Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020

祖谷物語 おくのひと Rina Takeda

Wow, I had no idea that 2020 would turn out like this when I wrote last year’s end post. We’re a few days away from the end of what has been a plague year. I almost got caught out at the start when I was in Japan and the borders were going to be closed, back at the end of March, but I escaped with the help of some friends. Since then, I have been in work on reduced duties or at home waiting to be called in for odd jobs. When not working, I was doing shopping with my mother and checking in on my grandmother.

During this time of waiting, I watched a lot of films, some as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Nippon Connection, Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival, a lot just for pleasure. I took part in a physical film festival in Japan and I helped organise and execute an online film festival twice and during all of this I wrote a lot of reviews. Probably more reviews than in previous years. On top of it all, I also helped start a podcast about Asian films called Heroic Purgatory where I discuss films with fellow writer John Atom (the Christmas special is already out and the second season coming in 2021!).

When I was able to go to the cinema I watched a wide variety of things. In the UK, the last film I watched was Parasite with my mother. In Japan, I went to numerous screenings at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and an animation festival at the Yujiku Asagaya (just before Tokyo’s lockdown). At home with a lot of time on my hands I got into the cinema of Mario Bava and re-watched lots of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento movies. I waded through hours of 70s and 80s horror movies from America and I went back to some tried and trusted Japanese classics. Most of all, I tried to get more Japanese indie films out there and so I think this is reflected in my list of top films from 2020.

So, what are they?.  

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Living in Your Sky, True Mothers, Your Eyes Tell, An Ant Strikes Back, Videophobia, Travel Nostalgia, Sorezore, Tamayura, JUST ANOTHER, Aoi, Instant Camera, Geki × Cine `Nise Yoshitsune Meikai Uta’ Japanese Film Trailers

 
Dreams Into Drawing

Happy weekend, everyone!!!

I hope you are all well.

This post is truncated due to time constraints. As has been the case for at least the past four years, I’m working as press officer/writer for the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and so I am caught up doing SNS as well as covering other things (one more day to go and everything is online and free to view).

This week I posted a preview of the Japanese films at Tokyo FILMeX and my review for the Kazuya Shiraishi film One Night. I’ve watched Italian horror giallo movies like Terror at the Opera and Deep Red (both by Dario Argento), Black Sabbath and Black Sunday (both by Mario Bava).

What is released this weekend? About 19 films, so I’ve split this post into two with the second part tomorrow. Some of these films are screening as part of Busan, others I have seen as part of Nippon Connection and the Osaka Asian Film Festival.

Continue reading “Living in Your Sky, True Mothers, Your Eyes Tell, An Ant Strikes Back, Videophobia, Travel Nostalgia, Sorezore, Tamayura, JUST ANOTHER, Aoi, Instant Camera, Geki × Cine `Nise Yoshitsune Meikai Uta’ Japanese Film Trailers”

An Ant Strikes Back アリ地獄天国 Dir: Tokachi Tsuchiya (2019) [Nippon Connection 2020]

An Ant Strikes BackAn Ant Strikes Back Film Poster

アリ地獄天国 Ari Jigoku Tengoku

Release Date: June 06th, 2019 (USA)

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Tokachi Tsuchiya

Writer: Motoharu Iida, Tokachi Tsuchiya (Script)

Starring:Yu Nishimura, Tokachi Tsuchiya, Naoko Shimizu, Kotaro Kano (Narration)

Website IMDB

In 2017, the Japanese word karoshi, death from overwork, entered the global lexicon when news organisations covered the case of advertising firm Dentsu which was fined by a Tokyo court for violation of labour laws following the suicide of an overworked employee named Matsuri Takahashi who had been clocking up 100 hours a month in overtime prior to her death. Her story came out around the same time as the one of NHK journalist Miwa Sado who died two years earlier after she logged 159 hours of overtime in a month. Analysts, public health experts and cultural commentators published articles stating that they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Although karoshi is a term that has been around since the 70s, the unhealthy work culture that results in depression, suicides or strokes amongst workers has been identified as being linked to the post-war economic miracle when employees were asked to dedicate their lives to their jobs. However, in the 90s after the economic bubble burst, things worsened as worker protections were sacrificed on the altar of free market capitalism and people were chewed up by their employers. In response to this, and a falling birth rate, the government has introduced measures to give employees more time off work. Things have yet to get better.

