The full line-up for the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) (March 03rd – March 12th) was revealed last month and for the 12th edition of OAFF, the number of selected films has reached an impressive 58 in total, including 16 films in Competition and they are coming from 19 countries and regions, including China, Hong Kong, Korea, the USA, and Japan. I took a look at many of those films in the two previous posts, one highlighting the competition and opening/closing films and one looking at the Thai, Hong Kong and special screening films. This preview will look at the independent Japanese films. Again, I helped write the synopses for many them only this time it was with the help of staff-members with the Housen films who would help me translate things from Japanese and discuss the exact meanings of certain words used. Thanks go out to them. Also, there are three films at the start that weren’t assigned to me so I didn’t cover them. I did write director biographies which I threw into this post. Who knows when I may call upon them.
Here’s what’s on offer from the Japanese cinema selection (you can click on any of the titles to be taken to the corresponding festival page which will have more information):
This program will present 12 films by new innovative and challenging Japanese talents including 3 CO2 (Cineastes Organization Osaka) supported films. The JAPAN CUTS AWARD will be presented by Japan Society to the selected film from this section. There are lots of world premieres in this strand of the festival and I’ve only seen a few but the few that I have seen have been excellent and made me excited about Japanese cinema in a way I haven’t felt for some time.
おっさんのケーフェイ 「Ossan no Ke-fuei」
Running Time: 71 mins.
Director: Kohei Taniguchi
Starring: Yota Kawase, Yusuke Matsuda, Haruto Kobayashi, Susumu Noda, Shuriya Jinbo.
I didn’t write the text for this one. The director Kohei Taniguchi will be at the screenings with his cast, Yota Kawase, Yusuke Matsuda, Haruto Kobayashi, Susumu Noda, and Shuriya Jinbo.
Synopsis: Elementary school boy Hiroto doesn’t have any talents or dreams for the future. One day he sees a wrestling match by popular masked wrestler Dynamite Wolf, and for the first time becomes enthusiastic. He decides to ask Dynamite Wolf to teach him how to fight. Meanwhile, Dynamite Wolf’s foray into politics has become big news… This energetic coming-of-age drama is the first entertainment film by a director who has worked on self-documentaries and POV horror. The star is Yota Kawase from “Rolling” by Masanori Tominaga. With strong support from Dotonbori Pro Wrestling, a match scene was shot with 200 extras, taking “Dynamite Wolf” beyond the realm of a typical low-budget movie.
Running Time: 76 mins.
Director: Asagi Kimura
Starring: Tomoki Kimura, Yu Ishizuka, Masaaki Kimura, Riko Uchikoshi, Kousuke Yokota,
I didn’t write the text for this one. The director Asagi Kimura will be at the screening with his cast, Tomoki Kimura, Masaaki Kimura, and Riko Uchikoshi.
Synopsis: Flower shop owner Yu tries to figure out the meaning of his missing ex-girlfriend’s words – “I am a cow” – and ends up on the southern island where he is from, where he reunites with his brother Akihiro, a researcher studying underwater moths.
Their father’s death reconnects the lonely man in Osaka with his insect-catching brother who lives quietly with his wife and daughter in Okinawa. The two brothers’ views about life and death, a mysterious moth, and a woman who has become a cow unfold in this fantasy tale. Shot in Osaka and the director’s native Okinawa and Yaeyama Islands, using a 15-year-old Panasonic AG-DVX100 camera to achieve the director’s vision.
可視化する心たち 「Kajika suru kokoro-tachi」
Running Time: 76 mins.
Director: Akiko Igarashi
Starring: Ryuichi Yoshida, Nanami Shirakawa, Yoshio Shin, Aoi Ibuki, Riku Tokimitsu, Ayaka Matsui, Yukina Aoyama,
I didn’t write the text for this one. The director Akiko Igarashi will be at the screening with her cast, Ryuichi Yoshida, Nanami Shirakawa, Yoshio Shin, Aoi Ibuki, Riku Tokimitsu, Ayaka Matsui, and Yukina Aoyama.
Synopsis: An accident happens during an experiment involving a machine which visualises human hearts. Masaki goes to the laboratory to announce the official cancellation of the experiment, and is attracted to Aoi, the wife of the machine’s inventor, who has lost consciousness due to the accident. Masaki learns that the only way to reconnect Aoi and her husband’s hearts would be the success of the experiment.
