Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions 二重のまち 交代地のうたを編む Dirs: Haruka Komori, Natsumi Seo (2021) [Japan Cuts 2021]

Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions   Nijuu no machi koutai-chi no uta o amu Film Poster

二重のまち 交代地のうたを編む Nijuu no machi koutai-chi no uta o amu

Release Date: February 27th, 2021

Duration: 79 mins.

Director: Haruka Komori, Natsumi Seo,

Writer: Natsumi Seo

Starring: Haruka Koda, Haruka Sakai, Kou Leon Yonekawa, Aoshi Miura,

Website

From an outsider’s perspective, the destruction inflicted by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami wiped away whole towns, cities, and lives from the landscape of North East Japan. For people who lived through the disaster and remain alive, those things never disappeared, they still exist as memories underneath the changed landscape. This is the sense captured by Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions, a documentary that records a workshop designed to bring out these memories.

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An Interview with Mayu Nakamura, Director of Among Four of Us [OAFF 2021/JAPAN CUTS 2021]

Mayu Nakamura’s film Among Four of Us may only last 20 minutes but it makes a deep impact. A conversation piece involving three friends reuniting during the COVID-19 pandemic, it focuses on their fractious interpersonal history from college drama club and a mercurial fourth figure who had a major impact on them. As they catch up, wistful memories mix together with regrets and admissions of betrayal to end on an overwhelming note of melancholy. It is a mature and delicate work that, thanks to Nakamura’s writing and a trio of tight performances, is suffused with meaning. Made during the COVID-19 pandemic, it cleverly weaves the atmosphere and restrictions of the time into the narrative to create a sympathetic and very dramatic film. Nakamura’s background shows why.

A filmmaker who earned an MFA from the Graduate Film Program at New York University, Nakamura has made documentaries and features for both film and TV. Her debut feature, The Summer of Stickleback (2006), premiered in competition at the Busan International Film Festival while her documentary Lonely Swallows–Living as the Children of Migrant Workers (2012) won the Grand Prix in Documentary Features at the Brazilian Film Festival. One long-term project she is working on is the documentary Alone in Fukushima which tracks a man who remained behind in a small town to look after cattle located in a nuclear no-man’s land.

Nakamura kindly took the time out of her busy schedule to take part in an interview where she explained the origins of the story, her influences, and how she and a small cast and crew filmed it. This interview was originally connected to the screening of the film as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, where it won the Japan Cuts Award Special Mention. Its posting coincides with its streaming availability as part of JAPAN CUTS. My thanks go out to the filmmaker and the organizers who made this conversation happen.

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To Sleep So as to Dream 夢みるように眠りたい (1986) Director: Kaizo Hayashi [Japan Cuts 2021]

To Sleep So as to Dream   To Sleep So as to Dream Film Poster

夢みるように眠りたい Yumemiru you ni nemuritai

Release Date: May 18th, 1986

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Kaizo Hayashi

Writer: Kaizo Hayashi (Script), 

Starring: Shiro Sano, Koji Otake Moe Kamura, Kenji Endo, Fujiko Fukamizu, Baiken Jukkanji, Kyoko Kusajima, Kazunari Ozawa, Morio Agata,

Website IMDB

Kaizo Hayashi’s 1986 film, To Sleep so as to Dream, re-emerged like a dimly remembered fantasy onto cinema screens last year after receiving a crowd-funded 2K restoration. Hayashi is probably best known for his Mike Hammer detective trilogy – The Most Terrible Time in My Life (1994), Stairway to the Distant Past (1995), The Trap (1996) – and the recently released Fukushima disaster-inspired omnibus movie BOLT (2020) but his debut, which he made at the age of 29 and with zero experience on a film set, deserves to be more widely seen as he pulls off a narratively audacious metacinema narrative that is an eerily beautiful paean to Japan’s silent cinema past and the joys of silver screen illusions.

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Mari and Mari  彼女来来  (2021) Director: Tatsuya Yamanishi [Japan Cuts 2021]

Mari and Mari   She Came Film Poster

彼女来来 Kanojo Rairai

Release Date: June 18th 2021

Duration: 91 mins.

Director: Tatsuya Yamanishi

Writer: Tatsuya Yamanishi (Script), 

Starring: Kou Maehara, Hana Amano, Nao, Hirona Murata, Asuka Hamaru,

Website

With a mission to marry and unleash the creative talents of filmmakers and musicians, MOOSIC LAB has quickly established itself as one of Japan’s foremost labels for quirky and interesting indie films made on a shoestring budget. Although POP! won the Grand Prix and Best Actress Award at the MOOSIC LAB 2020-2021 awards, runner-up prize-winning film Mari and Mari is the first to make the transition to the international festival circuit with its play at Japan Cuts 2021.

Marrying the distinctively disquieting music by Rei Miyamoto, a violinist in the popular Kansai band “Vampillia,” with a quasi-mystery storyline and the eerie atmospherics created by newbie feature film writer/director Tatsuya Yamanishi, Mari and Mari presents a relationship drama that is open to interpretation due to its ambiguity, something which will either intrigue or frustrate viewers.

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School Radio to Major Tom こちら放送室よりトム少佐へ (2020) Director: Takuya Chisaka [Japan Cuts 2021]

School Radio to Major Tom

こちら放送室よりトム少佐へKochira hoso-shitsu yori Tomu shosa e

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 10 mins.

Director: Takuya Chisaka

Writer: Takuya Chisaka (Script), 

Starring: Tokuma Kudo, Chika Arakawa,

School Radio to Major Tom was produced as a third-year training assignment at Nihon University by Takuya Chisaka and went on to win the Entertainment Award at the 2020 edition of the Pia Film Festival. One glance at its title will tip off the musically-inclined that it takes inspiration from David Bowie and it proves to be true as it draws upon his classic song Space Oddity for a short film about two lonely high school students reaching out to each other through the stars via radio.

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A Preview of Japan Cuts 2021 (August 20th – September 02nd)

Japan Cuts Hollywood Header

Japan Cuts runs from August 20th-September 2nd for its 2021 edition. It is a hybrid event with in-person screenings and online screenings via a virtual cinema. There are 8 features that will be screened in a theatre and 21 features and 12 shorts that will screened online across 14 days.

The selection is good as it covers indie and studio features, shorts, both live-action and animated, and a grip of modern classics. This highlight has been split up into the following sections with each of the films and their details. I hope it will help people decide what they want to see:

 In Theatre | Experimental Spotlight | Documentary Focus |Feature Films | Shorts | Classics | Next Generation

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