Naomi Kawase appointed to direct the Official Film of Tokyo 2020

Japan’s Naomi Kawase (“Sweet bean”, “Still the water”) has been announced to direct the Official Film of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Kawase will build on a legacy of more than 100 years of Olympic Film, including the documentaries created for past Olympic Games that were held in Japan: Tokyo 1964 (Kon Ichikawa), Sapporo 1972 (Masahiro Shinoda) and Nagano 1998 (Bud Greenspan). She will be the fifth woman to direct an Official Film, following the works of Caroline Rowland (London 2012), Gu Jun (Beijing 2008), Mai Zetterling (for one of the segments of the film Munich 1972), and Leni Riefenstahl (Berlin 1936). 

Naomi Kawase appointed to direct the Official Film of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Naomi Kawase©2016 Photographed by Leslie Kee

For each edition of the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee, in close collaboration with the Organizing Committee of the Games, reviews proposals from the host nation’s top filmmaking talent to direct the Film. Kawase was chosen after close consultation among Tokyo 2020, Japanese film experts, international film experts, and the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage who guides the production on behalf of the IOC.

The director of the Official Film must bring a unique editorial angle to the Olympic Games experience and aim to capture the soul of a specific edition of the Games while also considering the broader social and cultural context. Kawase was chosen for the strength of her proposal which reflects a nuanced understanding of Japanese culture and Olympic values, as well as for her strong track record and outstanding international recognition.   

The Director of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage, Francis Gabet, commented: “We are thrilled to have such an accomplished, talented filmmaker on board for the Official Film of the Tokyo Games. Ms Kawase’s passion for topics linking sport, culture and society and the unique perspective she brings as one of her country’s leading female voices in filmmaking make her an ideal collaborator for this film.”

Naomi Kawase added: “The Olympic Games have a long and glorious history, and with the international sports event returning to Tokyo after 56 years, I’m thinking about the role bestowed on me. I now feel that the “god of film” that came to me one day has given me the chance to record this wonderful celebration of sport that connects people, and to leave a legacy for generations to come. I hope to capture “time” and take full advantage of the appeal of documentary films and their ability to freeze those moments into “eternity”, allowing the significance of the Tokyo 2020 Games to be communicated worldwide.”

I hope to capture “time” and take full advantage of the appeal of documentary films and their ability to freeze those moments into “eternity”, allowing the significance of the Tokyo 2020 Games to be communicated worldwide. Naomi Kawase Japan


Naomi Kawase is a highly acclaimed filmmaker whose work has won numerous awards at international film festivals. After beginning her career in documentary and short films, Kawase became the youngest director to receive the Camera d’Or at Cannes Film Festival with her first feature, SUZAKU (1997).

In addition to several appearances at Cannes, Kawase’s films have been featured at other top film festivals around the world, including Toronto, San Sebastián and Rotterdam. She has also served as a jury member at New Horizons (2012), Busan (2012), Cannes (2013) and Cinéfondation (2016), and is the founder of Nara International Film Festival. Retrospectives of Kawase’s oeuvre have been held at institutions around the world, including in Barcelona, New York, Berlin, Mexico, St Petersburg and Japan. An installation of her work will be on display at the Pompidou Centre in Paris from November 23, 2018. Her latest film, VISION, starring Juliette Binoche, competed at Toronto and San Sebastián International Film Festivals earlier this year, and will be released internationally.

Olympic films: a collection of cultural and heritage value

Since the early 20th century, films have been created for every edition of the Olympic Games. Throughout the decades, accomplished international filmmakers – including Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Leni Riefenstahl, and Carlos Saura, among many others – have been inspired by the Olympic Moment to push the boundaries of the Olympic documentary tradition and to create powerful cinema as part of the Olympic Games’ cultural legacy. The Olympic Film Collection is comprised of more than 50 feature-length films that offer a cinematic window onto defining moments in the history of the modern Games. After an extensive high-quality restoration project, the Olympic Film Collection today includes more than 40 feature-length and 60 short films in their original format and language. 


For press inquiries, please contact:

DDA Consulting
+44 207 932 9800


For other inquiries, please contact:

Anja Wodsak, Arts & Culture Manager
Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage
+41 21 621 6679

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