Great East Japan Earthquake Aftermath on Film

311 Film ImageI remember the morning of the Great East Japan Earthquake quite vividly. I finished work early and watched the unfolding disaster online. It was terrifying and it was bewildering and it seemed so overwhelming. I also remember the (ani)blogging community coming together quick sharp to relay news and to set up charity appeals. The charity appeals are still needed as rebuilding is moving slowly and people are still displaced which is why I posted about a Japan Foundation film event on the anniversary earlier this week. It is strange to think that the disaster was two years ago because it seems closer and I suspect that the reason it still seems so close is because of the many films that have use it as subject matter.

One of the things I do on my blog is write up trailer posts for most of the Japanese films released in cinemas and for the films touring the festival circuit. Through doing this I have seen that Japanese filmmakers are intensely interested. Not a month goes by without two or three titles and with the recent anniversary the number of films has intensified. The range of filmmakers covers documentarians, directors who are better known for horror films and bleak dramas (bleakies as fellow film-blogger Alua calls them), veterans and directors making their debuts. It stands in complete contrast to other disasters and countries. How many films are there directly or indirectly about Hurricane Katrina (a handy wikipedia list)? There are probably more because The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans isn’t present in that list but still it just does not compare to the efforts that the Japanese filmmaking community has made to highlight document disaster and the continuing problems. Whatever the case, I present this list to you. I can’t claim that it’s exhaustive but it’s somewhere to start. It is shows how unique cinema can be and it is something we can use to remember the event and the impact it had on people’s lives and hopefully chart the recovery of the region.

Here are some of the films:

 

A Gentle Rain Falls for FukushimaA Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima

Director: Atsushi Kokatsu, Writer: Atsushi Kokatsu, Uichiro Kitazato

Starring: Kosuke Toyohara, Chieko Matsubara, Jurina, Shono Hayama, Gitan Otsuru, Hitomi Sato

This was the directorial debut of Kokatsu. When preproduction of the film was finished in early 2011 and funding was secured from the Fukushima government the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami struck. After initially suspending the film the filmmakers continued with production and donated some of the profits to charity. The film is a mix of heartfelt drama and light comedy that comes with the role-swapping like finding out a girl younger than you used to be your mother in a past life. It centres around a diverse group of people who are all lonely and struggling in life. They meet in Fukushima where they discover that they were a family in a previous life. At first uneasy with each other, the more they talk the better they feel about their problems and their bond grows but their time together remains short as they must soon leave.

 

Himizu PosterHimizu

Director: Sion Sono, Writer: Sion Sono (script adaptation), Minoru Furuya (manga)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaidō, Tetsu Watanabe, Denden, Jun Murakami, Makiko Watanabe, Ken Mitsuishi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Asuka Kurosawa, Taro Suwa,

Himizu is Sion Sono’s adaptation of Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name and the only film on this list I have seen. I was in tears at the end. Sono takes a manga already full of anger and tough subject matter like child abuse and murder, and weaves in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami to create a film which is ultimately a moving exploration of life, identity, redemption and the will to live. I’m quoting my review now. Here are more quotes “Sono hammers the references home with scenes of actors wandering around the disaster hit areas complete with the skeletal remains of buildings and mounds of rubble surrounding them. The sight of the destruction is a terrifying testament to the power of the disaster. The scenes are accompanied by the sound of Geiger counters and a menacing rumbling reminding us the events even more. It feels like a natural part of the film and added to the theme of enduring whatever life throws at you.” I would consider Himizu to be one of the best films I saw last year.

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (Mitsuishi) only pays him visits when he needs money. Yuichi carries on running the family boat rental business and lives surrounded by homeless people who are victims of the tsunami. Meanwhile at school he is ignoring class-mate Keiko Chazawa (Nikaidō) who has a massive crush on him. Things get tough when his mother abandons him and Kaneko (Denden), a Yakuza loan-shark, shows up looking for Yuichi’s father and ¥6 million. Pushed to breaking point by his situation Yuichi finds himself unable to control his anger and a series of events leads him to the brink of madness.

Women on the Edge Movie PosterWomen on the Edge                                         

Director: Masahiro Kobayashi, Writer: Masahiro Kobayashi

Starring: Miho Fujima, Yuko Nakamura, Makiko Watanabe

Masahiro Kobayashi, writer and director of grim films like Bashing is back with Women on the Edge which stars Miho Fujima (Ju-On: The GrudgeTajomaru), Yuko Nakamura (Blood and Bones), and Makiko Watanabe (Himizu, Love Exposure).

