Bagmati River バグマティ リバー Dir: Yusaku Matsumoto (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Bagmati River    Bagmati River Film Poster

バグマティ リバー  Bagumati Riba-

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 29 mins.

Director: Yusaku Matsumoto

Writer: Yusaku Matsumoto, Kentaro Kishi (Screenplay), 

Starring: Junko Abe, Kenji Kohashi, Man Bahadur Gurung, Akiko Kobayashi, Adam Torel,

Twitter: @kakifuraiyusaku

One of the most painful things about life is growing apart from people we are close to and then losing all connection. When the opportunity to grab a hold of something emerges, it should be taken even if the possibility of death stands in the way.

This is the situation that Natsuki (Junko Abe) finds herself in as she travels from Japan to Nepal in search of her brother Kenji (Kenji Kohashi). The last time she saw him was ten year’s ago when he left Japan to climb mountains. Two year’s ago he went missing during an aborted attempt to scale Mt. Everest. After Natsuki receives an anonymous postcard with a picture of Everest printed on the back, she is prompted to begin her own ascent in an effort to find some trace of him.

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North Shinjuku 2055 北新宿2055 (2022) Dir: Daisuke Miyazaki [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

North Shinjuku 2055    North Shinjuku 2055 Film Poster

北新宿2055 Kita-Shinjuku 2055

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Script),

Starring: Kan a.k.a. GAMI, Tatsuya Nagayama,

Website IMDB

Daisuke Miyazaki is a filmmaker who is wired into the styles and concerns of younger generations and one who is able to present them in a myriad of ways, be it a conventional coming-of-age story in the shadow of American culture with Yamato (California), Tourism’s Singapore-set quirky travelogue, or Videophobia and its tech-induced existential-erasure nightmare. Moving swiftly on, his latest is a speculative sci-fi short with a surprising style that imagines the titular Tokyo territory becomes an isolated community by the year 2055.

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The Sound of Light (2013) Dir: Junichiro Yamasaki [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

The Sound of Light   The Sound of Light Film Poster

ひかりのおと Hikari no Oto

Release Date: February 09th, 2013

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Junichiro Yamasaki

Writer: Junichiro Yamasaki (Script),

Starring: Yoshitomo Fujihisa, Eri Mori, Takeshi Masago, Yoshiko Nakamoto, Junko Sato,

Website IMDB

The Sound of Light is the story of a young farmer trying to reconcile his desires for freedom with the weight of family obligations. Through this archetypal story, it shows how the lives of people are enmeshed together by tradition and the land they live on.

The debut feature of writer and director Juichiro Yamasaki, he utilised his own experiences in farming to create a gentle but unsentimental view of a life dedicated to agriculture that feels genuine and humanistic as it never slips into didacticism even as it highlights various economic and social pressures present in rural areas of Japan.

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The Sound of Grass 草の響き Dir: Hisashi Saito (2021)

The Sound of GrassThe Sound of Grass Film Poster

草の響きKusa no Hibiki

Release Date: October 08th, 2021

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Hisashi Saito

Writer: Hitomi Kase (Script), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Higashide, Nao, Shunsuke Daito, Kaya, Yuki Mine, Shigeru Muroi, Yuta Hayashi,

Website  IMDB

The loneliness of a long-distance runner forms the basis of The Sound of Grass, a gentle film about a man striving to find peace for his mental health troubles via physical exercise while those around him fall by the wayside. It is the latest film commissioned by the Hakodate-based mini theater CINEMA IRIS in a marathon of cinematic adaptations of the works of late author Yasushi Sato, a Hakodate native, as a resurgence in interest in his output continues apace after a period of under-appreciation.

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A Song I Remember ひとつの歌 Dir: Kyoshi Sugita (2012)

A Song I Remember    A Song I Remember Film Poster

ひとつの歌 Hitotsu no Uta

Release Date: October 13th, 2012

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Kyoshi Sugita

Writer: Kyoshi Sugita (Script), 

Starring: Takenori Kaneko, Yuri Ishizaki, Koichi Masuno, Mayumi Tenkou, Sansei Shiomi,

Website    IMDB

A Song I Remember is slow and restrained in its rhythm and storytelling. It withholds information as it asks audiences to follow a young man’s daily life in Tokyo and pay attention to a sparse set of seemingly random encounters with events and people. In these moments are odd details that stick in the memory and, by the end, these details build a context that acts as a stage for an emotional knockout blow delivered by the actors.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, rushing to the end without talking a little about the film’s beginnings.

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A Movie Capital 映画の都 Dir: Toshio Iizuka (1991) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival]

A Movie CapitalYIDFF A Movie Capital Case

映画の都ー山形国際ドキュメンタリー映画祭’89 Eiga no Miyako – Yamagata Kokusai Dokyumentari- Eigasai ‘89

Release Date: March 25th, 1991

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Toshio Iizuka

Writer: N/A

Starring: Hiroshi Teshigahara, Shinsuke Ogawa, Stephen Teo, Peggy Chiao Hsiung-ping, Raquel Gerber, Jon Jost, Katheryn Taverner, Alan Adelson,

Yamagata Site

The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) is now a treasured biannual event that brings together filmmakers and audiences in programmes designed to showcase films as well as generate new talents and works. This commitment to cultivating community engagement and individual talent was present in the intentions of organisers and attendees from its inception as seen in A Movie Capital, an informative and enjoyable record of the inaugural YIDFF, Asia’s first documentary film festival.

