Oscar 2008: Departures (Okuribito) is Japan's Entry for the Foreign-Language Film Oscar

Sep 15, 2008–The Motion Picture Producers' Association of Japan (Eiren) has selected the Yojiro Takita helmed drama “Okuribito” (“Departures”) as Japan's contender for the foreign language Oscar, the film's international distrib, Shochiku, announced Friday.

The film stars Masahiro Motoki as an out-of-work cellist who moves back to his provincial hometown and becomes a “nokanshi,” a professional who ritually washes and clothes bodies prior to the funeral. This unusual change of careers gives him a new purpose in life, and brings him into conflict with his young wife (Ryoko Hirosue).

“Departures” was awarded the Grand Prix des Ameriques at this year's Montreal World Film Festival and has impressed critics following its September 13 opening.

Earlier this week, Singapore selected Eric Khoo's “My Magic” as the country's Oscar contender. The film, which preemed in competition in Cannes, was chosen by a special committee of the Singapore Film Commission.

“My Magic,” which tells the story of the relationship between an alcoholic magician and his 14 year-old son, has mostly Tamil dialogue, with incidental Hokkien. Khoo's previous film “Be With Me” was disqualified at the 2006 Oscars for having mainly English dialogue.

Originally planned for a late October release in Singapore, “My Magic” is now set for a local theatrical run stating September 26, 2008, to comply with Academy rules.

Both pictures will play at the 2008 Pusan Internatinoal Film Festival.