An Interview with Fumito Fujikawa, Director of The Light of Spring [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022/Five Flavours Film Festival 2022]

The Light of Spring_director

With a background in both film and anthropology, Fumito Fujikawa’s career encompasses both documentary and drama and sometimes blurs the line between the two.

He first came to international attention with his debut feature film The Name of the Whale, a family drama shot in the director’s home prefecture of Hiroshima and centred on a junior high school boy searching for fossils while his family and friendship circle undergo changes. Critics noted its combination of documentary-like delivery of drama and the use of a partially non-professional cast and child actors and this earned it the moniker of a dramamentary, a style so effective at enraputring viewers in its world that it won the film the Audience Award at the 2015 Pia Film Festival. It went on to be screened internationally at festivals such as Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Taipei.

His next film was Supa Layme, a documentary shot in the Peruvian Andes following a family of six tending to llamas, sheep and working the land. It went on to win awards including taking best film in the Peruvian competition of the Lima Alterna Festival (you can read an interview with the director about that film here).

For his third feature film, The Light of Spring, Fujikawa returned to Japan and shot a work in Tokyo with a real-life family of four acting out the separation of the parents and children during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing directly from The Name of the Whale, he recruited two of that film’s actors, Yuki Hirabuki, nee Kimura, and her husband Masana Hirabuki. They brought their two children, five-year-old boy Shui and baby girl Chikasa. Together they convincingly relay a realistic story of a family falling apart, the quiet tensions and desperation between the parents affecting the children until a resolution of sorts is reached.

The Light of Spring played at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022 in March and is currently playing at Five Flavours Film Festival in Poland where it can be viewed online in Poland (details here) until December 04th. At the festival, it won The Special Mention for the International People’s Jury award. To find out more on the background of the film, this interview was conducted with the director.

Thanks go out to Fumito Fujikawa for doing this interview and providing lots of background, to Takako Pocklington for translating between English and Japanese, and to the staff of Osaka Asian Film Festival staff for making the interview happen.

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An Interview with Sae Suzuki, Director of Strangers [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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Sae Suzuki’s career as a filmmaker began when she enrolled in the Department of Body Expression at Rikkyo University and studied directing under director/critic Kunitoshi Manda. She then went on to study film directing under Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Nobuhiro Suwa at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts and her graduation film My Identity (2019) was selected for the  Busan International Film Festival 2019 and Japan Cuts 2020. She is currently making films as a freelancer and her latest work Strangers played at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022.

Strangers is a melancholic but hopeful short film about people wrestling with experiences of sexual harassment, negative thoughts on gender and sex, and suffering in silence. Manami Usamaru of Sisterhood (2019) fame plays Yukie, a dental nurse from a rural town who flees her workplace with the clinic’s cash following sexual assault from her boss. A train transition leads her and us to Tokyo where she can be free to do as she pleases and so she changes her appearance and personality and meets up with a guy named Minato (Akihiro Yamamoto) who offers her day of non-judgemental companionship that allows her to process her negative feelings. It turns out that he has trauma of his own and together, as strangers, they offer each other hope for a new life.

The film comes at an interesting time as people in Japan take to SNS to talk more openly about difficult subjects like discrimination and harassment. Through excellent use of visuals and performers, Sae Suzuki allows audiences to enter into these difficult topics with a very thoughtful and beautiful film.

I would like to thank Sae Suzuki for delivering this interview in both English and Japanese and the efforts of Osaka Asian Film Festival staff for facilitating the interview.

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The Inter College Animation Festival 2022 – A Japanese Student Animator Showcase – Online and Region-Free!

From September 26th to October 02nd, people around the world can watch a selection of works that have been programmed for The Inter College Animation Festival 2022.

Inter College Animation Festival 2022 Banner

This is the 20th anniversary of the event and 30 schools are participating, the largest number ever. There are an exciting and varied selection of short films and music videos done in many styles, from stop motion to motion capture, 2D anime style and mixing animation with live-action.

You can view the online ones here.

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Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2022

Vancouver International Film Festival 2013 Logo

The Vancouver International Film Festival 2022 runs from September 29th to October 09th and the line-up looks great. There are a grip of Japanese feature films which will be screened. I’m also throwing in two Korean films that have been winning awards and plaudits – potential festival attendees will want to watch these!

Here’s the round-up of Japanese films.

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Japanese Films at the San Sebastian International Film Festival 2022 (September 16th-24th)

san sebastian film festival 2020 Logo

This year’s San Sebastian International Film Festival runs from September 16th to the 24th and they have announced their selection of films which includes forthcoming features and a grip of shorts. Take a look!

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Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022 (September 08th-18th)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Post Header

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 08th to the 18th and they have announced their programme which has a great variety of screenings. There are two Japanese entries and quite a few Korean ones. I’ve listed the Japanese ones and a few other standouts (for me, at least). Take a look!

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Japanese Films at the BFI London Film Festival 2022

BFI London Film Festival Logo

This year’s London Film Festival is partially online, partially in-theatre. Cinemas will screen films October 5-16 and BFI Player will host films October 14-23. Tickets go on sale next week.

Here’s what is programmed (click on the title to be taken to the corresponding festival page):

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A Glimpse at the Films at the Tokyo Student Film Festival 2022

The 33rd Tokyo Student Film Festival runs from August 20th to August 21st in Shibuya Eurospace and it has 12 films on offer. These films are split into three programmes, features, animation, and shorts.

Here are details on the films with information pulled from the festival site. Click on the links to find out more about the films and filmmakers who have given comments on the background of their films (highly recommended!).

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An Interview with Ryohei Sasatani, Director of SANKA: Nomads of the Mountains 山歌 [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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Winner of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022‘s Japan Cuts Award, Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains is the debut narrative feature of Ryohei Sasatani. Originally getting his start with documentaries, he has released a number of works that concern themes of human beings existing within nature. After winning the Scenario Grand Prix at Isama Studio Cinema Festival in Gunma Prefecture, production on Sanka was set into motion and shot there.

The story is set in the summer of 1965 and revolves around a teenage boy named Norio (Rairu Sugita) who returns from Tokyo to his father’s family estate in Gunma and encounters three Sanka, nomadic folk whose lives are spent wandering around mountains and living off the land. It begins by chasing a spirited teenage girl named Hana (Naru Komukai) then meeting her father Shozo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), and the wisecracking grandmother Tae (Yoko Ran). In contrast to a stern father (Kisuke Iida), a budding land developer, and a strict society that is modernising, these three outsiders offer an alternative family who teach the boy to live as part of nature as well as the customs of Sanka culture. This puts him on a collision course with his father who wants to develop the land.

What unfolds is a well-written story of Norio’s growth while under the influence of the Sanka people as he learns from them and reckons with his family ties to the land as well as the burgeoning economic boom that Japan is about to undergo. This story, with themes of environmentalism and the price of progress, also gives a snapshot of the Sanka way of life that has since faded. It is all couched in the gorgeous landscape of Gunma Prefecture which becomes a character of its own as the weather and locations create a deep impression. You can read my review here.

Sanka was due to play at the Japan Cuts festival of new Japanese film in New York but that has been postponed until next year. Since it is currently on release in Japan, the interview will be published now. In it, Ryohei Sasatani talks about the making of the film, from working with the elements, animals, and the rugged landscape to the philosophy he planted in the story and also a little about the Sanka people.

This interview was done with the help of Takako Pocklington’s translations.

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