Hara Masato, Leading Japanese Film Producer, Dies at 89

Mark Schilling
·2-min read

Hara Masato, a producer and executive who worked with Kurosawa Akira, Oshima Nagisa and other leading Japanese filmmakers in a seven-decade career, died on March 17 at age 89 of heart failure, distributor Asmik Ace announced Monday.

Hara was the company’s first president, starting in 1998. He later served as executive advisor until his retirement in 2017.

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Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1931, Hara entered the film business following his graduation from Waseda University, working in production and promotion under such veteran directors as Imai Tadashi and Yamamoto Satsuo.

In 1958 he joined distributor Nippon Herald, where he was in charge of marketing, while branching out into distribution and production. Among his credits were “A Thousand and One Nights” (1969), a pioneering adult animation cowritten by anime master Tezuka Osamu, and “Dersu Uzala” (1975), a Japan-Soviet coproduction directed by Kurosawa.

In 1981 Hara founded Herald Ace, a distributor of foreign films. Its 1988 smash hit “Cinema Paradiso” led the way for an arthouse theater boom. In 1995 Hara partnered with publisher and film producer Kadokawa to launch Ace Pictures the following year. Then in 1998 Ace merged with rival Asmik to form Asmik Ace. Hara served as the company’s president, then chairman and finally advisor.

Among Hara’s long list of credits as producer are Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983) and Kurosawa’s “Ran” (1985). He also had a long association with Shinoda Masahiro, like Oshima a leader of Japanese cinema’s 1960s New Wave. The culmination of their partnership was “Spy Sorge” (2003) a lavishly produced World War II drama that tuned out to be Shinoda’s last film.

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