An Interview with Azusa Hieda, Director of Summer Wedding [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Azusa Hieda Landscape Shot

Azusa Hieda’a short film Summer Wedding received its World Premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022 where it was one of the few films to directly use the Covid-19 in its narrative. In her work, writer/director Hieda utilised social isolation during the pandemic to offer a space for two lovers, a bride (Rika Kurosawa) and her groom (Daiki Nunami), to change their lives in unexpected ways. Between a strong set and acting that carried emotions undercutting what should have been a happy event, audiences are able to read between the lines and experience a story rich in contrasting emotions.

A graduate of the Department of Broadcast Film Studies of Visual Arts Osaka, Hieda has worked on one short, Fuyu no Aka and a number of trailers. To explain more about her latest work, she took part in an email interview in Japanese and English. This was done with translation by Takako Pocklington.

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An Interview with Akinori Ikuse, Director of Out of Tokyo 202x [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

 

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A mood of optimism radiates from Akinori Ikuse’s 14-minute short, Out of TOKYO 202x, a time travel movie where two people from the future, Rika (Ucyu Imagawa) and Shin (So Morozumi), spend time together after meeting on the grounds of the Tokyo Olympic stadium. Their shared experience is both romantic and hopeful as they get swept up in the cheer and the happiness of an event that was surrounded by controversy given the Covid-19 pandemic. Benefiting from actually being shot on location, Ikuse brings viewers the sight of crowds of onlookers as well as special events like a fly-past by Japan’s Blue Impulse aerial acrobatics team. Beyond this, he manipulates the look and sound of the film to vibrantly convey the intense atmosphere of the occasion.

Ikuse took part in an interview where he explained the making of the film, his filmic inspirations, and what it was like to shoot on location at such a historic moment. This interview was conducted with the help of staff at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and via the invaluable translation of Takako Pocklington.

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Stream Contemporary Japanese Film with the Chicago Japan Film Collective (May 21st to 30th 2022)

Chicago Japan Film Collective is a Japanese film festival in America’s Midwest which was created with the express aim of introducing work created by women, the LGBTQ community and indie filmmakers to local audiences. This year’s run will last from May 21 to the 30, they will stream/screen 14 films that centre on the theme of love.

2022CJFC_Poster

The films are a mixture of dramas and documentaries, many of them highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. The majority are streamable but there are three films that are going to be screened in cinemas. You can read some of my reviews and interviews with two of the directors via links below. There are also a lot of newer films and they look exciting!

What has been selected for the festival?

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An Interview with Yuko Watanabe, Director of BOY SPROUTED [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

 

Boy Sprouted depicts the battle of wills unfolds between a boy (Seitaro Hara) who dislikes tomatoes and his mother (Kanako Higashi) who is determined to make him eat them. Director Yuko Watanabe takes this everyday scenario and channels the boy’s aversion into a fairy tale nightmare aesthetic that is visually arresting and makes the film’s tone hover on the border between horror and bathos. The story itself comes from a Japanese AI named “Furukoto”, a bot that uses a neural network to create a story long enough to make a 30-minute short.

The film had its world premiere at Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) 2022 and can currently be streamed online globally as part of Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia.

Yuko Watanabe took part in an interview where she went in depth into her background as well as the background of the film, explained her experience of working with an AI and a child cast, her ideas for the visuals, and influences in creating such a distinctive and enjoyable work. This interview was done thanks to the dedicated work of OAFF staff, the film’s producer Ryohei Tsutsui, and translator Takako Pocklington.

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Japanese and Korean Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2022

This year’s Cannes Film Festival will May 17-28 and it will be a physical event. The official line-up of films has been announced and there are some major titles from Asia. Quite interestingly, the festival will open with the French remake of One Cut of the Dead. Trailer below.

On to the Asian films!

Genki Cannes Film Festival Logo

There is a mix of big Hollywood titles like Tom Cruise with his Top Gun movie and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis with European films like Olivier Assayas’ remake of Irma Vep and Claire Denis with Stars at Noon.

