Mr. Noriaki Tscuhimoto, the great master of Japanese documentary filmmaking passed away June 24th, 2008 at 2:47AM Japan time.
He was 79 years old. In early May this year, Mr. Tsuchimoto was diagnosed of an advanced stage of lung cancer. He has been receiving terminal care since, and according to his wife Motoko-san, his last days were peaceful and even occasionally joyous ones.
Noriaki Tsuchimoto was among the greatests in documentary filmmaking, with powerful and groundbreaking yet delicately touching masterpieces such as "An Engineer's Assistant (1964)", "On the Road; a Document (1965)," "Minamata; the Victims and their Worlds (1971)," "Minamata Disease; a trilogy (1974)," "Shiranui-sea (1975)," "The Afghan Spring (1984)" and so on. His last film was also his 17th entry to the series of films about the Minamata disease , "Minamata Diary (2003)."
Some of you may know that I had the honor of making a portrait documentary on Noriaki Tuchimoto, "Cinema Is About Documenting Lives (2007)." This project, above all, allowed me to know the great filmmaker quite intimately, and discover the profound humanity, the compassion, the kindness, the humbleness of the man, who became, in spite of the difference of generations, a dearest friend. I can safely say that this great documentary filmmaker was a great human being.
His films, which go far beyond "social issue films" or "political filmmaking" are also evidences of this amazing human quality that Tsuchimoto shared so generously with his subjects, his colleagues, and with his audience. His cinematic gaze, sometime quietly classical, sometimes fiercely experimental, often gently observibg but often filled with anger in face of terrible injustices, was always a compassionate one. Today, we are mourning the death of a beautiful man, a representative of a great generation of filmmaking.
I sincerely hope that all of you also would join us spiritually in spite of the long distances that usually separate us in honoring Noriaki Tsuchimoto, and the efforts in continuing to carry the torch of the beautiful art of cinematography as an art form of witnessing the world with compassion and love to all man kind and to all livings. I also hope that the world will continue to discover the body of works that Mr. Tsuchimoto left us, many of them still unknown to the international audience, yet among the highest achievements documentary cinema has ever reached.