The Departure



Documentary Feature
2017, 87 minutes


Director and Producer


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 his patients 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?

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It’s not often one can have a genuinely spiritual experience watching a movie. But that’s precisely what’s on offer with The Departure, Lana Wilson’s quietly galvanizing portrait of life, death and the thin places in between. A film that explores life’s toughest and most transcendent moments with tenderness, honesty and care.
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
A work of art. A beautiful meditation on the value of life. By the way, this is a documentary. But after the first few seconds, you won’t even notice.
David Lewis, The San Francisco Chronicle
Tender and quietly moving... The Departure is like a haiku.
Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times
Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine
Poetic...profound...devastating. Wilson handles the emotional subject matter with a subtle restraint that makes the film all the more moving. The Departure beautifully illustrates how meaningful life can be.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
Wilson's film, a quiet wonder, emphasizes the courage it takes to choose the hard work of living.
Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice
Immensely moving. Lyrical and deeply meditative… digs deep into major questions without being afraid of the answers.
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
One of the most moving films at this year's festival...gorgeous and contemplative. The Departure is a powerful work of documentary, cinema, advocacy, and art.
Andrew Parker, Toronto Film Scene
A cinematic spiritual quest. A trip to the mountain top that will leave you moved, teary eyed, and utterly vibrating with the sense of feeling alive. A small quiet film that is thunderous in its effect.
Steve Kopian, Unseen Films
A beautiful, wise, and deeply empathetic immersion into one fascinating character's unique approach to suicide prevention. A quietly impressive work whose images, characters, and ruminations linger on long after the lights come up.
Scott Macaulay, Filmmaker Magazine
There is something incredible about The feels like the darkest, riskiest act of perseverance, a movie that sets you in constant darkness and forces you to gather why you, dear reader, have chosen life.
Nick Allen,
A lyrical statement on the meaning of life...The Departure is a moving, philosophical exercise on understanding and cherishing life by confronting the finiteness of it.
Tomris Laffly, Film School Rejects
[Nemoto's] teaching is as much about embracing life as it is about facing death. He offers hope for all.
Joan Oliver Duncan, Tricycle Magazine
[An] intimate and casually beautiful character study of Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto... There’s something tremendously profound about his mission and how he approaches it, and Wilson’s sensitive approach honors it, following his example of listening, sympathizing, and respecting the complexity of human emotions. Would that we were all so kind, as filmmakers and as people.
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
An eloquent portrait.
Juliet Helmke, Art Info
Highly empathetic. A tale of an iconoclast that is unexpectedly profound.
Phil Guie, Film-Forward
Emotional… filled me with empathy. Unlike many other documentaries, there are no talking heads. There are no interviews. This is a fly-on-the-wall account following a man who helps so many others but is not taking care of himself. Deeply moving.
Melissa Hanson, Reel News Daily
A poetic meditation on what it means to be human and what it means to be alive.
Helen Kaplow, Indie NYC