Is the human heart identical with the real human? This sci-fi drama, based on an experimental short film by the director, depicts love and scepticism through the relationships between researchers who visualise human hearts. Actors from the CO2 Actor Scholarship Project play the main roles, including the lead Masaki portrayed by Ryuichi Yoshida, Aoi who is portrayed by Nanami Shirakawa, the inventor who is played by Yoshio Shin and Asumi, who feels for Masaki, who is played by IBUKI Aoi.
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Jun Tanaka
Writer: Jun Tanaka
Starring: Hironobu Yukinaga, Hiromi Nakazato, Misaki Tsuge, Toshi Yanagi, Yuki Katsuragi,
This film is the first Japanese film to make me feel alive, this year. I watched it and the passion I felt for Japanese cinema came back to life. That has something to do with the fact it is almost a pastiche of the Kiyoshi Kurosawa film “Pulse” (2001) and I’m a big fan of Kurosawa thanks to his horror films. It is more than just a pastiche as its twisted story delivers some really interesting turns and blossoms into something unique and funny. My review will explain more.
Tanaka was born in 1978 in Kagawa Prefecture and now currently resides in Tokyo. After graduating from the Faculty of Economics at Shiga University, he studied at the Film School of Tokyo on the documentary course under Makoto Sato, Takefumi Tsutsui and other directors.
Synopsis: One day, Fumiko runs into Ryota – an old acquaintance from college – outside the library where she works. Brought together by a mysterious red umbrella, they find themselves drawn to one another, and before long they are set to get married but their relationship slowly ruptures because Ryota is troubled by his secret ability to see the dead. He soon becomes worn out by his daily encounters with ghosts, entities that Fumiko cannot see. One day, Ryota meets Sae Kimura, a woman with the same ability as him, who is terrified by the apparitions. Ryota becomes increasingly involved with Sae causing his relationship with Fumiko to head towards breaking point.
This film plays with the myth of the red thread of fate – something that ties destined lovers together – but posits that the thread is nothing but a curse because it is forced upon people who cannot escape what has been destined. Shot in the style of a Kurosawa Kiyoshi horror film done in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, audiences will wonder how will Fumiko and Ryota’s relationship end?
息ぎれの恋人たち 「Ikigire no Koibitotachi」
Running Time: 20 mins.
Director: Shumpei Shimizu
Starring: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara,
Shumpei Shimizu is a graduate from Meiji Gakuin University’s Faculty of Literature and attended Tama Art University’s Department of Art and Design. His first film as a director, Fuzakerun Janeeyo” (2014) was produced by Shinji Aoyama and screened at 14 film festivals across the world including the Tokyo and Vancouver. He dropped out of Tama Art University in 2014 and started the movie major at the Graduate School of Image Sciences, Tokyo University of the Arts. In recent years he has participated in works including Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.” He will be at the two screenings. REVIEW
Synopsis: Toshiyuki is a 23-year-old guy who recently lost his boyfriend Tatsuya in a motorbike accident. Toshiyuki was driving while Tatsuya was riding pillion and so from that point on, Toshyuki has been unable to ride or drive any vehicles. If he needs to go anywhere, he walks or runs and he does this despite having asthma. To try and connect with Tatsuya, Toshiyuki visits the boxing gym he used to train at, following the ghost of the lover.
Meanwhile, Tatsuya’s mother, Chieko visits Tokyo from Hiroshima for the anniversary of her son’s death. Chieko cut her hair off after they met last year, and has kept it short. When Toshiyuki sees her, he feels like he is seeing his former lover. Will the two find some connection with each other and be able to mourn?
さよならも出来ない 「Sayonaramo detekinai」
Running Time: 76 mins.
Director: Izumi Matsuno
Starring: Yoshimune Nozato, Rieko Dote, Yoshiha Tatsumi, Toshimitsu Nagao
Izumi Matsuno was born in Kyoto in 1982 and studied at Osaka University of Arts. He has worked as a sound editor on “Happy Hour” (2015) and “Hakodate Coffee” (2015), which was screened at OAFF 2016, and he has composed the music for “Dressing Up” (2012). He has written and directed his own films including the CO2 funded “Yesterday Once More” and his debut “Ghost of Yesterday,” which won the Jury Special Prize at the 30th Pia Film Festival. The director Izumi Matsuno will be at the screening and he will be accompanied by the cast-members Yoshimune Nozato, Rieko Dote, Yoshiha Tatsumi and Toshimitsu Nagao.
