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Japanese Films at the Locarno Film Festival 2020 (05th-15th August)

2020 Locarno Film Festival Header

The Locarno Film Festival runs from August 05th to the 15th and they have announced their selection of films. Like last year there are two Japanese films (well, one’s a US-Japan co-production and the other’s a France-Japan co-production) but these are both shorts and were subjects of crowdfunding campaigns. Apparently, you can watch the films online when the festival goes live. Here they are!

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“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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Interview with VIDEOPHOBIA Director Daisuke Miyazaki [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

One of the highlights of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 was VIDEOPHOBIA, the latest work of Daisuke Miyazaki. A frequent visitor to Osaka, many of his works are youth-focused, with Yamato (California) (2016) and Tourism (2018) being screened at the festival. His films frequently capture the cultural zeitgeist for young people as young women with smartphones navigate various issues to carve out their own niche in the world. Yet VIDEOPHOBIA comes completely out of left-field as it’s an existential horror movie where technology drives a young woman into a fog of paranoia and fear.

Filmed around the less well-known areas of the city of Osaka and shot in black and white, it is a deeply unsettling experience as we witness melancholy 20-something Ai (Tomona Hirota) have a one-night stand with a stranger only to discover that a highly explicit sex-tape has been made of the encounter. It is a shocking discovery that plunges her into a panic that gets worse the more technology manipulates and alters her perception of herself. Things get so bad that she begins to question her own sanity and identity, realizing that the only way to rectify her situation is through total dissolution of her character. The audience is prompted to think about various social issues as Miyazaki pries apart the cracks in contemporary life and how incessant exposure to technology alters how we perceive ourselves. Full review here.

Miyazaki sat down to discuss the making of the film, the real-world topics that form the basis of the story and how he hopes the audience will engage with it amidst the ironies of our always-connected social media landscape.

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Japanese Films at the We Are One Global Film Festival

Due to COVID-19, film festivals around the world have had to postpone or cancel events. Then, in April, Tribeca and YouTube announced they were teaming up for a 10-day online festival called We Are One and working together with other festivals to create a digital film festival.

We Are One Film Festival Image

The festival will stream a selection of films online on YouTube for FREE from May 29th to June 07th. There will be 31 features and 72 shorts over 10 days, the titles have been co-curated by over 20 film festivals from across the world, including Annecy, Cannes, London, Venice, Sundance, Berlin, Locarno, Toronto and Tokyo. Viewers can also enjoy virtual talks with directors.

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Japanese Films at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2020

This year’s edition of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival is the 60 anniversary of the fest and it takes place from June 15th to the 30th and, due to the COVID-19 situation, it’s a totally online edition. Unlike last year’s event, which was jam-packed with films, there are about four Japanese animated films and some international co-productions on the roster. The festival welcomes back Masaaki Yuasa, who has directed a Netflix show, and there are some newbie directors.

As per usual, titles contain links to the festival and sources used for information range from the festival site itself to My Anime List (MAL) and Anime News Network (ANN). Let’s start with…

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Interview with “Good-bye” Director Aya Miyazaki at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

The life of twenty-something woman Sakura (rising star Mayuko Fukuda) changes when she quits her office position and takes a job at a nursery. This impulsive decision puts her in the orbit of a girl named Ai whose father, Shindo (Kohei Ikeue), seems to be struggling to raise her without her mother around. Again listening to her inner impulses, Sakura gets involved with the two as she subconsciously works through various feelings related to her own fractured family. Little does she realize that this process will lead to the reconfiguriation of her relationship with her parents.

A minimalist psychological piece, Good-Bye is the third film from director Aya Miyazaki and it received its world premiere in the Indie Forum section of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020. One of the youngest directors at the festival, Miyazaki only started making films while studying at Waseda University where she learned under the supervision of Hirokazu Kore-eda and Tamaki Tsuchida. She currently works for a movie company but took time to appear at OAFF to introduce and discuss her latest film.

The interview was conducted with help from the interpreter Keiko Matsushita while the translation was made with the help of the interpreter Takako Pockington.

