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Japanese Films at the Locarno Film Festival 2020 (05th-15th August)

2020 Locarno Film Festival Header

The Locarno Film Festival runs from August 05th to the 15th and they have announced their selection of films. Like last year there are two Japanese films (well, one’s a US-Japan co-production and the other’s a France-Japan co-production) but these are both shorts and were subjects of crowdfunding campaigns. Apparently, you can watch the films online when the festival goes live. Here they are!

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The Day of Destruction 破壊の日 (2020) Dir: Toshiaki Toyoda

The Day of Destruction    The Day of Destruction Film Poster

破壊の日Hakai no Hi

Release Date: July 24th, 2020

Duration: 57 mins.

Director: Toshiaki Toyoda

Writer: Toshiaki Toyoda (Script),

Starring: Kiyohiko Shibukawa, MahiToThePeople (of the band GEZAN in his debut film role), Issey Ogata, Yosuke Kubozuka, Ryuhei Matsuda, Itsuki Nagasawa, Shima Onishi, Misa Wada,

Website IMDB

Released on July 24th, what would have been the opening day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, The Day of Destruction would have been a slice of counter-programming that rages against the ills of society while it basked in the aura of Olympic spectacle. Even in the absence of the games, the film still retains its power as a unique “state of the nation” address thanks to its director compiling issues into a unique story.

Toshiaki Toyoda has long made films about people on the fringes and struggling to find their way, criticising the state and its treatment of citizens. He himself has been subject to violations of his rights when he was arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm and held without charge. It later turned out to be a family heirloom from World War II but the police turned it into a media spectacle. Japan continues to be rocked by numerous government corruption scandals, incompetent handling of Covid-19, and the silencing of political dissent by the increasingly fascistic LDP. It must feel that the country is on the highway to disaster and this film picks up on that sense of impending doom.

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Kinta and Ginji 金太と銀次 Dir: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura (2020)

Kinta and Ginji    Kinta and Ginji Film Poster

金太と銀次 Kinta to Ginji

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura

Writer: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura (Script),

Starring: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura

“No man is a failure who has friends”

Welcome to the friendship between Kinta and Ginji, the titular duo of an indie film written, edited, scored, performed, and co-directed by Takuya Dairiki and Takashi Miura. Friends since childhood, for their 12th film together these native sons of Osaka have concocted a warmhearted and whimsical experience that you probably won’t see outside of a film festival but it bears the charms of a well-worn friendship.

Kinta & Ginji follows the daily lives of Kinta, a raccoon who wears a red cap, and Ginji, a boxy robot with a shiny silver sheen. They are played by the directors, in their simple self-made costumes, and they are portrayed living in an unremarkable forest where they spend their time chatting with the comedic patter of Kansai dialect which we hear in winding conversations as the two wend their way through the woods. This wryly funny buddy movie doesn’t really have any structure to it other than most scenes have circular conversations and some conversations are iterative as they get circled back to later during the friend’s perambulations.

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Sacrifice サクリファイス Dir: Taku Tsuboi (2019)

Sacrifice  Sacrifice Film Poster

サクリファイス  Sakurifaisu

Release Date: March 06th, 2020

Duration: 76 mins.

Director: TakTsuboi

Writer: Taku Tsuboi (Screenplay)

Starring: Yuzu Aoki, Michiko Gomi, Miki Handa, Kosuke Fujita, Yasuyuki Sakurai, Hatsune Yazaki, Hana Shimomura, Chieko Misaka,

Website

Following working with with Makoto Shinozaki on 3.11 psychology/premonition drama Sharing and Kiyoshi Kurosawa on haunting ghost story Journey to the Shore, Taku Tsuboi made his directorial debut with Sacrifice as part of his work at Rikkyo University. He draws upon the aforementioned films and uses a murder mystery narrative mixed with a doomsday cult context to make an interesting low-key thriller that is heavy on contemplation as three teens ponder their place in the world while dark forces swirl on the edge of their reality.

