• Kyodo, Jiji

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Filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi was awarded the runner-up grand jury prize on Friday at the 71st Berlin International Film Festival, marking the first time in seven years a Japanese film has taken a prize at the festival.

“Guzen to Sozo” (“Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”), a collection of three short stories on chance and coincidence each revolving around a woman, was awarded the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize by a panel of directors, who said, “In the place where dialogues and words usually end, the dialogues of this film only begin.”

“That’s when they go deeper, so deep that, amazed and troubled, we ask ourselves: How much deeper can it go? The words of Hamaguchi are substance, music, material,” the jury said.

The last time Japan took a prize at the Berlinale was in 2014 when Haru Kuroki won the Silver Bear for Best Actress in the film “Chiisai Ouchi” (“The Little House”). Other recent Japanese winners at the Berlinale include Shinobu Terajima, who also earned the Silver Bear for Best Actress. It also marked the first time that a Japanese film has won an award at the Berlinale since Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” won the Golden Bear award 19 years ago.

“I feel deeply happy and honored to receive this prize from a jury comprised of highly-experienced directors,” Hamaguchi said in a statement.

The win adds the 42-year-old native of Kanagawa Prefecture to a list of other internationally acclaimed Japanese directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Naomi Kawase.

Hamaguchi’s 2015 breakthrough feature “Happy Hour,” which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, went on to win awards at numerous festivals. His 2018 film “Netemo Sametemo” (“Asako I & II”) was also selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Hamaguchi co-wrote the script for the film “Wife of a Spy,” for which Kurosawa won the Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 2020.

He also directed “Drive My Car,” a film based on a short novel by Haruki Murakami that’s slated to be released this summer.

This year’s Golden Bear for Best Film was awarded to “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” by Romanian director and screenwriter Radu Jude.

The Berlinale was held virtually from Monday through Friday due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The festival’s Summer Special, to be held in June, will allow the general public to see the selected films, with filmmakers also in attendance.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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