Noemie Nakai is 29 years old and is a writer, director, actress, and model.
She was selected by BFI & BAFTA Crew 2019; she is beautiful, intelligent, creative, and talented. Nakai is half Japanese and half French, speaks English, Japanese, and French with also some remnants of Russian, Spanish, and Mandarin when her brain feels like it. She went to Keio University Law School, and film school at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. She also studied OIB Baccalauréat at Lycée International in France and International Relations at Nottingham University in England.
Nakai has always dreamed of working for the United Nations to contribute to the world, but she also realized that making a movie could also make a huge difference to the world. She was selected as “Woman Film Director Under 30” at the Breakthrough Film Festival and received the leading award at Busan Film Festival’s Asian Project Market for her feature in development. In her most recent film, she explores the work of the Crying Therapist, Hidefumi Yoshida. This film called, “Tears Teacher“, explores the benefits of Ruikatsu, an activity where people consciously shed tears to detoxify their mind. It explores the themes common to many of Nakai’s works, which find strength in vulnerability. The 10-minute short film premiered recently at Hot Doc Festival, an influential documentary film festival in North America, which was presented online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Tears Teacher” was also acquired by the New York Times Op-Docs series and will be streamed worldwide for a month in July.
Another film by Nakai in 2020 is a 5-minute silent short titled “Touch“, which was shot on 16mm film. This short film is set in the Lake District of northwest England. It’s a visual poem about a woman with a chair struggling to come to the term with the loss of her girlfriend. “I had the idea for Touch when I was going through a breakup,” says Nakai. “It’s about learning to let go, but it can be interpreted in various ways. There’s a preconception in filmmaking, especially among young directors, that you have to make something easy to understand, leaving the audience fulfilled. With this, I wanted to do the opposite, exploring a weirder path.”
“Touch” is a movie that Nakai was too afraid to produce before she lived in England. Since moving to London in 2018 (she is currently splitting time between England and Japan), Nakai says she has become more willing to trying new things. She says, “The biggest thing I’ve learned from living in England is to take risks. I know that sounds obvious, and I thought I had already done that, but in reality, I didn’t properly know what it meant until moving there. When I was in Japan, I was too careful and worried about how people perceived me. It’s hard to be creative in such an environment. In acting, as well, you are always conscious about trying to please the director, and that can be inhibiting.”
Interview Noémie Nakai | Watashi wo Hanasanaide
Nakai got her to break in acting after landing a recurring role as Christine Robbins in the romcom soap opera “Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo.” It proved a big hit throughout Asia. Even today, she still gets messages from overseas fans of the show. “The show was based on a popular manga, and I was a little overwhelmed at that time,” says Nakai. “Growing up, I never imagined working in the entertainment industry. I joined a theater group, but nothing serious…. When I was in law school, I auditioned for my first role (theTBS drama, Shuden Bye Bye), and I got the role. Gaku Hamada (former co-star of Nakai) told me that I should pursue acting as a career. I was encouraged to hear it and decided to follow his advice. ”
Nakai’s appearance in “Mischievous Kiss” marked the beginning of a string of roles, including those in the action franchise “High&Low,” also Naomi Kawase’s “Radiance,” and the Hulu Japan series “Death Note: New Generation.” One of Nakai’s most prominent roles to date came in the TBS drama “Never Let Me Go,” which is based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name.
Nakai released her first short film, The Last Dream as a director, the year after she starred in “Never Let Me Go”.
“I didn’t intend to become a director,” says Nakai. “It just happened on a whim. I was attending a film festival with (actress) Carmen (Kobayashi), but the quality of the film wasn’t particularly high, so we decided to make something that we would be cast in. We came up with an idea when we were having lunch.”
“The Last Dream” is a short set in the future where many people have lost the ability to dream. A company is trying to take advantage of this void by recycling the precious fantasies of the few who can still dream. The film was featured by a New York-based distributor, and it was shown on Director, Koreeda’s family drama, “After Storm” DVD, “It was a big moment for us,” Nakai recalls. “To be honest, though, when I was told, I thought they were speaking to the wrong person.”
Nakai continues to be surprised by her successes, even after taking home the main prize at last year’s Asian Project Market (APM), as part of the Busan Film Festival. “The Host” and “Snowpiercer”, early films by Academy Award winner Bong Joon Ho, were projects officially introduced by APM. “It’s been mind-blowing watching the way he works, but I don’t want to try and emulate him or any other director,” says Nakai. “My goal is to continue acting and creating films that I want to make. I want to give communities who aren’t heard, more of a voice, and for people to understand that vulnerability is not a weakness. There’s much to be learned from listening and opening up.”