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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Summer Wedding 恋がする Director: Azusa Hieda [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] V-Cinema

Summer Wedding    Summer Wedding Film Poster

恋がする Koigasuru

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 17 mins.

Director: Azusa Hieda

Writer: Azusa Hieda (Screenplay),

Starring: Rika Kurosawa, Daiki Nunami,

Azusa Hieda’s profound short film Summer Wedding uses the Covid-19 pandemic as a prompt for the self-reflection and change in its main character.

The titular summer wedding should be a happy affair but it is rife with countervailing emotions stemming from its setting. This wedding is a makeshift event held not in a church but in a suburban house due for demolition. Furthermore, its participants, a less-than-blushing bride (Rika Kurosawa) and her lover (Daiki Nunami), seem uneasy around each other. “If it weren’t for Covid, we wouldn’t be here,” says the bride wistfully as she prepares her own cake and directs the unofficiated, unattended, and, ultimately, melancholy ceremony.

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An Interview with Mai Nakanishi about Her Horror Short “SWALLOW”

As a horror film fan, Mai Nakanishi is talking my language. When I first saw HANA at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019, it stood out to me as an expertly crafted minimalist horror film given depth by having a subtext about motherhood and career pressure. When news of her latest film came to me, I was very much excited at the prospect of seeing more of her work and that work is… SWALLOW

SWALLOW is Nakanishi’s sophomore short film where the rivalry between two actresses culminates in them attending a banquet which one believes holds the promise of providing food that can sustain her youth. Underneath a bit of body horror lies a satire of our beauty-obsessed world which drives women to pursue youth and good looks at any cost. Expertly shot, this Taiwan-set film features an exquisite horror atmosphere of lavish sets drenched in red and a gripping short character study brought to life by excellent dialogue and performances. 

Mai_picThis is just the next step for Nakanishi who has worked in various roles, including as an assistant director for Eric Khoo and as a producer on the Japanese segments for the horror anthology ABCs of DEATH 2. Most tellingly, she is a founder and director of Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo, an event which champions horror movies from a female perspective.

In the run-up to SWALLOW playing at forthcoming Skip City D-Cinema Festival, both online (July 21 – 27) and also on site (Convention Hall – 7/18, 13:50 – and the Audio Visual Hall – 7/22, 11:0o), as well as playing online at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (July 07-17). She generously allowed me the chance to watch her latest work and interview her about her fascination with horror, life after HANA, and the making of SWALLOW in Taiwan during Covid conditions, and much more.


Thanks for allowing me to watch SWALLOW”. I was really impressed by HANA– congratulations on Hanawinning the Goule D’or Directors Award at the 2019 Portland Horror Film Festival and Best Short Film at the 2018 Monsters of Film in Sweden! – and I was intrigued to find out where your career would go next, especially because I am also a fan of horror films. SWALLOWis your second work and it has won an award already at the Tampere Film Festival 2022 where it won a Special Mention in the Generation XYZ competition – so congratulations go out for that, too!

I’m grateful to get the chance to interview you and have a number of questions.

Looking at your career, horror films are your chosen metier. What inspired you to become a filmmaker and why focus on horror movies?

I actually started my career in film business with experiences ranging from marketing, programming and acquisitions of films for pay-TV broadcaster and international sales and acquisitions for film distribution companies. I’ve only been involved in filmmaking since 2013, where I had the opportunities to work with international genre stalwarts as a producer, assistant director and assistant production designer and before I knew it, I was directing “HANA”.

I’ve been a huge of fan of the horror genre since I was small. There are many great horror films containing hidden subtext and relevant social commentary beneath the thrills and scares which fascinate me.

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Swallow 喰之女 Director: Mai Nakanishi (2021)

Swallow

喰之女

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 23 mins.

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Script),

Starring: Han Ning (Mimi), Liu Dai-Ying (Xue-Lan), Vera Chan (Annie), Arrow Chih-Hsuan Peng (Waiter),

 IMDB

One woman’s greedy pursuit of movie stardom leads to a sticky end in Swallow, a 22-minute short from Mai Nakanishi. Winner of a Special Mention at the Generation XYZ competition at Tampere Film Festival 2022, Nakanishi’s film offers a grisly and gorgeous story that gives audiences a bite of body horror, a taste of surreal imagery, and some ideas to digest in a satirical take of our beauty-obsessed culture. For such a short film, there is a lot on offer to delight the senses and intellect.

