Interview with “For Rei” Director Yukari Sakamoto [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Yukari Sakamoto is an indie director who started making films while she was studying Philosophy at Sophia University. Her film Obake was part of MOOSIC LAB2014 and won the Best Actress and Musician awards. After that, she studied editing at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Film and Cinema where she majored in film and directed music videos. Since then, she has been the assistant producer on the the major feature Eating Women (2018) and directed part of the omnibus movie 21st Century Girl (2019).

Sakamoto’s latest work For Rei derives some of its details from the director’s background to create a deeply personal picture of a modern young woman navigating complicated feelings. The titular protagonist (An Ogawa) goes to philosophy class and lives with a kind boyfriend, but the trauma of her parent’s divorce has caused an ambivalence towards the people she should be closest to, and herself. This is a feeling that gnaws away at her over the course of the film which is shot in a subjective style to analyze this young woman’s attempts to understand herself.

Sakamoto sat down at the Osaka Asian Film Festival to talk about the making of the film, how she translated her background onto the screen and some of the design choices she made. The interview was conducted with help from the interpreter Keiko Matsushita while the translation was made with the help of the interpreter Takako Pockington.

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For Rei レイのために Dir: Yukari Sakamoto (2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

For Rei      For Rei Film Poster

レイのためにRei no Tame ni

Release Date: June 27th, 2020

Duration: 65 mins.

Director: Yukari Sakamoto

Writer: Yukari Sakamoto (Script),

Starring: An Ogawa, Amon Hirai, Seiji Kinoshita, Ryo Matsuura,

OAFF Website

Stories of the effects of family breakups on children are hardly a new thing for Japanese cinema with filmmakers like Hirokazu Koreeda and Shinji Somai using it in films such as I Wish (2011) and Moving (1993). Being unique in this field is hard but through nuanced filmmaking, director Yukari Sakamoto creates an intimate, challenging and original portrait of a modern young woman who faces difficult emotions lingering from the trauma of her parent’s split.


The titular Rei (An Ogawa) is our main character. She is a university student who lives a peaceful life with her boyfriend Nakamura (Amon Hirai) but beneath her quiet exterior is a girl struggling to become a woman. She is at the most turbulent period of life as she self-actualises a personality but before that can happen she faces the challenge of cauterising the wound of her parent’s divorce and her father’s absence. This has caused a rupture in her sense of self which has created a conflicted personality reticent to the point of being cut her off from others. Rei seeks to heal this by studying philosophy at university. By wrestling with this complicated subject she seeks to clarify and set to rest her emotions. However, as she studies, the desire to meet her absent father (Seiji Kinoshita), who she hasn’t seen since she was a little child, soon seems like more viable avenue of self-understanding.

Continue reading “For Rei レイのために Dir: Yukari Sakamoto (2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]”

Mishima: The Last Debate, Momi’s House, I Have Loved you for 30 Years, Yayoi, Not Quite Dead Yet  Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

I hope you are all feeling good and staying safe.

I’ve done a heck of a lot of procrastinating between writing reviews and not much in terms of film viewing outside of 70s and 80s American films. At least I am healthy. I hope you guys are all healthy too! Let’s keep it that way.

This week was used to post about my interview with the cinematographer-turned director Keisuke Imamura about his film Yan. I then posted about the Kickstarter for Make-believers, a musical set in Tokyo.

What was released in Japan on March 20th? At the time, I was in Tokyo.

Continue reading “Mishima: The Last Debate, Momi’s House, I Have Loved you for 30 Years, Yayoi, Not Quite Dead Yet  Japanese Film Trailers”

“Make-Believers” (Dir: Kenjo McCurtain) – A Romantic Musical Set in Tokyo – Kickstarter Project to Help with Post-Production

Make-Believers Image

When I backed director Noriko Yuasa’s Kickstarter for funding the festival run of Coming Back Sunny, I was directed to another Japanese film seeking funding. This one is a romantic musical called Make-Believers which is aims to be, to quote the organisers, “a first-of-its-kind, Hollywood-influenced, musical romance set in Japan.”  Here is the Kickstarter link.

