Rene Duignan is passionate about life — so much so that he made an award-winning film about it. Yet Duignan, 42, is not a professional filmmaker; he's an Irish economist working for the European Union delegation to Japan. The documentary, titled "Saving 10,000 — Winning a War on Suicide in Japan," is a beautifully choreographed, impassioned plea to those considering suicide to think again.

I met with Duignan, ostensibly to understand why Japan has such a high suicide rate. That, unfortunately, remains an enigma. I did, however, gain a deeper appreciation of the importance of having a purpose in life. For Duignan, that purpose is to save lives. Duignan's passion is so clearly expressed in the film that it transforms what easily could have been an intensely morbid documentary into something inspirational.

The story behind the film began in 2007, when Duignan's friend and neighbor was having "problems." She often brought her troubles to him. At first Duignan lent her a sympathetic ear over tea. But as the visits became more frequent, he became impatient. Eventually, he stopped answering the door. "Frankly," says Duignan, "I got tired of listening to her."