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Interview with “For Rei” Director Yukari Sakamoto [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Yukari Sakamoto is an indie director who started making films while she was studying Philosophy at Sophia University. Her film Obake was part of MOOSIC LAB2014 and won the Best Actress and Musician awards. After that, she studied editing at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Film and Cinema where she majored in film and directed music videos. Since then, she has been the assistant producer on the the major feature Eating Women (2018) and directed part of the omnibus movie 21st Century Girl (2019).

Sakamoto’s latest work For Rei derives some of its details from the director’s background to create a deeply personal picture of a modern young woman navigating complicated feelings. The titular protagonist (An Ogawa) goes to philosophy class and lives with a kind boyfriend, but the trauma of her parent’s divorce has caused an ambivalence towards the people she should be closest to, and herself. This is a feeling that gnaws away at her over the course of the film which is shot in a subjective style to analyze this young woman’s attempts to understand herself.

Sakamoto sat down at the Osaka Asian Film Festival to talk about the making of the film, how she translated her background onto the screen and some of the design choices she made. The interview was conducted with help from the interpreter Keiko Matsushita while the translation was made with the help of the interpreter Takako Pockington.

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For Rei レイのために Dir: Yukari Sakamoto (2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

For Rei      For Rei Film Poster

レイのためにRei no Tame ni

Release Date: June 27th, 2020

Duration: 65 mins.

Director: Yukari Sakamoto

Writer: Yukari Sakamoto (Script),

Starring: An Ogawa, Amon Hirai, Seiji Kinoshita, Ryo Matsuura,

OAFF Website

Stories of the effects of family breakups on children are hardly a new thing for Japanese cinema with filmmakers like Hirokazu Koreeda and Shinji Somai using it in films such as I Wish (2011) and Moving (1993). Being unique in this field is hard but through nuanced filmmaking, director Yukari Sakamoto creates an intimate, challenging and original portrait of a modern young woman who faces difficult emotions lingering from the trauma of her parent’s split.

 

The titular Rei (An Ogawa) is our main character. She is a university student who lives a peaceful life with her boyfriend Nakamura (Amon Hirai) but beneath her quiet exterior is a girl struggling to become a woman. She is at the most turbulent period of life as she self-actualises a personality but before that can happen she faces the challenge of cauterising the wound of her parent’s divorce and her father’s absence. This has caused a rupture in her sense of self which has created a conflicted personality reticent to the point of being cut her off from others. Rei seeks to heal this by studying philosophy at university. By wrestling with this complicated subject she seeks to clarify and set to rest her emotions. However, as she studies, the desire to meet her absent father (Seiji Kinoshita), who she hasn’t seen since she was a little child, soon seems like more viable avenue of self-understanding.

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Interview with “Yan” Director Keisuke Imamura at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

Yan is the feature debut by Keisuke Imamura, a cinematographer who began his career by teaching himself to shoot independent films while studying at Nihon University’s Department of Fine Arts. After graduation, he apprenticed with KIYO and made his debut as a cinematographer at the age of 24, first with indies before moving on to bigger titles. An early collaboration with the director Michihito Fujii on Kemuri no Machi no Yori Yoki Mirai wa (2012) proved to be the beginning of a fruitful relationship as they would work together again on Tokyo City Girl (2015), Day and Night (2019) and The Journalist (2019). Imamura’s career has encompassed titles as diverse as the drama Phantom Limb (2014) and manga-extravaganza Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High (2017).

For his feature debut Yan (review here), Imamura retains the glossy look of his big films but uses it to channel the intimate story of a man discovering his roots and making it as sensuous as possible so we feel his emotions. Tsubame (Long Mizuma) is half-Taiwanese, half-Japanese and living a comfortable existence in Tokyo. However, a request from his father to track down his older brother Ryushin (Takashi Yamanaka) leads to the unearthing of painful memories of a family separation and his own alienation due to his dual-heritage status and the departure of his mother (played by the pop star Hitoto Yo). It’s a universal story that sees Tsubame find peace with himself and connect with a mother he never understood. Imamura sat down after the world premiere of the film at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 and talked about its background.

This interview was conducted with the help of the translators Keiko Matsushita and Takako Pocklington.

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