Continue reading ““Make-Believers” (Dir: Kenjo McCurtain) – A Romantic Musical Set in Tokyo – Kickstarter Project to Help with Post-Production”

Interview with “Yan” Director Keisuke Imamura at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

Yan is the feature debut by Keisuke Imamura, a cinematographer who began his career by teaching himself to shoot independent films while studying at Nihon University’s Department of Fine Arts. After graduation, he apprenticed with KIYO and made his debut as a cinematographer at the age of 24, first with indies before moving on to bigger titles. An early collaboration with the director Michihito Fujii on Kemuri no Machi no Yori Yoki Mirai wa (2012) proved to be the beginning of a fruitful relationship as they would work together again on Tokyo City Girl (2015), Day and Night (2019) and The Journalist (2019). Imamura’s career has encompassed titles as diverse as the drama Phantom Limb (2014) and manga-extravaganza Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High (2017).

For his feature debut Yan (review here), Imamura retains the glossy look of his big films but uses it to channel the intimate story of a man discovering his roots and making it as sensuous as possible so we feel his emotions. Tsubame (Long Mizuma) is half-Taiwanese, half-Japanese and living a comfortable existence in Tokyo. However, a request from his father to track down his older brother Ryushin (Takashi Yamanaka) leads to the unearthing of painful memories of a family separation and his own alienation due to his dual-heritage status and the departure of his mother (played by the pop star Hitoto Yo). It’s a universal story that sees Tsubame find peace with himself and connect with a mother he never understood. Imamura sat down after the world premiere of the film at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 and talked about its background.

This interview was conducted with the help of the translators Keiko Matsushita and Takako Pocklington.

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Independent Living, Toki no Kouro, Kizoku Korin: Prince of Legend, Extro, Columbus Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

Columbus Film Image 3

I hope everyone is staying safe during these troubled times.

I went back to work this week, the first time since February. I’ve been on something of an extended holiday, first in Japan then in my bedroom as I’ve self-isolated. I’m healthy as far as I know but there is always the worry when being around other people and I hope it stays that way. I hope you’re feeling fine and dandy, as well.

I’ve been writing, catching up on reviews and interviews but my head is in a funny space where I cannot focus on much but piecemeal work. Studying Japanese has gone out of the window. I’m trying to get back into that.

I started watching Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and I have been impressed by what I’ve seen and Zenitsu Agatsuma is one of my new favourite characters, a golden-haired cowardly lothario with a heart of gold and exaggerated behaviour that makes me laugh a lot.

2020-04-14 (9)

This week, I watched all Indiana Jones films since the BBC screened them and I’ve always got time for Indiana Jones. I posted about two ways people can help Japanese indie movies. The first post was about the Mini Theater Aid Campaign to save small movie theatres that host indie movies. The second post was about a Kickstarter campaign to help publicise the film Coming Back Sunny run by Noriko Yuasa, the director of the fabulous film Ordinary Everyday (2017).

Just like last week’s one, this trailer post is a catch-up from the one I missed in March. It happened just as the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 was about to reach its climax so my mind was elsewhere.

What was released that weekend – March 13 – 15th?

Continue reading “Independent Living, Toki no Kouro, Kizoku Korin: Prince of Legend, Extro, Columbus Japanese Film Trailers”

“Coming Back Sunny” – A Kickstarter Project by Noriko Yuasa

Super-talented director Noriko Yuasa has a project on Kickstarter for an independent film she has worked on called Coming Back Sunny. The film is a love story about a colour-blind schoolgirl named Shiori (Riria Kojima) who is suddenly able to see the world around her just in time for fate to draw her on a journey where she will fall in love with someone.

Here is the trailer on Kickstarter:

Noriko Yuasa has been directing films for over 20 years and she has made an impact on the festival circuit. This film is her latest one and was originally part of the omnibus movie Seisyun Kaleidoscope which was released in Japan in August of last year and it is now being developed into a feature. Here is my write up original omnibus film.

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Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!