The three Onodera sisters return to the home of their deceased parents’ in Kesennuma, Miyagi, a place affected by the Tohoku Earthquake. The house has survived the earthquake and tsunami and the three are looking to claim an inheritance. Nobuko (Nakamura) moved to Tokyo and is a divorcee, Takako (Watanabe) moved to New York and works as a butoh dancer. Third sister Satomi (Fujima) stayed behind. There are deep resentments and over the course of the film they will come out.

 

Odayaka Film PosterOdayaka                                                                      

Director: Nobuteru Uchida, Writer: Nobuteru Uchida (Script),

Starring: Kiki Sugino, Yukiko Shinohara, Takeshi Yamamoto, Ami Watanabe, Ami Watanabe, Yu Koyanagi, Makiko Watanabe, Maho Yamada, Susumu Terajima, Maki Nishiyama, Kotaro Shiga, Kanji Furutachi, Yuko Kibiki, Yuya Matsumura,

This is a film which covers the March 11th earthquakes. This is another fiction film addressing the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami following Women on the EdgeThe Ear Cleaner and The Land of Hope. It is written and directed by Nobuteru Uchida (Love Addiction).

Saeko (Sugino) and Yukako (Shinohara) are neighbours in a Tokyo apartment complex. Following the March 11th Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami both find their lives affected by newfound fears. Saeko is undergoing a divorce and fears her daughter may get radiation exposure. Yukako also fears the radiation and asks her husband to move. When Saeko saves Yukako from suicide, the two become close.

The Intermission Film PosterThe Intermission                 

Director: Naofumi Higuchi, Writer: Naofumi Higuchi, Minato Takehiko (Screenplay),

Starring: Kumiko Akiyoshi, Shota Sometani, Kyoko Kagawa, Akiko Koyama, Kumi Mizuno, Naoto Takenaka, Shiro Sano,

An indie film which deals indirectly with the effects of March 11th as we get the real life story of an old movie theatre in Ginza, Tokyo was closed in March. It stars Shota Sometani (Himizu), Kumiko Akiyoshi (Deep River), Kyoko Kagawa (Shall We Dance?) and Kumi Mizuno (Godzilla Final Wars).

Kumiko (Akiyoshi) is the manager of the Ginza Shinepatosu and she has a younger husband named Shota (Sometani). The movie theatre faces closure following the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 due to safety fears. As the final day approaches, Kumiko’s anxieties over earthquakes and radiation grow.

Continue reading “Great East Japan Earthquake Aftermath on Film”

Suu, Mai and Sawa – Righting the Girl Ship, Bad Communication, The Dark System Full Version, Winter Day, Tofu Fa, Fukushima Not Forgotten, Anime Mirai 2013, Mobile Suit Gundam UC: Episode 6 and Other Trailers and the Japanese Film Box Office

Little Witch Academia Film ImageAh, I have just arrived home after my commute from work where I encountered two Japanese people by chance and had a good old chat with them. The pluses of public  transport! This week I received Skyfall, the 2LDK/Aragami double release, the Blue Exorcist anime and I Come with the Rain and I am expecting Detroit Metal City soon. As far as movies watched goes I watched Heat After Dark a further two times despite my review giving the impression that I did not rate it that much… I also wrote about Makoto Shinkai’s forthcoming film The Garden of Words and the anime Mysterious Girlfriend X. The former has the potential to be great while the latter wasted its potential to become just another fan-service show.

What do the Japanese charts look like this week (Feb 23/24 2013)?

  1.       A Good Day to Die Hard
  2.       Ted
  3.       The Brain Man
  4.       Les Miserables
  5.       Strrawberry Night
  6.       Life of Pi
  7.       Zero Dark Thirty
  8.      Chair of the Grasslands
  9.       Story of Yonosuke
  10.      Reunion

Well three of the Japanese films released last week (A Story of Yonosuke, Reunion and Chair of the Grasslands) break into the top ten but it is US/UK films that are dominating the charts.

Ah, this week sees the release of Flight and Django Unchained so I guess distributors are holding back big titles and resorting to counter-programming with a real mixed bag of titles… there are quite a few short films released and they have a whole gamut of rising stars of Japan’s directorial world. There are three documentaries, a loot of short films and two indie films while the one big-budget flick issssss now:

Suu, Mai and Sawa – Righting the Girl Ship   Sue, Mai and Sawa - Righting the Girl Ship Film Poster

Japanese Title: すーちゃん まいちゃんさわ子さん

Romaji: Su-chan, Mai-chan, Sawako-san

Release Date: March 02nd, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 106 mins.

