Born in Nara, Japan, Naomi Kawase’s education in film began at the Visual Arts College Osaka in the late 1980s. Upon graduating, Kawase gained international attention for a series of personal documentary shorts, beginning with Embracing in 1992. Her first feature film, Suzaku, followed in 1997 and depicted the tragic life of a family living in a remote timber village in Japan. The film’s examination of family history and struggle would continue Kawase’s exploration of similar themes found in her early documentary works. With Suzaku, Kawase would go on to win the Camera d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
Her relationship with the festival would continue throughout the next two decades, with her film The Mourning Forest (2007) winning the Grand Prix in 2007 and led to Kawase serving as a member of the Cannes main competition jury in 2013. In 2010, Kawase founded the Nara International Film Festival, a biennial film festival held in Nara, Japn. She also serves as the festival’s Executive Director.