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Melting Sounds ほとぼりメルトサウンズ Director: Kahori Higashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Melting Sounds        Melting Sounds Film Poster

ほとぼりメルトサウンズ Hotobori Meruto Saunzu

Release Date: July 16th, 2022

Duration: 80 mins.

Director: Kahori Higashi

Writer: Kahori Higashi, Yuichi Nagatsuma (Screenplay),

Starring: xiangyu, Keiichi Suzuki, Amon Hirai, Umeno Uno, Tadashi Sakata,

Much like many of the previous films released under the aegis of MOOSIC LAB, like Dong Teng Town, Soul Music, and Sleeping Insect, Kahori Higashi’s Melting Sounds mixes music with low-key dramatic ruminations of mortality and ties everything together with a quirky character. Said quirky character is played by xiangyu, an electropop star and frequent collaborator of Suiyobi no Campanella, who offers her offbeat music and cute personality to a film that is cute and quietly devastating as it gets into the issues of losing things before offering a life-affirming way of rescue.

The story begins in Kiryu, a rural city in Gunma Prefecture, one winter when a young woman named Koto (xiangyu) arrives at her grandmother’s former home for a solo getaway trip from the city. Upon arriving she is met by the sight of a cardboard tent set up in the garden, the proprietor of which is an old man named Take (Keiichi Suzuki). Less oddball and more archivist, he has an array of analogue recording devices with which he records sounds of everyday life on cassette tapes before burying them in the ground to create “sound graves.” Koto, intrigued, joins in.

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The Residents 暮らしの残像 Director: Kahori Higashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

The Residents

暮らしの残像 Kurashi no Zanzo

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 16 mins.

Director: Kahori Higashi

Writer: Kahori Higashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Toma Hirose, Yukimi Soma, Rin Oka, Shinoka Mashima, Tiffany Fujimoto,

In a case of the English title being a better fit for the film, Kahori Higashi’s short film The Residents hides a powerful twist that the Japanese title gives away. What initially starts as a simple comedy of manners drawn from a deluge of quirky characters in one location turns out to be something more as viewers get to know more about the titular residents. 

The Residents Film Image

What do you get when you stick housewife, a flautist, a hostess, two lovers, and an aspiring actor in a cramped apartment on a sticky hot summer’s day? While this sounds like the set-up for a convoluted joke, it is the beginnings of a melancholy tale.

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

 

ID09_Out of TOKYO 202x_director

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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Out of TOKYO202x Director: Akinori Ikuse [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] V-Cinema

Out of TOKYO202x    Out of Tokyo 2020 Film Poster

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 14 mins.

Director: Akinori Ikuse

Writer: Takuya Matsuura (Screenplay),

Starring: Ucyu Imagawa, So Morozumi,

From George Pal’s classic The Time Machine (1960) to Robert Zemeckis’ crowd-pleaser Back to the Future (1985), to Shane Carruth’s puzzling low-budget indie Primer (2004) and Christopher Nolan’s epic espionage thriller Tenet (2020), time travel films come in many forms that show that the genre is truly timeless. Even now, new ideas keep emerging. Writer Takuya Matsuura and director Akinori Ikuse add to the genre with their Olympics-inspired short Out of Tokyo 202x, a hopeful story that relays romance and razzamatazz found at the Tokyo 2020 games.

if09_2

It starts with young time traveller Rika (Ucyu Imagawa) meeting mysterious young man Shin (So Morozumi) amidst a crowd of onlookers during the opening ceremonies of the summer games. Their discussion of temporal movement smoothly slips the proceedings into the realm of the sci-fi as we learn more about Rika’s novel method of traversing time via the manipulation of masses of collected data, like photos, videos, and blogs. She is from the future but it turns out that he is actually from even further forward in time. As the atmosphere of the day overtakes them, their relationship blossoms into something deeper.

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

ID07_North Shinjuku 2055_director

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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