CANNES, France – Japanese teenager Yuya Yagira was the surprise winner Saturday of the best actor award at the 57th Cannes Film Festival for his performance in “Nobody Knows.”
The 14-year-old Yagira is the first Japanese to win the best actor award at Cannes and the youngest winner of the award in the festival’s history.
Yagira starred in “Nobody Know,” directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and based on a true story of four siblings trying to live on their own in a Tokyo apartment after being abandoned by their mother.
Yagira played the eldest of the siblings.
A third-year junior high school student, Yagira has acted in various TV dramas and commercials. He is currently appearing in a weekly drama called “Denchi ga Kirerumade” (“Until the Battery Runs Down”) on TV Asahi.
Yagira told Kyodo News that he was surprised and happy to receive the award.
“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a soccer player or an actor, but having received such an amazing award, I think I must make efforts as an actor,” he said.
Appearing in a news conference later in Tokyo, Yagira said, “I can’t believe I have won such a great award. I’m tremendously happy.”
He said he won the award “because the director was very good at teaching me.”
Yagira said he became an actor “because my friend was also (engaged in acting) and looked cool,” adding he wants to continue acting “because it is so much fun.”
About the movie that won him the award, he expressed hope that adults who see it will realize that kids are not to be easily abandoned or treated like mere toys.
Yagira said he learned he won the award when his mother woke him up, because he could not stay awake until the awards ceremony, which was held in the early hours of Sunday Japan time.
At the award ceremony in Cannes, Koreeda made a speech on behalf of Yagira, who had returned to Japan after the film was officially screened May 13.
“I was informed beforehand that we might have won some kind of award,” Koreeda told reporters after the ceremony. “I’m really surprised as I had never imagined it was the best actor award.”
Koreeda said he was proud and happy that Yagira’s performance won such high acclaim.
“I want to celebrate the award with the kids and other actors in the film as well as all the staff,” he added.
The prestigious Palme d’Or best film award went to U.S. director Michael Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
The movie, which takes a strongly critical view of the administration of George W. Bush, has so far been refused distribution in the United States.
The South Korean movie “Old Boy,” based on a Japanese animated cartoon of the same name, won the Grand Prix, the festival’s next most prestigious award.
The Japanese animated film “Innocence” failed to get an award.