A Movie Capital 映画の都 Dir: Toshio Iizuka (1991) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival]

A Movie CapitalYIDFF A Movie Capital Case

映画の都ー山形国際ドキュメンタリー映画祭’89 Eiga no Miyako – Yamagata Kokusai Dokyumentari- Eigasai ‘89

Release Date: March 25th, 1991

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Toshio Iizuka

Writer: N/A

Starring: Hiroshi Teshigahara, Shinsuke Ogawa, Stephen Teo, Peggy Chiao Hsiung-ping, Raquel Gerber, Jon Jost, Katheryn Taverner, Alan Adelson,

Yamagata Site

The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) is now a treasured biannual event that brings together filmmakers and audiences in programmes designed to showcase films as well as generate new talents and works. This commitment to cultivating community engagement and individual talent was present in the intentions of organisers and attendees from its inception as seen in A Movie Capital, an informative and enjoyable record of the inaugural YIDFF, Asia’s first documentary film festival.

A Movie Capital

A Movie Capital was Toshio Iizuka’s debut work after being part of pioneering filmmaker Shinsuke Ogawa’s Ogawa Productions for around 20 years and working with the collective on documentaries covering topics like the Sanrizuka Struggle. As Ogawa Productions were working in Yamagata prefecture, they were best placed to help organisers establish and document the inaugural YIDFF in 1989 and Iizuka comes off as the right pick for the job as he marshals the assembled footage to create a film that locates the event’s place in history and its meaning to participants.

Continue reading “A Movie Capital 映画の都 Dir: Toshio Iizuka (1991) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival]”

Domains 王国 (あるいはその家について)  (2019) Dir: Natsuka Kusano

Domains    王国(あるいはその家について)  Domains Film Poster

王国 (あるいはその家について) Ookoku (aruiwa sono-ka ni tsuite)

Running Time: 150 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director:  Natsuka Kusano

Writer: Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Asami Shibuya, Tomo Kasajima, Tomomitsu Adachi, Ryu Kenta

A friendship torn asunder by the death of a child is material fit for a melodrama full of meltdowns and confession but in Domains, director Natsuka Kusano offers a dissection of a relationship in an unconventional form that proved so hypnotic, it became one of the most absorbing film experiences I have watched in years. (slight spoilers)

Domains, produced as an original video work for the Aichi Arts Center, is Kusano’s follow-up to her debut Antonym. For her second film, she re-teamed with Antonym’s writer Tomoyuki Takahashi (Touching the Skin of EerinessHappy Hour) to craft a structurally inventive way in which to tell this story as they utilise repetition and variation to slowly build out the emotional dimensions of the relationship.

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Touching the Skin of Eeriness 不気味なものの肌に触れる (2014) Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Touching the Skin of Eeriness  Touching the Skin of Eeriness Film Poster

不気味なものの肌に触れる  「Bukimina mono no Hada ni Fureru」 

Release Date: March 01st, 2014

Running Time: 54 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Natsumi Seto, Jun Murakami, Ayumi Mizukoshi, Hoshi Ishida, Aoba Kawai,

IMDB

It’s all “show, don’t tell” in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Touching the Skin of Eeriness, a medium-length film that uses body language and interpretive dance rather than words to speak.

Made before Happy Hour (2015), his big international breakout, Touching the Skin of Eeriness was a project that Hamaguchi originally envisioned as a pilot film designed to get funding for a larger project named FLOOD. Featuring Shota Sometani (Himizu) in a lead role just as he became a big star in Japan with mainstream movies Parasyte, Wood Job!, and Bakuman, it was a departure for the actor who shines in one of Hamaguchi’s most opaque films where the focus is on the intimate physical movements of the actors and the background atmosphere to relay information.

Continue reading “Touching the Skin of Eeriness 不気味なものの肌に触れる (2014) Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi”

Ushiku 牛久 Dir: Ian Thomas Ash (2021) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]

Ushiku

牛久 Ushiku

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Ian Thomas Ash

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website

Selected to play in the Perspectives Japan section of the Yamagata International Documentary Festival, Ushiku gives an alternate view of Japan by allowing people stuck in the country’s notoriously difficult refugee system a chance to speak out.

Winner of the Asian Perspective Award at DMZ Docs and Nippon Connection’s Nippon Docs Award, Ushiku is the latest documentary from Ian Thomas Ash, a Tokyo-based American filmmaker who often tackles taboo subjects – see his 2013 documentary A2-B-C about the effects of radiation on children in certain areas around Fukushima. For his latest work, he travels to the Ushiku refugee centre in Ibaraki Prefecture to get first-hand accounts from inmates who have spent years locked up in the hope that they can become part of the 0.5% of applicants who get accepted by their host nation – the lowest refugee intake out of all the G7 countries.

Continue reading “Ushiku 牛久 Dir: Ian Thomas Ash (2021) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]”

Alone Again in Fukushima  ナオト、いまもひとりっきり Dir: Mayu Nakamura (2021) [Yamagata International Film Festival 2021]

Alone Again in Fukushima   Alone Again in Fukushima Film Poster

ナオト、いまもひとりっきり 「Naoto, Ima mo Hitorikkiri 」

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director: Mayu Nakamura

Writer: N/A

Starring: Naoto Matsumura, Daisuke Matsumura, Shinichi Hangai, Toshiko Hangai,

Website

“He has a heart. Only a person with a heart would do what he is doing.” I’m paraphrasing the words of Shinichi Hangai in his description of Naoto Matsumura, a former builder who, in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, stayed behind to care for Hangai’s cattle when people living in the shadow of he Fukushima nuclear reactors were ordered to evacuate. On top of farm animals, Matsumura became a guardian to a whole host of other creatures great and small in an extraordinary story of humanity in the face disaster. A decade on from the 3/11 disaster, director Mayu Nakamura releases an update on Matsumura who remained near a danger zone to continue with his selfless act.

Continue reading “Alone Again in Fukushima  ナオト、いまもひとりっきり Dir: Mayu Nakamura (2021) [Yamagata International Film Festival 2021]”

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.

Continue reading “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]”

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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Last of the Wolves 孤狼の血 LEVEL2 Director: Kazuya Shiraishi (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

Last of the Wolves   Last of the Wolves Film Poster

孤狼の血 LEVEL2   Korou no Chi Level 2

Release Date: August 20th 2021

Duration: 139 mins.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Junya Ikegami (Script), Yuko Yuzuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Tori Matsuzaka, Ryohei Suzuki, Nijiro Murakami, Nanase Nishino, Taichi Saotome, Takumi Saito, Kotaro Yoshida, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Miwako Kakei, Susumu Terajima, Hiroki Miyake,

Website IMDB

The Last of the Wolves is director Kazuya Shiraishi’s sequel to Blood of the Wolves, his well-received 2018 yakuza film. With his latest work, he returns to the crime world of Yuko Yuzuki’s novel trilogy but only going as far as taking key elements and characters as scriptwriter Junya Ikegami concocts a brand new story that provides thrills and spills perfect for a gangster film.

Set three years after the bloody climax of The Blood of Wolves, detective Shuichi Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka) has stepped up into his former partner’s position to implement a plan to control the local yakuza and prevent further gang wars in Kurehara and Hiroshima. This delicate balance of power is upset by a vicious gangster named Uebayashi (Ryohei Suzuki) who is back on the streets following time in the infamous Abashiri Prison. He is looking to avenge a gang boss slain in the previous film and that sets him on a collision course with Hioka. Along the way, many people will get hurt.

Continue reading “Last of the Wolves 孤狼の血 LEVEL2 Director: Kazuya Shiraishi (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]”