This is a quick post just to promote a crowdfunding event to support independent cinemas across Japan during the Coronavirus epidemic. 
Mini Theater Aid Logo

It’s called Mini Theater Aid and it launched earlier today and lasts until May 15th with a target amount 100,000,000 yen that is hoped to be raised. It was set up by the directors Koji Fukada (Harmonium, Au revoir l’ete) and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) in response to the closure of small cinemas up and down Japan as the country tries to contain Coronavirus infections.

Due to the recent declaration of a state of emergency, public venues have had to close and this means they will not be able to make money. In the absence of paying customers and any support from the government in paying rent and salaries and so forth, these cinemas may find themselves struggling as the shutdown unfolds. This emergency fund will help guarantee that these establishments, all of which are important to the cinema ecosystem of Japan, can keep going. It’s these cinemas that sustain indie films since they give the movies limited runs across the year as the films tour the country. In short, without these cinemas, indie film directors, film students and audiences would struggle to screen their works and people would struggle to see these films, especially in a community setting.

Continue reading “Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!”

Wonderwall, A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic, Mita Dances, The Dancing Homeless, Watashi wa bundan o yurusanai, Sacrifice, Mask Ward, Fukushima 50, Stardust Over the Town, Gekijouban Oishii Kyuushoku Final Battle, Matsuri no ato wa matsuri no mae Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

Nobuhiko Obayashi

It has been a while. I hope you are all okay!

Yesterday we lost the legend that is Nobuhiko Obayashi. He died at the age of 82, almost four years when he was given just four months to live after being diagnosed with cancer. Even though I wrote reviews for just two films (Hausu  back in 2011 and Hanagatami in 2018), it feels like I wrote about him every year because his films were constantly in circulation. I was even inspired to visit Onomichi in 2018 and photograph some locations he filmed in. Anyway, he was feted around the world and worked to the very end, as evidenced by the large amount of films by him or connected to him at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.

It feels like the Japanese movie industry is in a gentle decline as adaptations, compilations, TV movies and mediocrities dominate due to production committees who hoover up profits while the artists making content are underpaid and have their creativity stifled. With Obayashi’s passing, the industry has lost some of its magic. He was imaginative and had a creative streak and boyish enthusiasm that made his films charming. We’ll not see an artist like him again so we should treasure the works he created, many of which will continue to be screened.

RIP Nobuhiko Obayashi

Anyway, I was in Japan for a month and I returned to the UK almost a fortnight ago after working at the Osaka Asian Film Festival. I’ve been publishing reviews and interviews I did while there and since returning to the UK, I’ve been in self-quarantine to make sure I don’t have Coronavirus so I’m kind of in the perfect position to keep writing even though the world is in the grip of a medical disaster (prompted by unfettered capitalism and poor governance mostly instituted by governments run by right-wingers).

Anyway, due to being busy, I missed all of March from the trailer posts. Due to Coronavirus, films are being pulled from Japanese cinemas, I can play catch-up.

What is released this weekend and what was released on the first weekend of March?

Continue reading “Wonderwall, A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic, Mita Dances, The Dancing Homeless, Watashi wa bundan o yurusanai, Sacrifice, Mask Ward, Fukushima 50, Stardust Over the Town, Gekijouban Oishii Kyuushoku Final Battle, Matsuri no ato wa matsuri no mae Japanese Film Trailers”

Yan 燕Yan Dir: Keisuke Imamura (Japan, 2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Yan    Tsubame Yan Film Poster

Yan Tsubame Yan

Release Date: June 05th, 2020

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: Keisuke Imamura

Writer: Noriko Washizu (Script),

Starring: Long Mizuma, Takashi Yamanaka, Yo Hitoto, Ryushin Tei, Mitsuru Hirata, Yoji Tanaka, Satomi Nagano,

OAFF Website

Japan and Taiwan have the sort of close ties that embody all aspects of the hurt and joy of human relations. From language to politics, Japan’s time as colonial ruler to the post-war economics of industry and tourism, the exchange of people and ideas has been constant. It proves fertile ground for Keisuke Imamura’s feature-length directorial debut Yan, which uses both cultures for a story of one Japanese man’s self-discovery as he finds out more about his mother, his birthplace and, ultimately, himself.

Continue reading “Yan 燕Yan Dir: Keisuke Imamura (Japan, 2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]”