A Movie Capital

A Movie Capital was Toshio Iizuka’s debut work after being part of pioneering filmmaker Shinsuke Ogawa’s Ogawa Productions for around 20 years and working with the collective on documentaries covering topics like the Sanrizuka Struggle. As Ogawa Productions were working in Yamagata prefecture, they were best placed to help organisers establish and document the inaugural YIDFF in 1989 and Iizuka comes off as the right pick for the job as he marshals the assembled footage to create a film that locates the event’s place in history and its meaning to participants.

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Domains 王国 (あるいはその家について)  (2019) Dir: Natsuka Kusano

Domains    王国(あるいはその家について)  Domains Film Poster

王国 (あるいはその家について) Ookoku (aruiwa sono-ka ni tsuite)

Running Time: 150 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director:  Natsuka Kusano

Writer: Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Asami Shibuya, Tomo Kasajima, Tomomitsu Adachi, Ryu Kenta

A friendship torn asunder by the death of a child is material fit for a melodrama full of meltdowns and confession but in Domains, director Natsuka Kusano offers a dissection of a relationship in an unconventional form that proved so hypnotic, it became one of the most absorbing film experiences I have watched in years. (slight spoilers)

Domains, produced as an original video work for the Aichi Arts Center, is Kusano’s follow-up to her debut Antonym. For her second film, she re-teamed with Antonym’s writer Tomoyuki Takahashi (Touching the Skin of EerinessHappy Hour) to craft a structurally inventive way in which to tell this story as they utilise repetition and variation to slowly build out the emotional dimensions of the relationship.

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Touching the Skin of Eeriness 不気味なものの肌に触れる (2014) Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Touching the Skin of Eeriness  Touching the Skin of Eeriness Film Poster

不気味なものの肌に触れる  「Bukimina mono no Hada ni Fureru」 

Release Date: March 01st, 2014

Running Time: 54 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Natsumi Seto, Jun Murakami, Ayumi Mizukoshi, Hoshi Ishida, Aoba Kawai,


It’s all “show, don’t tell” in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Touching the Skin of Eeriness, a medium-length film that uses body language and interpretive dance rather than words to speak.

Made before Happy Hour (2015), his big international breakout, Touching the Skin of Eeriness was a project that Hamaguchi originally envisioned as a pilot film designed to get funding for a larger project named FLOOD. Featuring Shota Sometani (Himizu) in a lead role just as he became a big star in Japan with mainstream movies Parasyte, Wood Job!, and Bakuman, it was a departure for the actor who shines in one of Hamaguchi’s most opaque films where the focus is on the intimate physical movements of the actors and the background atmosphere to relay information.

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Whiplash of the Dead きみが死んだあとで Dir: Haruhiko Daishima [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]

Whiplash of the Dead   Whiplash of the Dead Film Poster

きみが死んだあとでKimi ga Shinda ato de

Release Date: April 17th, 2021

Duration: 200 mins.

Director: Haruhiko Daishima

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


The psychic trauma of the actions and failure of the student protests of the 60s and 70s haunts the collective memory of Japan. Its constant presence is partly thanks to various cinematic treatments from figures like Koji Wakamatsu, Noriaki Tsuchimoto, and Nagisa Oshima who worked in that milieu at the time and produced politically-charged works, be they direct or symbolic critiques of country and its politics. Then there is the more measured analysis from later generations of dramatists and documentarians who are working with the benefit of hindsight and the distance of time to provide clear-eyed analysis. This sort of analysis is shown in Whiplash of the Dead, a fascinating documentary from Haruhiko Daishima who adroitly finds his entry point into this emotive and massive subject through the life and death of a protestor involved with the “first Haneda struggle.”

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Ushiku 牛久 Dir: Ian Thomas Ash (2021) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]


牛久 Ushiku

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Ian Thomas Ash

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Selected to play in the Perspectives Japan section of the Yamagata International Documentary Festival, Ushiku gives an alternate view of Japan by allowing people stuck in the country’s notoriously difficult refugee system a chance to speak out.

Winner of the Asian Perspective Award at DMZ Docs and Nippon Connection’s Nippon Docs Award, Ushiku is the latest documentary from Ian Thomas Ash, a Tokyo-based American filmmaker who often tackles taboo subjects – see his 2013 documentary A2-B-C about the effects of radiation on children in certain areas around Fukushima. For his latest work, he travels to the Ushiku refugee centre in Ibaraki Prefecture to get first-hand accounts from inmates who have spent years locked up in the hope that they can become part of the 0.5% of applicants who get accepted by their host nation – the lowest refugee intake out of all the G7 countries.

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