From: https://nomalabor.exblog.jp/

One filmmaker who has been tracking stories of everyday people being sacrificed for the economy is Tokachi Tsuchiya who started out as a freelance videographer and became a documentary filmmaker with his award-winning debut A Normal Life, Please! (2009) where he exposed the exploitation of workers through an average truck driver named Nobukazu Kaikura who was made to work by his company “552 hours a month without benefits or sick pay, a regime that barely affords him time to wash or eat” (source). The film covered Kaikura’s decision to join a worker’s union and the unsavoury characters hired by his company who tried to crush the workers who were simply defending their rights.

Since then, Tokachi has worked for an NPO making films about capitalist exploitation and state oppression while also doing “making-of” videos for Momoko Ando’s 0.5mm and Gen Takahashi’s Court of Zeus. With An Ant Strikes Back, he is back with a story of a worker who fought for years for better treatment at his job after horrendous exploitation and mistreatment and it is a shocking eye-opening insight into unfair labour practices in Japan and how unions protect workers.

An Ant Strikes Back starts with a prologue that introduces some sobering facts about karoshi before introducing the director to viewers and here he relates how his friend “Yama-chan” was a victim a number of years before. We understand that his perspective will be a factor in understanding karoshi. Then we are introduced to the worker “ant” at the heart of the film, Yu Nishimura.

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Nippon Connection 2020: Documentaries

This post is an offshoot from the earlier this week and it focuses on all of the documentaries that will be screened. Check out each description to see if each film is available for worldwide screening because quite a few of these are.

Nippon Docs

This section brings together a really diverse range of subjects and themes like art and culture, feminism, workplace rights, mental health, refugees fighting for recognition and a man in a campervan trying to forget a failed love. There are three shorts and 11 features. Book-Paper-Scissors and An Ant Strikes Back are polar opposites in content and ones I want to see. Actually, I want to see all of these films!!!

There are a lot of great films on offer and many of them are available for global audiences to stream. Here are details on the features:

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A Preview of Nippon Connection 2020 – Highlights

Despite the situation with Covid-19, one of the world’s biggest events dedicated to Japanese films is going to launch next week Tuesday. We Are talking about…

Nippon Connection Logo

Nippon Connection will take place from June 09th to the 14th and the organisers will take the event online for a Virtual Anniversary Edition to celebrate 20 years of screening films. Over the course of six days, Nippon Connection Online will play a total of 70 feature-length and short films from a variety of genres to give a good overview of the trends in Japanese cinema. One of the main thrusts of the festival is presenting a glimpse of new perspectives on women in Japan – Female Futures? – New Visions of Women in Japan – which consists of a slate of dramas and documentaries made by women or featuring women in lead roles. The subjects range in age and political motivations and all look absolutely fascinating.

On to the nitty-gritty!

The films will each be available to view via the video on demand platform Vimeo in exchange for a small fee. The period of availability lasts for a full 24 hours from the moment they are purchased. The films will all be available to purchase during the duration of the festival, although some titles will be region-locked, something I will highlight with the films below. I have had a look since everything is already set up and waiting for the screening date and it looks easy to navigate.

As well as watching films, there will also be the chance to get in contact with the filmmakers behind the titles since they will be in contact with the audience via video messages, discussions and live broadcasts. There will also be a variety of online events, including workshops, lectures, performances, and concerts and a virtual marketplace which will present a wide range of offers related to Japan.

All of the films are special in some way but there is so much to cover. Here are some highlights. I will provide follow-up articles to cover other titles in depth. Click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding Nippon Connection page which has details on dates and times.

Continue reading “A Preview of Nippon Connection 2020 – Highlights”