Tribeca Film Festival
Death hangs over The Departure in grandly cosmic fashion. Lana Wilson's documentary is a portrait of Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest in Japan who's devoted his life to preparing people for death and trying to talk people out of taking their own lives. The film's opening sequence captures in detail one of Nemoto's workshops, in which, among other things, he has his followers write down on small pieces of paper various things they feel they can't live without, and then proceed, in stages, to crumple most of them up and throw them away. This establishes not only the film's thoughtful approach to death, but also its calm aesthetic, with its long takes and wide shots inducing a sense of serene reflection wholly appropriate to its eternal subject matter.