Hirokazu started his showbiz career with television. He served as an assistant director at TV MAN UNION, INC. and worked on several television documentaries. The 1991 television documentary ‘Lessons from a Calf’ marked first work of Hirokazu as director. This was followed by the documentaries ‘However...’(1991), which he also produced, and ‘August without Him’ (1994). Later television works of Hirokazu includes directing the series ‘Going My Home’ (2012) and the film ‘Ishibumi’ (2015).
His directorial debut in feature films happened with the Japanese drama ‘Maborosi’ that released at the 1995 Venice Film Festival and won a Golden Osella Award for Best Cinematography. It later released in Japan on March 21, 1997.
He wrote, edited and directed the Japanese film ‘After Life’ that released at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 1998 before being screened at several other film festivals. It won him Best Film and Best Screenplay awards at the 1999 Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema and went on to release in Japan on April 17 that year.
Moving on he contributed as director, screen-writer and editor in the films ‘Distance’ (2001), ‘Nobody Knows’ (2004), ‘Hana’ (2006) and ‘Still Walking’ (2008). Among these, ‘Nobody Knows’ which he also produced won him Best Film and Best Director awards at the 2005 Blue Ribbon Awards, while ‘Still Walking’, which according to his 2009 interview was based on his own family, won him Best Director award at the 2009 Asian Film Awards.
Meanwhile, he directed the 2008 documentary ‘Daijōbu Dearu Yō ni: Cocco Owaranai Tabi’. The following year, he directed, wrote, edited and produced the Japanese drama film ‘Air Doll’ that was based on the ‘Kuuki Ningyo by Yoshiie Gōda’ manga series.
The June 11, 2011 released Japanese film ‘I Wish’ written, edited and directed by Hirokazu received generally favourable reviews from critics.
Next notable film of Hirokazu that he wrote, edited and directed was the Japanese drama ‘Like Father, Like Son’ that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2013 and was later screened at different other film festivals. It released in Japan on September 28, 2013. The film that garnered mostly positive reviews received nomination for the Palme d'Or and won the Jury Prize and a commendation from the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes. It also bagged the Rogers People’s Choice Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October 2013 and the Wuaki.TV Audience Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival same year.
The next Japanese drama film that he wrote, directed and edited titled ‘Our Little Sister’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2015 and was chosen to compete for the Palme d'O. Based on the manga series Umimachi Diary by Akimi Yoshida, the film received generally favourable reviews and won four awards at the 39th Japan Academy Prize including Director of the Year award. It also won Audience Award at San Sebastián International Film Festival.
He wrote, edited and directed the Japanese family drama film ‘After the Storm’. It earned critical acclaim upon release at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2016, being screened in the Un Certain Regard category. The film was also screened at different film festivals including in the ‘Toronto International Film Festival’ and the Chicago International Film Festival, and won Hirokazu Best Director award at the Yokohama Film Festival. It released in Japan on May 21, 2016.
The 2017 Japanese legal thriller film ‘The Third Murder’ where Hirokazu contributed as writer, editor and director was shown at the 74th Venice International Film Festival in its main competition section. The film earned generally positive reviews and won Hirokazu Director of the Year, Screenplay of the Year and Best Film Editing awards at the 41st Japan Academy Prize event.
He furthered his fame as director, editor, screenwriter and producer with the Japanese drama film ‘Shoplifters’ that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 13, 2018 and eventually won the Palme d'Or. It released on June 8, 2018 in Japan and thrived both critically and commercially. The film bagged several awards including Best Foreign Film award from Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It also fetched several award nominations including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film.
He was given the Donostia Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in 2018 for his lifetime achievement.
His first foreign language film that is set outside Japan titled ‘The Truth’ was chosen at the 76th Venice International Film Festival as the festival’s opening film. It had its world premiered there on August 28, 2019. Hirokazu wrote and directed the film that has Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche in starring roles.
Over the years, Hirokazu has worked with several performers in multiple films. Some of them include Kirin Kiki, Susumu Terajima, Lily Franky, Tadanobu Asano, Yui Natsukawa and Hiroshi Abe.