“Bleached Bones Avenue” Interview with Akio Fujimoto (Director) and Kentaro Kishi (Cinematographer) and Kazutaka Watanabe (Producer) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Kazutaka Watanabe, Akio Fujimoto, Kentaro Kishi - Bleached Bones Avenue

Bleached Bones Avenue is director Akio Fujimoto’s follow-up to his drama Passage of Life (2017). It is another film that looks at the shared links between Japan and Myanmar but this time, instead of a family drama, it is unearthing history.

Deep in the hills of Myanmar’s Chin state, Fujimoto and his crew met with a group of people who are dedicated to recovering the bones of Japanese soldiers who died during the Imphal campaign. It was a reckless attack by poorly supplied soldiers who were forced into a gruelling retreat through tough terrain and severe monsoon rains. Beset by malaria and dysentery, a lack of food and medical supplies, many men became sick and many perished, their bodies decomposing in the places they fell. The route they took became known as Hakkotsu Kaido, Bleached Bones Avenue in English. The local hill tribes who experienced these events have passed on their memories to their descendants who Fujimoto and his crew observe for this 16 minute film that connects past and present in a unique way.

The film’s director Akio Fujimoto, actor and cinematographer Kentaro Kishi and producer Kazutaka Watanabe sat down to discuss their work and went into fascinating detail.

This interview was conducted with the help of Kazutaka Watanabe’s lively interpretation.

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Bleached Bones Avenue 白骨街道 Dir: Akio Fujimoto [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Bleached Bones Avenue

白骨街道Hakkotsu kaidō

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 16 mins.

Director: Akio Fujimoto

Writer: N/A

Starring: Pu paul pau, Lang Za Khup

OAFF

Screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020, Bleached Bones Avenue is the latest title from director Akio Fujimoto and, on the face of it, this short is a curious follow-up film to his previous work, the family drama Passage of Life (2017), which was shown at the festival back in 2018. However, it continues to examine the human links between Japan and Myanmar in its own unique way.

Fujimoto’s latest film takes place in Myanmar’s Chin state and observes the work of a team from the Zomi tribe who recover the remains of Japanese soldiers who died during the battle of Imphal. We watch as these men, each clad in simple tracksuits, hoodies and t-shirts, prepare for their work then travel by SUV to some remote area. A stream of sequences flow by where the action consists of the team traversing steep mountains, dense with trees, where they dig with simple tools. The only sounds are of bird cries, the voices the men and the tools they use as they gouge out chunks of earth in the hope of bones surfacing from the past. Although the environment looks as if it has remained untouched by human hands, the scars of war are gradually unearthed. This is most potently evidenced in the memories of wartime atrocities passed on from older members of the team to the younger ones and the wreckage of a tank which forms the focal point of a valley. As with the digging, human connections resurface from the river of time and the natural landscape.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 Programme Announcement

Earlier this month, the organisers of the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) 2020 announced the full line-up for the festival which takes place from March 6-15. This is the best event to see a cross-section of Asian cinema and nearly all of the films will have English subs – the only exceptions we know so far are “Birthday”, ” House of Hummingbird”, and “Malmoe The Secret Mission”.

Despite the issues surrounding Coronavirus, the festival is still going ahead but one section, the co-hosted event “Come to Life! vol.2 Gutai and Nakanoshima”, has been cancelled due to the decision of the co-host organiser. This means six films have been removed which brings the number of selected films screened from a record 64 to 58 in total. This number includes 12 World Premieres, 12 International Premieres, and 3 Asian Premieres with films submitted from countries and regions such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Poland, South Korea, Japan, and South East Asia.

Continuing on from previous editions of the festival, OAFF remains a beacon of progressive programming as 25 female directors find their works selected with over half the films in the Competition section directed by women. The festival programme features characters from across the world contesting with issues such as war, crime, bullying, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration and unionising in the workplace. OAFF continues to give a platform to filmmakers who face challenging issues, whether the films reckon with historical injustice or paint a brighter future through showing diverse characters navigating their way in our tumultuous world.

Please check the full line-up of OAFF 2020 which can be found here. Tickets for the films screening at the fest are already on sale.


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