Film Premiere: Powerful New Documentary Follows the Life of a Buddhist Priest Dealing with Suicide

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-06-12 |
<i>The Departure</i> offers insights into the ironies and contradictions in the life of Zen Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto. From lanawilson.netThe Departure offers insights into the ironies and contradictions in the life of Zen Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto. From

Exploring profound questions on what it means to be alive, The Departure, a sensitive and immersive new documentary about the life of a Zen Buddhist priest in Japan who has devoted his life to drawing people back from the brink of suicide, has garnered critical acclaim following its recent premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

In this powerful film portrait, described by one reviewer as: “A cinematic spiritual quest. A trip to the mountain top that will leave you moved, teary eyed, and utterly vibrating with the sense of feeling alive,” filmmaker Lana Wilson presents an intimate character study of Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto, who has earned renown in Japan for saving the lives of suicidal men and women through his patient and compassionate counsel. (Unseen Films)

From lanawilson.netFrom

In her own words, Emmy Award-winning director, writer, and producer Wilson describes The Departure as the story of “. . . a Japanese punk-rocker-turned-Buddhist-priest who has earned  some renown in Japan for his ceaseless work in suicide prevention. This work, though, has come at the increasing expense of his own physical and mental health, and the film captures him at a transformational moment in his life, when he has to ask himself the same question his patients ask him: What makes life worth living?” (Women And Hollywood)

New York-based Wilson previously achieved critical acclaim for her first film, After Tiller, which broaches the difficult subject of late-term abortions and went on to win an Emmy Award for Best Documentary.

Having become a Buddhist priest after a near-death experience pursuaded him to abandon the life of a hard-partying punk rocker, Nemoto has dedicated himself to helping people who, overwhelmed by spiritual and emotional despair, no longer want to live. But as he approaches middle-age and with a wife and young son to care for, he learns that his own life is at risk from heart disease—a condition exacerbated by the emotional weight of providing support and refuge for those who turn to him for help. “I can’t save anyone but I can share their problems,” Nemoto argues. (Screen Daily)

The toll of this altruistic vocation on Nemoto himself is heavy: with his health problems mounting, a never-ending stream of emails, text messages, and phone calls from those he feels duty-bound to help demanding response, and the commitment of conducting retreats and cross-country trips for those in need, Nemoto hardly has time for sleep or to spend time with his family. “I take on so much of their suffering,” Nemoto tells his wife during filming. “I can never show them how draining it is.” (Indie Wire)

The film’s title refers to the group retreats Nemoto conducts to for the people he’s trying to help. Wilson relates:  “On blank pieces of paper, they write down the three most important objects in their life, the three most important people, and three dreams they have for the future. Then Nemoto leads them through a role play, where they crumple and throw each one of these things away — because when we die, we have to say goodbye to everything that we have. The idea is that if you experience “dying,” you remember what’s most valuable about being alive.” (Women And Hollywood)

Confronted with a woman who feels her life has no meaning, Nemoto responds: “Does a river have a meaning?” (Helen Highly)

Conducting a retreat for those who have lost hope. From lanawilson.netConducting a retreat for those who have lost hope. From

The film also attempts to understand the question of why any of us should want to live, highlighting the irony of the impact Nemoto’s choices are having on his own life, and those of his wife and child. “I don’t want to have a long life just for the sake of it. A short life can be meaningful too,” the quietly remarkable Nemoto declares. (Screen Daily)

See more

The Departure (Lana Wilson)
The Departure (Tribeca Film Festival)
Tribeca 2017 Women Directors: Meet Lana Wilson — “The Departure” (Women And Hollywood)
The Departure (2017) Tribeca 2017 (Unseen Films)
'The Departure': Sheffield Review (Screen Daily)
Tribeca 2017 Reviews: What to See and Skip: Helen Highly Brief (Helen Highly)
‘The Departure’ Review: ‘After Tiller’ Director Returns With An Intimate Documentary About Suicidal Tendencies — Tribeca 2017 (Indie Wire)

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