Synopsis: Kaori and Tamaki broke up three years ago but continue to live together, not as family, friends or lovers, just together. They live in the same house but it is split by a boundary with clearly defined rules. Their friends and family are confused about why they persist in staying together, their workmates Hiroshi and Kimi inviting them to dinner to find out the details and Tamaki’s uncle and aunt visiting to persuade them to make it official that they have split up. The time to decide whether they have truly split up has arrived but they begin to examine what it means to separate?
Running Time: 95 mins.
Director: Yoshinori Sato
Starring: Ryo Nishiyama, Yukihiro Nishiyama, Taijiro Arakawa, Nanase Iwai, So Nozawa, Hiromi Hakogi, Yuko Kibiki, Maya Nishida,
SATO was born in Aichi Prefecture and is a graduate of the filmmaking course at the University of Southern California. He has worked as a director in Japanese television while at the same time producing independent films. His film credits include “Bad Child” (2013). “Her Mother” is his second feature-length film and it left a strong impression on critics at film festivals such as Tokyo and Busan.
The director will be accompanied by Ryo and Yukihiro Nishiyama to a screening.
Synopsis: “Her Mother” tells the story of Harumi, an average housewife who suffers the tragedy of losing her daughter Michiyo in a murder committed by her son-in-law Koji. Harumi becomes obsessed with trying to understand why Koji did it and starts visiting him in prison in order to find out the truth before he faces the death penalty. The more the two talk, the more she begins to believe that Koji is the only one who understands her pain but her visits cause conflict with her husband and brother who do not understand her obsession with Koji. This conflict grows as she campaigns to delay the execution and struggles to deal with her grief by finding out what triggered the crime.
I Want to be Loved (Mon Amour from the Bottom of the Ocean)
海の底からモナムール 「Umi no soko kara monamuuru」
Running Time: 84 mins.
Director: Ronan Girre
Starring: Renn Kiriyama, Kurumi Shimizu, Yoko Mitsuya, Tomoyo Maeno, Kiki Sugino,
Ronan Girre directed his first feature film, “Virilite” in France in 2001. Since then, he has worked as a film producer, a script writer and a music composer on a number of feature films and television productions. He lives and works in Paris but travels regularly to Japan for family reasons. He speaks Japanese fluently and has occasionally worked in the Japanese film industry. This film comes from Kiki Sugino’s production company Wa Entertainment and Sugino will be at the screening alongside the director Ronan Girre and the actress Kurumi Shimizu.
Synopsis: Ten years ago, on an island located near Hiroshima, a seventeen year old student named Miyuki committed suicide by jumping from a cliff near where she lived. She was seventeen. She was bullied everyday at school. She was in love with a fellow student named Takuma. Ten years later, Takuma returns to the island where he was born and where Miyuki died. Ten years have flown by. Miyuki died long ago, however she still loves Takuma.
恋とさよならとハワイ 「Koi to Sayonara Hawai」
Running Time: 94 mins.
Director: Shingo Matsumura
Starring: Aya Ayano, Aya Shinohara, Kentaro Tamura, Aoi Kato, Rise Kameda, Momoka Ayukawa,
This one is a complete unknown to me. Born in 1981 in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, Matsumura creates his own independent films while working as freelance staff in filmmaking. As a student of Waseda University graduate school from 2010, he made “Striking Out in Love” for his graduation project. “Striking Out in Love” was invited to the A Window on Asian Cinema Section of the 18th BUSAN International Film Festival, and won the SKIP CITY AWARD at SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-Cinema FESTIVAL 2013. “Love and Goodbye and Hawaii” is his second feature film. Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Rinko has been living with Isamu, a graduate student, for three years. They have decided to break up, but are still living together. Their current relationship of “more than just friends but not quite lovers” is very comfortable for Rinko, so she hasn’ t moved out yet. However, Rinko has realized that she still loves Isamu… One day, Rinko finds out that a young girl who studies with Isamu has feelings for him. And it seems Isamu is also becoming attracted to her. Now, Rinko is faced with a tough decision.
ピンパン [ Pinpan]
Running Time: 16 mins.
Director: Yoichi Tanaka
Writer: N/A (Screenplay)
Starring: Elisa Yanagi, Seitaro Ishibashi, Peng Yu, Norisuke Matsukawa, Tateto Serizawa,
Director Yoichi Tanaka and castmembers Elisa Yanagi and Seitaro Ishibashi will be present at the screenings. REVIEW
Also screened as an [In & Out of Work: Looking at Asia through the Prism of Employment］film
Synopsis: A defenceless young woman who is sexually harassed at her workplace finds solace by playing ping pong at a club every day after work. All she does is practice hard by herself as if she’s trying to escape reality. A chance meeting with a Chinese girl thug begins to change her life.
