Interview with Kontora Director Anshul Chauhan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Osaka Asian Film Festival Anshul Chauhan

My final interview at this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) was with director Anshul Chauhan. We had first met at OAFF 2018 when he participated an interview following the Japanese premiere of his debut feature Bad Poetry Tokyo. This year, he was back with his sophomore feature Kontora, which came to Osaka after having won the Grand Prix for the best film and the award for Best Music (for composer Yuma Koda) at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival a few months earlier.

Kontora was one of the stand-outs of OAFF 2020. Majestically shot in black and white, it’s bursting with feelings of discontent felt by the main character, high school girl Sora (Wan Marui). Drifting away from her distant father (Taichi Yamada) and living in a dull town, she finds hope in her recently deceased grandfather’s wartime diary after her beloved relative passes away as she finds clues to some “treasure” buried in a forest. Just as a treasure hunt starts, a mysterious vagrant (Hidemasa Mase) appears in town. Mute and walking backwards, he is a strange sight but his presence forces a change in the relationship between daughter and father. A strange family drama unfolds with a tone halfway between elegiac and angry with a sheen of mystery and history linked to the “treasure” and family dynamics that rope in a greedy uncle (Takuzo Shimizu) and a cousin named Haru (Seira Kojima).

Chauhan and his wife, the film’s producer Mina Moteki, sat down to talk about the film and explain more about its creation, the work put in by the actors and his wider film career. This interview was first conducted at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and then via email and has been edited for length.

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Kontora コントラ Dir: Anshul Chauhan「Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020」

Kontora   

コントラKontora

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 145 mins.

Director: Anshul Chauhan

Writer: Anshul Chauhan (Script) 

Starring: Wan Marui, Seira Kojima, Hidemasa Mase, Takuzo Shimizu, Taichi Yamada, 

OAFF  Twitter IMDB

A lonely teenage girl enduring adolescent turmoil amidst a fractured family’s feud, finds the arrival of a mysterious mute man in her small town allows her to communicate with others. This is the story for Anshul Chauhan’s sophomore feature following his woman-on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown indie drama Bad Poetry Tokyo (2017). Kontora has different atmospherics thanks to its look, raw performance of its lead actress, its generation-spanning story and its touch of the supernatural, so that this film stands distinct from what is normally churned out in Japan in its depiction of contemporary girlhood.

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An Interview with Anshul Chauhan, Orson Mochizuki, and Takaeshi Kawaguchi Director and Actors of “Bad Poetry Tokyo” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Bad Poetry Tokyo (BPT) is the debut feature film from Anshul Chauhan, an animator turned indie film director. Born in India in 1986, Anshul’s main job is working as an animator in Japan. His career stretches back to 2006 with work in both TV and film and it has progressed to include some recently released major titles such as Final fantasy XV: Kingsglaive and Gantz: O. Life as a live-action director began with short films which is how he met his lead actors for BPT. With his actors lined up and having gained some experience, he finally made the leap into features with this BPT, a dark drama built around an acting tour de force from a trio of talented actors, Shuna Iijima and her co-stars, Orson Mochizuki and Takashi Kawaguchi

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Bad Poetry Tokyo 東京不穏詩 Dir: Anshul Chauhan (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Bad Poetry Tokyo    Bad Poetry Tokyo Film Poster

東京不穏詩 Tōkyō fuon uta

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Anshul Chauhan

Writer: Anshul Chauhan, Rand Colter (Screenplay), Anshul Chauhan (Original Story)

Starring: Shuna Iijima, Orson Mochizuki, Takashi Kawaguchi, Nana Blank, Kohei Mashiba, Kento Furukoshi,

Website    IMDB

Fake it till you make it. It’s a useful mantra to live by. Appear confident and people will accept it. We all do it, but every once in a while the mask will slip. What happens when you simply run out of energy to hold that mask up?

Jun Fujita (Shuna Iijima) is 30 years old. She majored in English at Tokyo University and dreams of appearing in Hollywood movies. For the time being, though, she works as a hostess at a shady club where her boyfriend Taka (Orson Mochizuki) is employed as a barman. Some of that is true, some of that is false. Life hasn’t turned out the way Jun imagined when she fled her home in Nagano Prefecture five years ago. Still, she yearns to be an actress and is about to make it when betrayed by her lover. Broken and made savage by the experience, she heads back to her sleepy countryside hometown to lick her wounds. As far as she can tell, things seemingly haven’t changed much when she first arrives and is reunited with her father and her old lover Yuki (Takashi Kawaguchi), which is a problem because there are ugly secrets about her past that made her flee in the first place.CO01_BadPoetryTokyo

The drama of Bad Poetry Tokyo opens with a sequence showing Jun perpetrating a violent attack while her narration tells us some of what has driven her to this point. It then cuts back to an earlier period of time so viewers can trace the sequence of events that has to the moment that the weight of the world has become too heavy for Jun to bear.

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