ASEAN – From the streets of Tokyo to the highest levels of government, Japan applauded Drive My Car’s Oscar success, hoping that it would raise the popularity of Haruki Murakami, the perennial Nobel Prize nominee who wrote the narrative that the film was based on.
The three-hour drama, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and premised on a short story by Murakami, the international bestselling author whose name has been mentioned annually as a potential Nobel Literature Prize winner for more than a decade, tells the story of a widowed theatre actor grappling with his past.
The film, which also won a screenplay award at Cannes, is Japan’s second consecutive winner in the International Feature Film category, and the first since Departures in 2009. It was also nominated for “Best Picture” for the first time, which CODA eventually won.
“It’s a high bar for a Japanese film to win Best Picture, but I hope more Japanese films are recognized in the future,” Azusa Shimizu, a 31-year-old media worker in central Tokyo, said she was pleased.
Others were more enthusiastic in their praise.
“Given that American films are the basis of the Academy Awards, I’m incredibly thrilled that a Japanese film was able to win this important honor,” said Osamu Kaneko, 60, who was gazing at movie posters in downtown Tokyo.
Hirokazu Matsuno, the usually reserved Chief Cabinet Secretary, described the win as “very exciting news” at a regularly scheduled news conference, while Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement that part of the film’s appeal was undoubtedly its setting in his own electoral district of Hiroshima.
“I’d want to take this occasion to increase support for cultural and artistic activities that are a source of soft power and help to propagate Japanese culture across the world,” he said.
Others anticipated Murakami would profit from the award.
Hiroshi Hattori, 65, said, “Haruki Murakami is a writer who has shown the world Japan and has been named as a Nobel candidate many times without ever winning.”
“I believe it’d be fantastic if this film helped to advance his name and his works.”