ポエトリーエンジェル 「Poetori- Enjeru」
Running Time: 95 mins.
Director: Toshimitsu Iizuka
Writer: Toshimitsu Iizuka (Screenplay),
Starring: Amane Okayama, Rena Takeda, Shingo Tsurumi, Jun Miho, Akihiro Kakuta, Maho Yamada, Tateto Serizawa, An Ogawa, Kento Yamazaki,
Toshimitsu Iizuka has been mentioned here before for his award-winning debut, “Dictator Koga,” which won the 2014 PIA Film Festival’s Competition, Entertainment Award (Horipro prize) and second prize at the 2014 Fukuoka Independent Film Festival. He followed it up with the short, “Chickens’ Dynamite” (2015), and has remained independent for “Poetry Angel,” by turning to the public to ask them to support his project through Motion Gallery, the Japanese equivalent of Kickstarter. Iizuka will be in the cinema to talk about the film. Here’s my review!
Synopsis: Tsutomu Tamaki began working in his father’s plum orchard after he graduated from high school. But Tsutomu isn’t happy with what he sees as his boring life. He’s essentially a dreamer, searching for an outlet that will help him realize his dreams. By chance one day he ends up being coerced into joining a team of poetical boxers. The various unique characters in the team are first pitted against an opposing team from a nearby girls’ high school. They are soundly thrashed. As they begin work on improving their content and delivery, they start to learn each other’s secrets. Tsutomu is attracted to a high school girl, the granddaughter of one of his teammates, a girl who never seems to speak. In his attempts to get her to join the team, he discovers she is burdened with a very severe stutter.
たまゆらのマリ子 「Tamayura Mariko」
Running Time: 65 mins.
Director: Koji Segawa
Starring: Chise Ushio, Keita Yamashina, Hide Miura, Hikari Goto, Tomoko Kato,
The director and leading lady will be present at the screening.
Synopsis: Mariko, a seemingly normal housewife, has been together with her younger husband named Tomoharu for six years and has been dissatisfied every day. Despite having a son together, Tomoharu is often absent from home and she suspects he might be having an affair. Her workplace, a batting center, is also a miserable environment because the sleazy manager chases after her and the customers are rude. With constant pressure bearing down on her in public and private, Mariko becomes dominated by a certain obsession that eats away at her perception of reality.
This is a film that draws on the loneliness, anguish and desire that people feel when the brutal aspects of life in the city become overwhelming, but will there be fun, love and happiness at the end?
Housen Cultural Foundation: Support for film study and production
Based in Osaka, the Housen Cultural Foundation supports film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan. Every film screening with the exception of “Icarus and the Son” is a world premiere and one of the Housen-backed films has been selected for a screening in the Indie Forum section. I must confess that I have not seen any of the titles on offer but I have written about some of the directors before on this site and I am pretty excited about what will be shown. All screenings will take place in the National Museum of Art. Admission is free to each of the screenings and there will be English subtitles provided.
績（う）みの村 「Isao (u) minomura」
Running Time: 51 mins.
Director: Keishiro Ikeda
This is a documentary. I don’t know too much about it other than that…
Ikeda was born in Kagoshima city in 1990, IKEDA completed a Masters Degree in Video Department, Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Image Sciences.
Synopsis: The Tango Peninsula is located in Kyoto Prefecture and this is where this film takes place. The exact location is a small mountain village near Miyazu city where twelve households reside. The people who live in this village must depend upon each other for help if they are to survive. There is a special word to describe this bond, “ko-ryoku”, which means mutual support. The director stayed there for two years, getting to know the people in the village and living a similar lifestyle in order to truly understand this word.
イカロスと息子 「Ikarosu to Musuko」
Running Time: 34 mins.