Director: Osamu Minorikawa

Writer: Miri Masuda (Original Manga), Sachiko Tanaka (Screenplay)

Starring: Kou Shibasaki, Yoko Maki, Shinobu Terajima, Hana Kino, Akiko Kazami, Megumi Sato, Aoi Yoshikura, Ai Takabe, Shota Sometani, Arata

Osamu Minorikawa released Jinsei Irodori last year and is back with an adaptation of Miri Masuda’s manga. It stars Kou Shibasaki (One Missed Call, Battle Royale), Yoko Maki (Infection, Battle Royale II, and The Grudge), Shinobu Terajima(Vibrator, The Millennial Rapture) and Megumi Sato (Exte: Hair Extension). The males of the cast are Arata (After Life, Ping Pong) and Shota Sometani (Himizu, Lesson of the Evil). The film is a slice-of-life tale for adult women based on a four-panel gag manga and the trailer starts with a woman crying and not a gunfight or anything that would catch my attention but Rebirth had a trailer that made me uncertain and then I was blown away by it. Plus the review over at the Japan Times is intriguing… If The Japan Foundation screens it I will watch it! And then watch Heat After Dark for a dose of testosterone.

Sue (Shibasaki), Mai (Maki) and Sawako (Terajima) are three former companions who have remained friends. Sue works at a coffee shop and likes her manager. Mai works at an OA machine maker and is in a relationship with a married man and Sawako is a web designer who takes care of her grandmother.

Bad Communication                               Bad Communication Film Poster

Japanese Title: Bad コミュニケーション

Romaji: Bad Comyunike-shon

Release Date: March 02nd, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 30 mins.

Director: Haruhi Oguri

Writer: Haruhi Oguri (Screenplay)

Starring: Daiki Shiomi, Yoshino Motoyama, Yūta Hashimoto, Yūya Inechū, Ryūto Tanaka, Iemori Nagata,

Haruhi Oguri follows up Toilet and Women (that’s the actual title of a film released last year) with a youth movie depicting a group of friends in a seaside town as they leave school, enter college in Tokyo and experience the death of one of their number. The five leads are new to the acting game. Bad Communication is the title of a song by the cool J-rock group B’z and it reminds me of Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys which was cool. Random thoughts ended. the trailer doesn’t really interest me as much as the one for Toilet and Women.

The Dark System Full Version                        Dark System Film Poster

Japanese Title: Bad ダークシステム 完全版

Romaji: Da-ku Shisutemu Kanzenhan

Release Date: March 02nd, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Shūji Yuki

Writer: Shūji Yuki (Screenplay)

Starring: Makoto Takunomasaki, Katsumi Furuya, Yuko Kamata, Takehiro Kamibaba

Shūji Yuki’s two Dark System short films have been re-edited and re-constructed to make a feature-length film about two friends who split over a girl and soon turn to wire-tapping their homes and even violence. I would watch this if this were a DVD extra. I’m not sure I would go to a cinema to see this.

 

Here is where the short-films begin:

Winter Day                                Fuyu no Hi/Tofu Fa Film Poster

Japanese Title: 冬の日

Romaji: Fuyu no Hi

Release Date: March 02nd, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 28 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Kurosaki

Writer: N/A

Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Jun Fubuki, Kenta Uchino, Masayo Umezawa

Movie PAO have produced a second volume of shorts directed by three young directors Fuyu no Hi Snow Film Imagewith the aim of nurturing talent and allowing them to work with industry vets. The directors have got the chance to make whatever they want. The first title is Winter Day which stars Masami Nagasawa (Kiseki) and the great actress Jun Fubuki (Séance, Rebirth). Here’s a funny advert that I found after looking for a trailer. It could be a parody trailer of a dorama what with its music and slice-of-life setting. All Yuko wanted to do was eat oranges but when her father came home something emotional happened 😛

Lisa (Nagasawa) gives up on her dreams of becoming a photographer and heads back to her parent’s photo studio. It is snowing and in the snow she meets a woman (Fubuki) who will reveal a secret about her family.

 

Tofu Fa                                           Tofu fa Image

Japanese Title: ファの豆腐

Romaji: Fa no Toufu

Release Date: March 02nd, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 40 mins.

Director: Shinji Kuma

Writer: Yuka Honchō (Screenplay)

Starring: Akiko Kikuchi, Sansei Shiomi, Yuki Makoto Miura, Reiko Seno

Another Movie PAO title. The very foxy Akiko Kikuchi who co-starred with Koji Yakusho in last year’s Chronicle of My Mother, takes the lead role of a chef named Asako who runs a tofu shop with her father, who is reunited with a childhood friend which sparks subtle changes in her life. The trailer has segments from other Movie PAO titles but the first one is Tofu Fa like in the trailer above.

Continue reading “Suu, Mai and Sawa – Righting the Girl Ship, Bad Communication, The Dark System Full Version, Winter Day, Tofu Fa, Fukushima Not Forgotten, Anime Mirai 2013, Mobile Suit Gundam UC: Episode 6 and Other Trailers and the Japanese Film Box Office”