The Departure


Film Info
Event Type:Film
Film Type:Documentary Feature
Release Year:2017
Run Time:87 minutes
Production Country:United States
Original Language:Japanese
Cast/Crew Info
Director:Lana Wilson


Ittetsu Nemoto, a former punk-turned-Buddhist-priest in Japan, has made a career out of helping suicidal people find reasons to live. But this work has come increasingly at the cost of his own family and health, as he refuses to draw lines between those he counsels and himself. “The Departure” captures Nemoto at a crossroads, when his growing self-destructive tendencies lead him to confront the same question his patients ask him: what makes life worth living?

A 44-year-old Tokyo native, Nemoto loves riding his motorcycle and dancing all night in clubs. But he’s also a Rinzai Zen priest, who lives with his wife, mother and baby son at a temple in the remote countryside of Gifu prefecture, Japan. There, over the last ten years, he has become famous for his work in combating suicide.

Nemoto’s approach to preventing suicide is unique. It includes not only one-on-one counseling sessions, but also parties, camping trips and experimental art projects. In his signature workshop, “The Departure,” participants imagine their own death. For Nemoto, there’s no manual or “one right way” for convincing someone not to commit suicide — rather, it’s whatever it takes. He relates to the men and women who come to him for help not as a professional, or a saintly spiritual figure bestowing wisdom from up on high — but instead, as one of them, a screwed-up individual full of pain and suffering, on a high-stakes mission to understand the purpose of being alive. Nemoto is remarkably successful in his career because he refuses to draw lines between suicidal people and himself — but that is also precisely why his problems begin.

As Nemoto continues to rush from one counseling session to the next, the relationship between his work and his personal life becomes increasingly messy and interwoven and starts to spiral out of control. The tables are soon turned, and Nemoto must confront what’s perhaps most frightening of all—the meaning and value of his own life, and how he should be living it.

With astonishing access, and crafted with the artistry of a narrative film, “The Departure” is a moving and poetic contemplation of the human spirit.

The film is the second documentary by award-winning director Lana Wilson (“After Tiller”).