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At 22, Hiroshi Okuyama becomes youngest winner of San Sebastian new director award

Kyodo

Hiroshi Okuyama, 22, won the new director award at the 66th San Sebastian International Film Festival on Saturday, becoming the youngest recipient of the honor at the prestigious Spanish film festival.

“I’m really honored to be given such a famous award because I am unheard-of in Japan and the world. I’ll never forget the applause and cheers after the screening, for the rest of my life,” said Okuyama, who won the Kutxabank-New Directors Award for “Boku wa Iesu-sama ga Kirai,” his first feature-length film. The film’s English title is “Jesus.”

Okuyama made the film earlier this year when he was a senior at Tokyo’s Aoyama Gakuin University. Since graduation, he has been working for a major advertising agency.

The film, whose Japanese title means “I don’t like Jesus,” portrays a young boy named Yura who moves to the snowy countryside from Tokyo and starts attending a Christian elementary school.

Yura is initially puzzled at having to worship at the school, but one day he sees a small Jesus appear before him in the middle of a prayer.

Okuyama, a native of Tokyo, aims to release the film, which tackles serious issues like religion and life and death with an often humorous touch, in Japan next year.

He is the second Japanese winner of the San Sebastian new director award, following Yoichiro Takahashi in 1998.

Another Japanese director, Hirokazu Kore-eda, received the Donostia Award — a lifetime achievement award — at the film festival earlier this month, becoming the first from Asia to win the honor. Earlier this year, Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival for “Shoplifters.”