Director: Kohei Sanada
Starring: Yurei Yanagi, Yuriko Onuma, Jukiya Kageyama, Roza Yamamoto, Keiko Ono, Teruo Kowata,
This one stars the familiar character actor Yurei Yanagi (who is in the image) and he is a character actor who regularly crops up in horror films directed by Hideo Nakata and others such as “Don’t Look Up” (1996), “Ringu” (1998), “Ju-On” and “Ju-On 2” (both 2000), “Death Water” (2006), “Carved” (2007) and “Helldriver” (2011). He made an early connection with Takeshi Kitano and appeared in “Boiling Point” (1990). He was also in the Kiyoshi Kurosawa film “Serpent’s Path” (1998) which I want to mention because I still think it’s great…
Nice pun, as well…
Director Kohei Sanada and cinematographer Katsumi Yanagishima will be present at the screening.
Sanada was born in 1984 and comes from Ishikawa prefecture. He completed the graduate school video course at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 2011. He directed an entry in the mnibus film, “Paper Balloon” in 2011 and he wrote and directed his first feature film “Shing Shing Shing” (2013), which was released in 10 cities across Japan. I remember the evening I wrote about that film and how enthusiastic I was about it. I would still like to see it.
Synopsis: A father visits the country for the wedding ceremony of his son after having been away from the family. It will be an awkward reunion because the bride is a foreigner who cannot speak Japanese while the mother is a free-spirited woman with no inhibitions. This is the story of an awkward family.
Running Time: 85 mins.
Director: Mikihiro Endo
Starring: Shugo Oshinari, Tatsuki Ishikawa,
Director Mikihiro Endo completed a course at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts and his graduation film, “Friends” (2013), which he directed and co-wrote, was nominated for Best Debut Feature by the 2013 Raindance Film Festival in London. Endo also directed a segment of the 2013 film “Rakugo Eiga.”
Endo will be present for the screening.
Synopsis: A young man named Fukada begins working as a teacher at an English cram school. He strikes up a friendship with Watanabe, one of the students at the school. It seems like his everyday life is smooth and without any problems on the horizon but it is all built on a lie. Things become strange when students in his lessons exhibit eerie behaviour. The more this spreads amongst the children, the more it seems like an disease epidemic, with everyone, including Fukada, set to go crazy…
レンコーンの夜 「Renko-n no yoru」
Running Time: 43 mins.
Director: Yasumasa Konno
Starring: Yuji Komatsu, Toru Kizu, Hidetoshi Kawaya, Akana Ikeda, Suguru Onuma, Atsushi Yamanaka,
This one is a complete unknown to me but the director will be at the screening so I can ask him more. Born in 1989, Konno and graduated from Waseda University Faculty of Literature and completed graduate school video course at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He has worked as a director, screenwriter and editor on indie titles such as the drama “Happy Toy” (2015), the omnibus film “Listener” (2015) to feature-length horror films like “Halloween Nightmare 2” (2015) and “Valentine’s Nightmare” (2016). I’ve written about each in my trailer posts.
Synopsis: 28-year-old Hanayama, who has recently lost his job, visits a small 3D glass company named Nakata Cyber. After a cursory interview, he is hired and takes charge of a project proposal for a bank. If the bank doesn’t decide to invest in his project next week, the company will go bankrupt. Hanayama goes to the company’s building near Lake Kasumigaura, and meets people searching for a phantom lotus root named Giant Lotus Root. Can miserable Hanayama find hope anywhere? “Bright Night” is a tale of a drifting young man finding hope by Lake Kasumigaura.
スイーテスト・トゥルース 「Sui-tesuto Turu-su」
Running Time: 58 mins.
Director: Evdoxia Kyropoulou
Starring: Emiko Nakai, Efstathia Tsapareli, Ryo Tsujikura, Giota Festa,
“Sweetest Truth” is a graduation work by Evodoxia Kirople, a director from the Kyoto University of Art and Design graduate school. The story is a new work based on the Greek myth of “Sisyphus,” a king reduced to endless toil for his hubris. The film asks whether there is a contemporary Sisyphus in our present-day society?
Cinematographer Ippei Nakamura will be at the screening to illuminate people about the shooting.
Synopsis: Sissy is a young model living and working in Japan. She tries to balance her relationship with her difficult boyfriend, Hideo, who is also a model. He has a cold attitude to her and financial problems but she persists. Katerina is a middle-aged woman who works as a cleaner, something far away from her youthful ambitions. She lives a suffocating existence with her selfish and overbearing mother in a small apartment in Athens. Despite living different lives on different sides of the planet, these two women share the same desire: to find a way love themselves.
That’s it for the preview. To get a full overview, head to the festival programme and the guest list page or, you can look at a full programme preview I put together. I hope people get to see some awesome films at the festival. I will attempt to write and publish reviews for as many as possible.