Turner Classic Movies Acquires ‘The Ozu Diaries’ Documentary (Exclusive)

Turner Classic Movies has picked up the exclusive North American television rights to the forthcoming documentary The Ozu Diaries, from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Daniel Raim. An intimate exploration of the life and legacy of Japanese cinematic master Yasujiro Ozu, the film will premiere on the festival circuit this year, followed by a theatrical release in 2025.

Produced with the support of the Ozu estate and Shochiku, the historic Japanese studio behind the director’s greatest works, The Ozu Diaries is a cinema history documentary that portrays the iconic filmmaker through his diaries, personal letters and interviews, plus rare archival footage, movie clips and new insights from some of his closest collaborators.

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The project was initiated in 2023 to mark the 120th anniversary of Ozu’s birth. The movie will trace his journey from a rebellious young painter and cinephile in 1920s Japan to the globally renowned creator of classics like I Was Born, But…, Late Spring and Tokyo Story.

The film is a multi-year project for Raim who earned an Oscar nomination for his 2001 documentary short The Man on Lincoln’s Nose and is known for his critically acclaimed feature docs on film history, such as Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story and Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen. (He’s also produced and directed 30 documentaries about cinema masters for the Criterion Collection and Criterion Channel).

“In 2018, I was honored to make a 47-minute documentary, In Search of Ozu, for the Criterion Collection, which allowed me to dive deeper into the archival riches of Ozu’s late work,” Raim says of his new film’s genesis. “During my research, it was Ozu’s personal writings, which include 42 diaries, letters, and interviews, that brought me closer to the master’s heart and mind. These writings inspired a deeper quest: to create a documentary feature that explores Ozu’s life and work through his own words.”

Akiko Ozu and her husband, cinematographer Koichi Furuya, at the Kamakura Museum of Literature with Yasujiro Ozu’s diaries during a location shoot for the documentary in July 2022.
Akiko Ozu and her husband, cinematographer Koichi Furuya, at the Kamakura Museum of Literature with Yasujiro Ozu’s diaries during a location shoot for the documentary in July 2022.

In addition to the archival material, The Ozu Diaries follows Raim’s journey to Japan to visit Ozu’s childhood home in Matsuzaka and the Kamakura Museum of Literature, which houses Ozu’s dozens of original diaries, as well as other locations. Interview subjects in the film include Ozu’s niece Akiko Ozu, actress Kyoko Kagawa (Tokyo Story), actor Isao Shirosawa (Early Summer), and Belgian filmmaker Luc Dardenne, among others.

“TCM is excited to acquire The Ozu Diaries for North American television,” says Charlie Tabesh, senior vp programming at TCM. “Daniel Raim’s tribute to Yasujiro Ozu is a perfect fit for our audience. We look forward to premiering the documentary in 2025.”

Added Akiko Ozu: “I’m deeply grateful that Daniel took the time to visit Yasujiro’s grave in Kita-Kamakura. The moments spent there linger in my heart. I eagerly await the documentary’s completion.”

The Ozu Diaries is produced by Raim and Yuki Machida and executive produced by Matthew Bernstein, Natalie Bernstein and Eric Nyari. The film’s cinematographer is Koichi Furuya, while animator Patrick Mate will create manga-style graphic elements to accompany the film’s new and archival footage. To help complete the film’s postproduction, the filmmakers are running a fundraising campaign through nonprofit and project sponsor The Film Collaborative.

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