In celebration of the 120th anniversary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth on December 12, 2023, Academy Award-nominated director Daniel Raim follows his Criterion Collection films: In Search of Ozu (2018) and Ozu and Noda (2019) with a feature-length portrait of the Japanese master entitled, In the Footsteps of Ozu.
Exploring Ozu’s life through a kaleidoscope of previously unheard audio recordings and perspectives, the documentary sheds new light on the many sides of a groundbreaking, and visionary artist. For decades he was “the most Japanese of filmmakers” but where did Ozu’s unique filmmaking aesthetics originate from and who was Ozu the man?
The film explores Ozu's life and creative vision in his own words, including experts from the filmmaker's journals, diaries, poems, and rare audio interviews translated to English for the first time. Interviews with family members and key actors and crew members who worked in Ozu's films bring home the tension between the director's individualistic life journey and the formation of his cinematic style.
Shot on location at the Kamakura Museum of Literature and the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Footsteps explores some of the physical treasures at the core of Ozu's moviemaking. There is something profound when an archivist brings out an artifact relating to an artist's work. In our film, the unveiling of precious objects relating to Ozu's career: the red "teleporting" teakettle, a teacup, Ozu's specially designed tripod, or the director's signature white hat, will be like talismans that will help bring Ozu's artistic legacy to life.
The film will have a uniquely Western perspective and ask why most of Ozu's films weren't widely seen until the 1970s – especially during a time in the 1950s and 60s when there was a hunger for arthouse fare in America and Europe. What was the reason Tokyo Story (1953) didn't have its premiere in New York until 1972? Why did Shochiku think Ozu's work was "too Japanese" for Western audiences? How do Ozu's films continue to impact filmmakers worldwide?
In the Footsteps of Ozu shines a light on Ozu's influence on world cinema through interviews with directors deeply influenced and inspired by the grandmaster. We hope to interview Claire Denis, Mike Leigh, Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismaki, Terence Malick, Barry Jenkins, Jim Jarmusch, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Kogonada, Paul Schrader, and Kelly Reichard.
The tension between these two interwoven themes, tracing the origins of Ozu's unique filmmaking aesthetic and his influence on contemporary filmmakers from across the globe, will help unlock the keys to Ozu's art.
In the Footsteps of Ozu will be produced in conjunction with an exhibition of Ozu's life and career, featuring rare, behind-the-scenes photos from his films in the lobby of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library, located in Beverly Hills in 2023.