Japan in years;" Momoko through her directorial debut, Kakera, about the relationship between two young women struggling with their sexualities and with adulthood.
watch the trailer for Kakera
Ibi Keiko. Former Miss Japan, NYU grad Ibi became only the second Japanese director in history to win a non-honorary Academy Award--in 1999 for her Documentary Short, "The Personals."
This puts her in a club of exactly two people: herself and Akira Kurosawa.
With over 300 films to her credit, Hamano worked her way up in the pink film industry to become a legend who ran her own production company, and garnered the title of the most prolific filmmaker in Japan.
After realizing that her body of work was being largely critically ignored because of the subject matter, she set out to include more mainstream films in her portfolio, featuring empowered heroines and gay and lesbian protagonists.
Since 2000, her films such as In Search of a Lost Writer (2000) and Lily Festival (2001) have taken top prize at film festivals around the world.
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