Similarly, the Asian titles extend to big hitters competing for the Palme d’Or in the Official Competition section with a budding talent in the Un Certain Regard category, a section designed to recognise more unusual styles and film and recognise young talents. There is even a newbie directing (not acting) talent in the Midnight Screening section. Attendees will also get the chance to watch Naomi Kawase’s Tokyo 2022 Olympics documentary.

Following last year’s success of Drive My Car, will we see the next big Asian title here? Continue reading “Japanese and Korean Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2022”

An Interview with Daisuke Miyazaki, Director of NORTH SHINJUKU 2055 [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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North Shinjuku 2055 is the latest film by Daisuke Miyazaki, one of the directors who regularly attends Osaka Asian Film Festival with his youth-focused works with Yamato (California) (2016), Tourism (2018), and Videophobia (2020) being screened in the past. His latest film is a sci-fi short that lets audiences listen in on an interview between an investigative journalist (Tatsuya Nagayama) and a North Shinjuku kingpin given the moniker K (played by the rapper GAMI) as they discuss the history of the titular district.

On paper, watching a conversation might sound boring but the film’s experimental style is surprising and impressive. It really sparks the imagination as images are relayed almost entirely through still images à la Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) and accompanying sounds consist of the musicality of the voices of the two talkers and also a myriad of street noises that create a strong urban atmosphere. Beyond this shot of originality is a depth to the vision as it extrapolates the history of the area and broader current-day social issues that affect it and imagines how they have developed by the year 2055.

Thanks to the invaluable efforts of translator Takako Pocklington, Miyazaki kindly took part in an email interview wherein he talked about capturing photographs and working with his two actors, to bring to life a unique sci-fi short.

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An Interview with M Haris Sheikh, Director of HOWLING [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Howling (review) is a blackly-comic neo-noir from M Haris Sheikh who subverts the genre by creating a collection of characters defined by desperation, cowardice, and disappointment rather than the expected avarice and lust.

We follow a motley bunch of no-hopers living lives based on lies they tell others to cover their miserable situations. They are led by a very flawed 40-year-old unemployed guy named Ryuji Tanoue (Ichiro Hashimoto) who is in desperate straits and equally desperate to be a hero which leads to him being a bit of a fantasist. Their number includes a housewife named Chisato (Sanae Kotani) and a 20-year-old student named Akane (Yukino Takahashi), two women who fulfil the role of femme fatales who manipulate a woefully underprepared and cowardly main protagonist into a situation requiring him to kill people. Alas, what Ryuji thinks will be easy become increasingly dangerous and blackly comic due to a serious case of sophistry blinds that him to his personal failings. For all of their flaws, the characters never lose our interest or investment in their quest to escape their situations as they are multifaceted and capable of change, but will change come in time for everyone? Viewers will find themselves gripped by the twists and turns until the film reaches its jaw-dropper of a finale which will leave viewers shocked and laughing.

Thanks to the help of festival staff, members of M Haris Sheikh’s team and the translation services of Takako Pocklington, I was able to interview the director on his singular vision.

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An Interview with Yusaku Matsumoto, Director of BAGMATI RIVER [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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Bagmati River received its world premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022. It is the latest work from director Yusaku Matsumoto, a talent who broke onto the international film scene with Noise (2017), a drama set in Akihabara and based on a stabbing incident. It focused on the travails of working-class kids and their families to show how such a thing could happen. Matsumoto’s latest work turned out to be quite a departure from what audiences might associate him with as he takes them to Nepal in the company of rising actress Junko Abe of Still the Water (2014) who plays a young woman seeking to confront the disappearance of her brother in the mountains. Also backing up Matsumoto in this Nepal-set film was Kentaro Kishi (Hammock, The Sower), a cinematographer and actor (amongst other things) who worked on and appeared in Noise.

In order to get some background on the film, I interviewed Matsumoto via email thanks to the help of festival staff and through the translation services of Takako Pocklington.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022: 10 Japanese Films Online and Available Internationally

Following on from releasing info on the outline of this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival  2022 and the Opening and Closing films that will be screened in cinemas in Osaka, I will now go into a bit more detail of the online portion of the festival which launches TODAY and is available around the world. Read on!

OAFF2022_Poster_E_Yoko

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