Japan's `Departures' wins Oscar in upset

February 22, 2009 10:25:54 PM PST
Japan's "Departures," a film about a man who prepares bodies for burial, won the Oscar for best foreign language film in an upset over the favored "Waltz With Bashir." RELATED LINK: FULL OSCAR COVERAGE

"This is a new departure for me," director Yojiro Takita said while accepting the award. "And we'll be back, I hope."

"Departures" is about a cellist whose orchestra is disbanded and, desperate for work, becomes a funeral professional.

The win for the less heralded "Departures" was likely to further frustrate critics of the foreign film category, which in recent years has gone without nominating several much acclaimed films.

After a committee selects the nominees, the category is decided by Academy members who have seen exhibitions (not DVDs) of all the nominated films.

Last year, many questioned when France's "Persepolis" and Romania's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" weren't nominated. Instead, Germany's "The Counterfeiters" won. This year, some wondered how Italy's acclaimed "Gomorrah" wasn't nominated.

Israel's "Waltz With Bashir" was one of the most acclaimed films of the year but defied easy categorization. A kind of animated documentary, it follows a soldier struggling to recall suppressed memories from his involvement in Israel's 1982 war with Lebanon. It won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film.

The other nominees were: Cannes Palme d'Or winner "The Class" from France; the crime caper from Austria "Revanche"; and Germany's "The Baader Meinhof Complex," which follows the West German terrorist group the Red Army Faction.

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