Director Naomi Kawase, winner of several Cannes awards, was named UNESCO goodwill ambassador on Thursday, becoming the first Japanese woman to hold this post, according to the permanent delegation of Japan to the UN organization.
Kawase, 52, also the fifth Japanese to be nominated for the role, was selected in recognition of her cinematic work focused on the stories of women across generations. She should use this post to promote gender equality in cultural industries.
“I believe my role is to shed light on unspoken people around the world and to represent them on the world stage,” Kawase said at a press conference in Paris during his nomination.
During a ceremony held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in the French capital, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, former French Minister of Culture, congratulated Kawase for the promotion of diversity between peoples and cultures.
Kawase is involved in a UNESCO project that supports young African women directors.
The director, originally from Nara prefecture (western Japan), became the youngest filmmaker to win the Camera d’Or award for best first director at the Cannes Film Festival for her first feature film “Suzaku” released in 1997.
Ten years later, his work “La forêt en mourning” received the Grand Prix, the second highest distinction behind the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
In 2015, Kawase received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award from the French government.
Other Japanese to take on the UNESCO role include the late artist Ikuo Hirayama, who became Japan’s first goodwill ambassador in 1988, and Japanese singer and actor Ryotaro Sugi.
Sen Genshitsu, a former grandmaster of Urasenke, one of the leading Japanese tea ceremony schools based in Kyoto, has been sent out of goodwill since 2012.