We are first introduced to Midori (Michiko Gomi), a young woman who once belonged to a cult named Shio no kai (Golden Wave) when she was a child. She predicted the Great East Japan Earthquake while she was a member but escaped their clutches and is now a university student keeping a low profile lest the cult’s followers find and kidnap her for her much coveted powers of premonition. However, when a serial cat killer near the campus graduates to offing a student, Midori is reluctantly drawn to the case. Already investigating is a pretty, and pretty deceitful, student named Toko (Miki Handa) who seeks to enliven her dull reality by toying with the person she suspects is the culprit, her seemingly affable classmate Okita (Yuzu Aoki) who might be hiding a dark side behind his nice smile. All the while, graduation looms and the violence of the adult world and natural disasters presses upon the three.

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Interview with Kontora Director Anshul Chauhan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Osaka Asian Film Festival Anshul Chauhan

My final interview at this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) was with director Anshul Chauhan. We had first met at OAFF 2018 when he participated an interview following the Japanese premiere of his debut feature Bad Poetry Tokyo. This year, he was back with his sophomore feature Kontora, which came to Osaka after having won the Grand Prix for the best film and the award for Best Music (for composer Yuma Koda) at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival a few months earlier.

Kontora was one of the stand-outs of OAFF 2020. Majestically shot in black and white, it’s bursting with feelings of discontent felt by the main character, high school girl Sora (Wan Marui). Drifting away from her distant father (Taichi Yamada) and living in a dull town, she finds hope in her recently deceased grandfather’s wartime diary after her beloved relative passes away as she finds clues to some “treasure” buried in a forest. Just as a treasure hunt starts, a mysterious vagrant (Hidemasa Mase) appears in town. Mute and walking backwards, he is a strange sight but his presence forces a change in the relationship between daughter and father. A strange family drama unfolds with a tone halfway between elegiac and angry with a sheen of mystery and history linked to the “treasure” and family dynamics that rope in a greedy uncle (Takuzo Shimizu) and a cousin named Haru (Seira Kojima).

Chauhan and his wife, the film’s producer Mina Moteki, sat down to talk about the film and explain more about its creation, the work put in by the actors and his wider film career. This interview was first conducted at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and then via email and has been edited for length.

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Kontora コントラ Dir: Anshul Chauhan「Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020」

Kontora   

コントラKontora

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 145 mins.

Director: Anshul Chauhan

Writer: Anshul Chauhan (Script) 

Starring: Wan Marui, Seira Kojima, Hidemasa Mase, Takuzo Shimizu, Taichi Yamada, 

OAFF  Twitter IMDB

A lonely teenage girl enduring adolescent turmoil amidst a fractured family’s feud, finds the arrival of a mysterious mute man in her small town allows her to communicate with others. This is the story for Anshul Chauhan’s sophomore feature following his woman-on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown indie drama Bad Poetry Tokyo (2017). Kontora has different atmospherics thanks to its look, raw performance of its lead actress, its generation-spanning story and its touch of the supernatural, so that this film stands distinct from what is normally churned out in Japan in its depiction of contemporary girlhood.

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“Bleached Bones Avenue” Interview with Akio Fujimoto (Director) and Kentaro Kishi (Cinematographer) and Kazutaka Watanabe (Producer) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Kazutaka Watanabe, Akio Fujimoto, Kentaro Kishi - Bleached Bones Avenue

Bleached Bones Avenue is director Akio Fujimoto’s follow-up to his drama Passage of Life (2017). It is another film that looks at the shared links between Japan and Myanmar but this time, instead of a family drama, it is unearthing history.

Deep in the hills of Myanmar’s Chin state, Fujimoto and his crew met with a group of people who are dedicated to recovering the bones of Japanese soldiers who died during the Imphal campaign. It was a reckless attack by poorly supplied soldiers who were forced into a gruelling retreat through tough terrain and severe monsoon rains. Beset by malaria and dysentery, a lack of food and medical supplies, many men became sick and many perished, their bodies decomposing in the places they fell. The route they took became known as Hakkotsu Kaido, Bleached Bones Avenue in English. The local hill tribes who experienced these events have passed on their memories to their descendants who Fujimoto and his crew observe for this 16 minute film that connects past and present in a unique way.

