I’m back in London at another film festival a week after this year’s Raindance Independent Film Festival finished.
The thing about this festival is that it screens titles that would be hard to find even in their native countries. Indie films that would have a narrow release, usually in a capital city (Tokyo, London) and perhaps at some regional third-tier film festivals. If I had to describe the titles I watched with simple words then I would use confident and stylish. Every story was told with an assured skill and was highly absorbing. The only downside was the small turn-out for each of the films I attended. It was most disappointing during the Remiges screening because I played a part in getting it into the festival and the director came all the way from Japan to perform a Q&A!
The most positive thing is that I met friends and watched excellent films that have shot to the top of my favourite films of the year list – oh how I loved watching Shady, The Kirishima Thing, and Remiges – and I’ve become immersed even more in cinema culture.
Even more immersed in the culture?
Well, I write for Gigan magazine and some of my reviews for the festival appeared in the paper edition (no sign of digital yet). Thanks to Adam of Third Window Films I was able to conduct a couple of interviews with directors. So what reviews do I have in connection with the festival? Here are the reviews and interviews:
Remiges + Interview
Romaji: Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo
Japanese Title: 桐島、 部活 やめるってよ
Running Time: 103 mins.
Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Writer: Ryo Asai (Original Novel), Kohei Kiyasu, Daihachi Yoshida (Screenplay)
Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Suzuka Ohgo, Mayu Matsuoka, Motoki Ochiai, Masahiro Higashide, Kurui Shimizu, Mizuki Yamamoto,
The Kirishima Thing is a teen drama featuring a collection of bright young things of the Japanese acting world that show they are a new and strong generation of talent. Its depiction of the social mores and strata in high school is well-observed and real and for its efforts it was the big winner at the recent Japanese Academy Awards scoring Best Film and Best Director prizes. I already watched and reviewed it before the festival so expect a re-review or lots of picture/Gifs.
When high school volleyball star player Kirishima quits the team shockwaves are sent through the school. This is the story of the students surrounding Kirishima from his friend Hiroki Kikuchi (Higashide), girlfriend Risa (Yamamoto), Aya (Ohgo) a brass band musician with a crush on Kirishima, badminton player Kasumi (Hashimoto), and the president of the film club Maeda (Kamiki). The students will cross social boundaries and defy groups as they attempt to redefine themselves.
Japanese Title: かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う
Romaji: Kashikoi Inu wa, Hoezu ni Warau
Release Date: June 22nd, 2013
Director: Ryohei Watanabe
Writer: Ryohei Watanabe (Screenplay)
Starring: mimpi * β, Izumi Okamura, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko
I’ve been hyped for this ever since seeing at on Alua’s blog back in January. This film was released in June 2013 and it has been wowing critics and distributors (Winner of the Entertainment Award at the PIA Film Festival) and has been picked up by Third Window Films for the UK. This was my film of the festival. It was a genuinely unexpected treat that kept me hooked from start to finish. I want the soundtrack as well!
Misa Kumada (mimpi * β), an outcast at her school who is mercilessly teased and has no friends. She hates the place but when the popular and pretty Izumi Kiyose (Okamura) befriends her the two develop bonds of friendship. What Misa doesn’t know is that the seemingly angelic Kiyose has quite a dark side.
Japanese Title: 風切羽 かざきりば
Romaji: Kazekiribane ka Zakiriba
Running Time: 88 mins.
Director: Masato Ozawa
Writer: Masato Ozawa (Screenplay)
Starring: Mika Akzuki, Junki Tozuka, Maiko Kawakami, Osamu Shigematu, Yuki Terada, Futoshi Sato, Nobuyuk Ishida, Michiko Godai
Remiges was the one I helped get into the festival. I mentioned the film to Adam Torel of Third Window Films, the programmer of the Japanese strand of the Raindance Film Festival and sent him a link to the trailer. Then the director Masato Ozawa caught us talking about his film and it was good enough that it ended up playing at the festival! It more than lived up to expectations. It was a wonderfully shot existential youth drama.
Sayako (Akizuk) was abused by her mother as a young child and has lived in a foster care facility with the emotional scars since then. She’s now a senior in high school and wants to attend a ballet school but she needs her parents to pay the tuition fees and so she turns to her father but he betrays her and pushes Sayako over the edge. She skips out on the foster care facility to search for her mother and sister but runs into another lost soul named Kenta (Tozuka) who cycles through town asking random people if they know him.
Japanese Title: 震動
Running Time: 74 mins.
Director: Asami Hirano
Writer: Asami Hirano (Screenplay),
Starring: Shumpei Kawagoishi, Kana Kita, Kyutaro, Takuya Matsunaga, Gen Ogawa, Yuji Kaneda, Maya Kondo
Shindo is Asami Hirano’s debut feature film and it is a very confident one at that. This is a simple coming-of-age movie but in its simplicity it gains power to move through its well-crafted characters and focussed direction. Nothing revolutionary but very satisfying. It played earlier this year at the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival which is where this trailer comes from.
Haruki (Kawagoishi) is an overly serious high-school student in a close relationship with Nao (Kita) a deaf high-school girl. They have both lived in the same orphanage since they were young children but Haruki is about to graduate and wants the two of them to live in together. When a schoolmate named Aki asks Haruki to play guitar for his band over the summer he finds it broadens his horizons but as Haruki becomes more devoted to music and gains fans, Nao feels jealousy emerging.
Japanese Title: クオン 久遠
Running Time: 78 mins.
Director: Takayuki Hatamura
Writer: Takayuki Hatamura (Screenplay)
Starring: Hidemasa Shiozawa, Yusei Tajima, Sou Sato
Ku_on is a tight and fun little sci-fi film where the cast of characters have the ability to transfer their consciousness’s to different bodies. The only downside is that they are easy to track due to a unique mark. The focus is definitely on the action and not on character building but the plot is fun and the film is pacey so it remains fun.
Hiroyuki Sano is an ordinary office worker who discovers he can transfer his mind into another person’s body by touching them. Unfortunately, the transfer results in unconscious bodies being left around which is why the police start chasing him. Sano is now on the run and is aided by a detective named Yamamoto has similar body-hopping powers. He also explains that there is a serial killer named Ushio who is targeting them and with the aid of a tough martial artist named Sayo they aim to stop the killer.
Running Time: 91 mins.
Director: Junya Sakino
Writer: Jeff Mizushima (Screenplay),
Starring: Gaku Hamada. Eugene Kim, Marlane Barnes, Josh Brodis, Samatha Quan, Hiroyuki Watanabe
I didn’t rate this one all that much based on the trailers but Adam Torel of TWF said that the trailer may be awful but this one is very funny and he convinced me to watch it. What did I think? Sake-Bomb was better than expected. Thanks go out to Junya and Adam for the interview.
Naoto (Hamada) is a shy guy who just happens to have inherited a brewery. When his boss gives him a week off work, he heads to Los Angeles where he hooks up with his cousin Sebastian, a guy who hates Asian stereotypes and American attitudes to Asians. Naoto wants to look for his lost love and so Sebastian leads him on a road-trip. Hilarity ensues as they go on a journey both physical and metaphorical…