Born in Onomichi, a port on the inland sea of Japan, in 1938, Obayashi started making films as a child, using a projector and a film belonging to his doctor father.
A pioneer experimental filmmaker in the 1960s, Obayashi has directed nearly 3,000 television commercials over a long career, many with international talent, including Charles Bronson and Catherine Deneuve.
In 1977, he made his debut with “House”, a free-spirited and wildly imaginative horror fantasy that was successful upon its release in Japan and later became a cult favorite overseas.
In Japan, Obayashi is best known for a trilogy of films he shot in Onomichi: “Exchange Students” (1982), “The Girl Who Leapt through Time” (1983) and “Lonely Heart” (1985).
These and other films he made in the 1980s and later generally featured young female talent and included elements of science fiction and fantasy. Obayashi also worked on a more serious vein, including the 1989 “Beijing watermelon” on the lives of Chinese students in Japan, and the 1994 “Turning Point”, a drama about a middle-aged journalist who fights for recognition in a male dominance business.
His films have been widely screened in Berlin, Moscow and other festivals. In 2016, Udine’s Far East Film Festival presented a tribute section to Obayashi in the presence of the director.
Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in August 2016 and given three months to live, Obayashi continued to make two other films on anti-war themes, the “Hanagatami” of 2017 and the “Cinema Labyrinth” of this year , whose March opening has been postponed due to a coronavirus. .