Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: The Departure

Whilst there’s still a distinct gender imbalance in cinema, particularly behind the camera in big budget movies, things are slightly more balanced in documentary film-making. Indeed, the likes of Laura Poitras, Louise Osmond, Barbara Kopple and Amy Berg are amongst the best in the industry. Lana Wilson is a rapidly rising star. Her (co) directorial debut, After Tiller, won her an Emmy. Her new film, The Departure, is a thoughtful look at a complex character.

In his mid-twenties, Ittetsu Nemoto decided enough was enough. He could no longer keep on living a hedonistic existence. After seeing a job advert, he became a Buddhist priest. He now lives a more thoughtful life with his wife and young son. Most of his free time is taken up by his calling. He’s dedicated his life to helping those who no longer want to live. He hosts retreats and makes himself available all hours of the day (and night) to offer wise counsel. Now approaching middle-age, his work is having an increasingly negative effect on his health and family.

The Departure is a quiet and considered study of a remarkable person. His ‘death workshops’ are particularly interesting and seem like an extremely intelligent way to help those who don’t want to live. Nemoto, who is renowned in Japan for saving the lives of countless people on the brink of suicide, is a compelling character. Whilst he is skilled at helping others, he seems incapable of dealing with his own demons. If only Nemoto would listen to his own advice.

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