The film’s director Akio Fujimoto, actor and cinematographer Kentaro Kishi and producer Kazutaka Watanabe sat down to discuss their work and went into fascinating detail.

This interview was conducted with the help of Kazutaka Watanabe’s lively interpretation.

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Bleached Bones Avenue 白骨街道 Dir: Akio Fujimoto [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Bleached Bones Avenue

白骨街道Hakkotsu kaidō

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 16 mins.

Director: Akio Fujimoto

Writer: N/A

Starring: Pu paul pau, Lang Za Khup

OAFF

Screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020, Bleached Bones Avenue is the latest title from director Akio Fujimoto and, on the face of it, this short is a curious follow-up film to his previous work, the family drama Passage of Life (2017), which was shown at the festival back in 2018. However, it continues to examine the human links between Japan and Myanmar in its own unique way.

Fujimoto’s latest film takes place in Myanmar’s Chin state and observes the work of a team from the Zomi tribe who recover the remains of Japanese soldiers who died during the battle of Imphal. We watch as these men, each clad in simple tracksuits, hoodies and t-shirts, prepare for their work then travel by SUV to some remote area. A stream of sequences flow by where the action consists of the team traversing steep mountains, dense with trees, where they dig with simple tools. The only sounds are of bird cries, the voices the men and the tools they use as they gouge out chunks of earth in the hope of bones surfacing from the past. Although the environment looks as if it has remained untouched by human hands, the scars of war are gradually unearthed. This is most potently evidenced in the memories of wartime atrocities passed on from older members of the team to the younger ones and the wreckage of a tank which forms the focal point of a valley. As with the digging, human connections resurface from the river of time and the natural landscape.

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Hammock Dir: Kentaro Kishi (2018) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Hammock

Release Date: 2018

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Kentaro Kishi

Writer: Kentaro Kishi (Script), 

Starring: Kanae Kishi, Naoko Ema, Kaworu Kishi, Philippe Aymard, Hugo Minaki,

OAFF Website

Kentaro Kishi is a multi-hyphenate talent who works as a writer, director, cinematographer and actor and his efforts stretch across genres, from splatter movies like Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl (2008) to indie dramas The Sower (2016), Noise and Passage of Life (2017). As a director, his credits include Record Future (2011) and Hammock (2018), the latter of which played at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 where it won the Housen Short Film Award. Here, Kishi takes on many roles and recruits his family to create an intimate 30-minute short drawing on the different perceptions in their relationship to examine how the act of looking can reinforce the connections between people.

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Interview with VIDEOPHOBIA Director Daisuke Miyazaki [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

One of the highlights of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 was VIDEOPHOBIA, the latest work of Daisuke Miyazaki. A frequent visitor to Osaka, many of his works are youth-focused, with Yamato (California) (2016) and Tourism (2018) being screened at the festival. His films frequently capture the cultural zeitgeist for young people as young women with smartphones navigate various issues to carve out their own niche in the world. Yet VIDEOPHOBIA comes completely out of left-field as it’s an existential horror movie where technology drives a young woman into a fog of paranoia and fear.

Filmed around the less well-known areas of the city of Osaka and shot in black and white, it is a deeply unsettling experience as we witness melancholy 20-something Ai (Tomona Hirota) have a one-night stand with a stranger only to discover that a highly explicit sex-tape has been made of the encounter. It is a shocking discovery that plunges her into a panic that gets worse the more technology manipulates and alters her perception of herself. Things get so bad that she begins to question her own sanity and identity, realizing that the only way to rectify her situation is through total dissolution of her character. The audience is prompted to think about various social issues as Miyazaki pries apart the cracks in contemporary life and how incessant exposure to technology alters how we perceive ourselves. Full review here.

Miyazaki sat down to discuss the making of the film, the real-world topics that form the basis of the story and how he hopes the audience will engage with it amidst the ironies of our always-connected social media landscape.

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