An Interview with Sae Suzuki, Director of Strangers [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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Sae Suzuki’s career as a filmmaker began when she enrolled in the Department of Body Expression at Rikkyo University and studied directing under director/critic Kunitoshi Manda. She then went on to study film directing under Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Nobuhiro Suwa at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts and her graduation film My Identity (2019) was selected for the  Busan International Film Festival 2019 and Japan Cuts 2020. She is currently making films as a freelancer and her latest work Strangers played at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022.

Strangers is a melancholic but hopeful short film about people wrestling with experiences of sexual harassment, negative thoughts on gender and sex, and suffering in silence. Manami Usamaru of Sisterhood (2019) fame plays Yukie, a dental nurse from a rural town who flees her workplace with the clinic’s cash following sexual assault from her boss. A train transition leads her and us to Tokyo where she can be free to do as she pleases and so she changes her appearance and personality and meets up with a guy named Minato (Akihiro Yamamoto) who offers her day of non-judgemental companionship that allows her to process her negative feelings. It turns out that he has trauma of his own and together, as strangers, they offer each other hope for a new life.

The film comes at an interesting time as people in Japan take to SNS to talk more openly about difficult subjects like discrimination and harassment. Through excellent use of visuals and performers, Sae Suzuki allows audiences to enter into these difficult topics with a very thoughtful and beautiful film.

I would like to thank Sae Suzuki for delivering this interview in both English and Japanese and the efforts of Osaka Asian Film Festival staff for facilitating the interview.

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Strangers 人知れず Director: Sae Suzuki [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Strangers     Strangers Film Poster

人知れず Hitoshirezu

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 38 mins.

Director: Sae Suzuki

Writer: Sae Suzuki (Screenplay),

Starring: Manami Usamaru, Akihiro Yamamoto, Sayaka Nakakochi, Natsuki Murata,

IMDB

In the last few years Japan has been experiencing its own #MeToo moments as stories of power/sexual harassment have hit scandal mags and SNS. Such stories have taken down a variety of people from cinema chain managers to film directors and producers. Despite this, problems of harassment persist in many areas of life. Fortunately, filmmakers are using their platform so titles like Strangers can shine a light on these problems.

Strangers is a melancholic but hopeful short film from Sae Suzuki that circles around the idea of individuals experiencing sexual harassment, suffering in silence, and the release from trauma found in shedding an identity and sharing a problem.

Strangers Film Image

Manami Usamaru of Sisterhood (2019) fame plays Yukie, a dental nurse from a rural town. Quiet and unassuming, it is only when we listen in on Yukie’s conversations with a co-worker that we hear her dreams, a vague desire to live by the sea, a vague desire for freedom. This desire becomes reality when the power harassment of her boss turns into sexual harassment and Yukie makes the impulsive decision to flee to Tokyo with the dental clinic’s cash. There, she can be free to do as she pleases and so she changes her appearance and personality and meets up with a guy named Minato on a dating app who is hiding his own inner pain. Together as strangers, they offer each other hope for a new life even as they wrestle with painful ideas from their old lives.

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