Kaneto Shindo, Japan’s oldest active film director whose many movies, including “Genbaku no Ko” (Children of Hiroshima), often focused on social issues, died at his home in Tokyo on May 29. The award-winning director was 100 years old.
Born in Hiroshima Prefecture, Shindo joined movie production company Shinko Kinema Co. in Kyoto in 1934, and later transferred to rival Shochiku Co.
In 1944, Shindo was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy. After the war, Shindo wrote successful screenplays, and in 1950, he set up an independent movie company, Kindai Eiga Kyokai (Modern Film Association), with some colleagues, including film director Kozaburo Yoshimura.
In 1951, Shindo made his debut as a director with “Aisai Monogatari” (The Story of a Beloved Wife).
The following year, he won acclaim for “Children of Hiroshima,” which was based on essays written by children who survived the August 1945 atomic bombing of the city. The movie depicted the misery and suffering of the children, their teachers and the children’s families.
The atomic bombing became a central theme in much of his work. For example, Shindo directed a 1988 movie, “Sakuratai Chiru” (Sakura Troupe Disbands), which told the story of a theatrical troupe that was torn apart by the atomic bombing.
In 1961, Shindo won the Grand Prix award at the Moscow International Film Festival with his 1960 movie, “Hadaka no Shima” (The Naked Island), which depicted the life of a family on a small island in the Seto Inland Sea. The story was told with no dialogue.
In 1978, Shindo married actress Nobuko Otowa, who had worked with him many times since the 1950s.
When Shindo’s 1995 film, “Gogo no Yuigonjo” (A Last Note), which was Otowa’s last movie, was made into a theatrical performance in 1999, he also directed the stage show.
Shindo’s last movie, “Ichimai no Hagaki” (A Piece of Postcard), released in 2011, was ranked at the top in the movie magazine Kinema Junpo.
"A Piece of Postcard" was based on Shindo's experiences in World War II. Of the 100 men he served with, only six were alive when the war ended in August 1945.
In his later years, Shindo often said his colleagues who died in the war had always been on his mind, which led to "A Piece of Postcard."
Shindo's films often described the agonies, strengths and frictions of the human condition.
He received the Asahi Prize in 1976 and the Order of Culture in 2002.
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