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Oscar-winning director surprised over hit film

JAPANESE director Yojiro Takita said the success of his Oscar-winning film "Departures" was a "miracle," as the movie, depicting life and death through the eyes of an undertaker, was initially seen as far from commercial.

"Even when I started shooting the film, I was so uncertain. I could not see where the movie was going," Takita said yesterday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

"It was a delicate task to make 'Departures' because it deals with death. Japanese people tend to shy away from death and, frankly, I could not picture how the audience would take this movie," said the 53-year-old director.

Since opening in Japan last September, the film has grossed more than 6 billion yen (US$60.3 million) in box-office revenue, with the number of moviegoers topping 5 million, according to Shochiku Company Ltd, a film production company.

Shochiku had initially expected around 3 billion yen in box-office revenue for "Departures" at best and planned to show it only at selected theaters. Shochiku did not disclose the movie's production cost.

But the popularity of "Departures" grew through word of mouth, and then snowballed after it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in February in an upset over the favored Israeli entry "Waltz with Bashir."

"Winning an Oscar was totally unexpected. It gave me courage and confidence," Takita said. "The film really gained momentum after the Oscar. In my opinion, it is a miracle film."

"Departures" is still showing across Japan and is set to open in more than 50 countries and regions, including Italy next week and the United States and France in May.

"Departures" already opened in Singapore, South Korea, and China's Hong Kong and Taiwan.


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