Japanese director Masahiro Kobayashi has died, aged 68

The director of ‘The Rebirth’ and ‘Bashing’ had been fighting colon cancer for five years

Japanese filmmaker Masahiro Kobayashi has died.

Variety reports that the esteemed filmmaker died in his Tokyo home on the evening of August 20, though news of his passing was announced only on Wednesday (September 7). Colon cancer was reported as the cause of death. He was 68.

Beginning his career as a folk singer and screenwriter for TV and erotic “pink films”, the director began his career at 42 years old with the self-financed feature Closing Time, a drama about the musings of an alcoholic, disillusioned scriptwriter. The director’s works often revolved around subjects of social alienation.

His 2007 film, The Rebirth, won four prizes at that year’s Locarno International Film Festival, including the Golden Leopard, the Swiss film festival’s top prize.

Meanwhile, four of his films were included at the Cannes Film Festival, including 1999’s Kaizokuban Bootleg Film, 2000’s Koroshi, 2001’s Man Walking on Snow, and 2005’s Bashing, the last of which competed for the Palme d’Or, and won the Grand Prize at that year’s Tokyo Filmex.

According to his wife Naoko, the director was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago. With repeating episodes, Kobayashi spent his final years with his family as a priority, and eventually “died at home, surrounded by his family.”

Tributes have begun to pour in online. “Right now, I can do no more than provide condolences. He was always not just a mentor to me, but also a mentor on how to live life. I will continue to keep the many things Masahiro Kobayashi-san has guided me on deep in my heart,” shared fellow pink film director Toshiki Sato in a tribute post about his death on Twitter.

“When I met director Masahiro Kobayashi 20 years ago, he said, “I respect the opinions of film festival programmers because they see 1,000 films a year.” At the time, I hadn’t seen 1000 films, so I thought to aim for it. It’s quite an unreachable goal, but I always thought of wanting to live up to Director Kobayashi’s expectations. Rest in peace,” further shared Yoshihiko Yatabe, film programmer for the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Kobayashi’s most recent film was the 2017 drama Lear on the Shore, which starred Japanese screen icon Tatsuya Nakadai (Harakiri, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) as a dementia-afflicted man, in a part-autobiographical feature about his own life.