Japanese Director Naomi Kawase Accused of Violence on Set, Assaulting Crew — Report

Allegations of the "True Mothers" and "Sweet Bean" director assaulting crew and employees date back to 2015.
Naomi Kawase poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Broker at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Naomi Kawase at 2022 Cannes

Japanese director Naomi Kawase has been accused of violence against staff members.

Allegations against Kawase date back to 2015, with numerous reports of her violently assaulting employees and crew members on various sets. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the accusations stateside.

Kawase’s most recent film “Tokyo 2020 Side A” premiered at Cannes and was commissioned for last year’s Summer Olympics.

Tokyo-based weekly magazine and scoop factory Shukan Bunshun originally reported in October 2015 that Kawase attacked a staff member at her production company Kumie. She reportedly punched a male employee, knocking him to the ground, and continued to beat him while other staff members fled the office. The employee’s face was visibly swollen after the assault and resigned immediately after the altercation.

Then, on the set of Kawase’s “True Mothers” in May 2019, an assistant director touched Kawase to say there was an issue with a shot. Kawase according to reports yelled, “What do you think you are doing?” and kicked him in the stomach, despite the contact not being inappropriate in a workplace environment. The entire cinematography team, led by Yuta Tsukinaga, resigned after the incident.

Shukan Bunshun broke the story, leading Kawase to state on her company’s website that the matter had been settled internally.

After publication, Kawase’s lawyer disputed the Shukan Bunshun reports.

Kawase was appointed a UNESCO goodwill ambassador in November 2021, saying during a press conference in Paris via THR that her role is” to shed light on people who have not been talked about across the world and depict them on the world stage.”

The director won the Camera d’Or Best New Director award at Cannes in 1997; a decade later, she won the Grand Prix with “The Mourning Forest” and has since been a Cannes staple.

Kawase’s “Tokyo 2020 Side A” documentary capturing 2021’s Tokyo Summer Olympics debuted at the festival this May. The follow-up, “Tokyo 2020 Side B,” is set to be released in 2023.

In light of the slew of #MeToo allegations against male Japanese directors, Kawase recently told Variety that “the pendulum is swinging in the Japanese film industry.”

“The debate is becoming very emotional. But oftentimes, this current climate is very black and white, very women versus men, very polarized,” Kawase said. “Of course, there’s a lot of things that need to be revised, to be changed within the Japanese film industry. There is a necessity for women to be in leadership positions and board members. At film festivals and production companies, as well. There needs to be a sense of diversity.”

Kawase continued, “And just because you’re a woman, you’re expected to think a certain way and because you’re a man, you’re not supposed to be this or that. This polarization of thought is problematic. I wish that we could return to being human beings and talk to one another.”

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