One of Japan's most acclaimed directors, Hirokazu Koreeda, is at the Cannes Film Festival to present a manga adaptation he feared might be stolen by another filmmaker.
Umimachi Diary, whose English title is Our Little Sister, is one of 19 films vying for the Palme d'Or top award at Cannes. A victory here usually ensures international distribution and further honours.
Based on a comic series by Akimi Yoshida, Umimachi is set in Kamakura, an ancient capital of Japan near present-day Tokyo. It's about three siblings whose estranged father dies. At his burial, they meet someone they didn't know existed: their orphaned teenage half-sister.
But instead of being like Cinderella's stepsisters, the trio shows Suzu nothing but kindness when she moves in with them.
This sort of gentle family drama has become Koreeda's trademark. The director, 52, was taken with the graphic novel when it began serialisation in 2007 and immediately envisioned the film it could become. He said: "When I read it, I was completely absorbed by this universe and got completely lost in the story. I said to myself, 'I know someone else is going to make a film out of it.' And so I thought, I would prefer it be me and no one but me."
The director tried to reproduce some of the most beautiful images from the manga, including cherry blossoms spread on a beach, and the sisters lighting sparklers in their summer kimonos. But the narrative, which begins and ends with funeral rites, needed some development before it was ready for the big screen.
"After a time, we put the manga aside to work on the screenplay and change it so that the characters could be enhanced and come alive on screen," Koreeda said.
The film has a strong cast of popular actresses including Masami Nagasawa, Haruka Ayase and Suzu Hirose.