An Interview with Kohei Takayama, director of “The Path Leading to Love” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Takayama Kohei OAFF Interview

Kohei Takayama was born in Chiba prefecture in 1987. After graduating from Waseda University, he began making indie films such as Ni naru (2015) and Kudaranai kudaranai kono sekai (2016). He was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival to present the world premiere of his latest work, The Path Leading to Love (2018). The story is a downbeat tale of a talented manga artist wasting his skills thanks to alcohol. The main protagonist, Shosuke (Ippei Tanaka) lacks the ability to overcome his alcoholism even though it has ruined relationships with his family, his ex-girlfriend Sawako (Mika Dehara) and threatens his relationship with his current girlfriend Yasuko (Yumi Mukai). The story refuses to look away from the negative aspects of alcoholism and asks the audience to follow a man on his self-destructive path. What makes it a gripping watch is the powerful acting performances from the cast.

Kohei Takayama kindly gave an interview on the penultimate day of the festival at the press centre. Acting as interpreter was Kayoko Nakanishi who was invaluable in helping the conversation flow smoothly and always offering nuanced interpretation of what turned into a philosophical conversation based on the intelligent and thoughtful work of Takayama.

Continue reading “An Interview with Kohei Takayama, director of “The Path Leading to Love” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

The Path Leading to Love アイニ向カッテ Dir: Kohei Takayama (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

The Path Leading to Love    The Path Leading to Love Film Poster

アイニ向カッテ Ai ni Mukatte

Running Time: 76 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Kohei Takayama

Writer: Kohei Takayama (Screenplay),

Starring: Ippei Tanaka, Yumi Mukai, Mika Dehara, Suzuka Minagawa, Koichi Sakaguchi,

Website

Alcohol addiction and writers go together like cookies and cream, or so it seems. The combination of self-destructive artist and liquid fire has been the subject of films like The Lost Weekend (1945), Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and works based on the life and novels of Charles Bukowski. The need to blot out reality comes from many sources and The Path Leading to Love is a quietly powerful film that shows how alcohol blights the life of someone too filled with doubt, cowardice, weakness, and selfishness to overcome it for the sake of others.

 

The drunk is Shosuke (Ippei Tanaka). He could be a promising manga artist but he cannot even approach the foothills of creativity because his alcoholism pushes away his desire to work. It also pushed away his ex-girlfriend Sawako and threatens his relationship with his current partner, the loyal but lovelorn Yasuko.

Continue reading “The Path Leading to Love アイニ向カッテ Dir: Kohei Takayama (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

An Interview with Rina Tanaka, Ryo Kato, Fixy Lee, Takehito Sato, and Kaori Takeshita, the Cast and Crew of the film “Filled With Steam” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

At the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Filled with Steam (2017) was one of the films screened at the Housen section, a place reserved for films that received support from the Housen Cultural Foundation. This organisation aims to further film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of “preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan” through funding shorts and features. This is the second year that OAFF ran a dedicated Housen section and this year there were three films, Girl Returned (2017), Protest (2016), and Filled with Steam.

Filled with Steam is a bittersweet 30-minute dramedy that details a relationship full of secrets as a woman named Midoriko (Ayako Mizuno) and her husband Daisuke (Takehito Sato) drift apart. Midoriko is visiting a pregnancy classroom run by a flamboyant teacher named Miho (Kaori Takeshita) unbeknownst to Daisuke but a series of twists forces the couple to confront the substance of their marriage. Directed by Rina Tanaka, the film displays a talented director working with great people and interesting material to make a thought-provoking human drama. It was warmly received by its audience at its world premiere at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, but questions remained for this correspondent about the use of comedy and the late-stage intervention of a baby. Fortunately. the cast and crew of the film provided answers in a group interview.

Filled with Steam Team
Fixy Lee, Takehito Sato, Rina Tanaka, Ryo Kato, KAori Takeshita

This interview was conducted after the screening with the help of Kayoko Nakanishi, a member of OAFF’s International Press team, who acted as an interpreter and got involved in the lively interview with some questions and comments due to her own enjoyment of the film. Taking part in the interview from the film’s cast and staff were the director, Rina Tanaka, a graduate with a Masters from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Film & New Media, Directing course, the actors Takehito Sato and Kaori Takeshita, the film’s writer Ryota Kato and the editor, Fixy Lee.

Continue reading “An Interview with Rina Tanaka, Ryo Kato, Fixy Lee, Takehito Sato, and Kaori Takeshita, the Cast and Crew of the film “Filled With Steam” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018″

Passage of Life  僕の帰る場所 Dir:  Akio Fujimoto (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Passage of Life    Passage of Life Film Poster

僕の帰る場所 「Boku no kaerubasho

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: November 25th, 2017

Director:  Akio Fujimoto

Writer: Akio Fujimoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Kaung Myat Thu, Khin Myat Thu, Issace, Htet Myat Naing, Yuki Kitagawa, Kanji Tsuda,

IMDB Website

Immigration is a thorny issue the world over and Japan is not immune to it since its tough stance and refusal to take large numbers of refugees draws criticism from nations which have more open policies. Whether this criticism is fair or not is put to the side in Passage of Life, as drama trumps politics.

One of two films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival looking at the immigrant experience of people who are of Burmese extraction and living in Japan, the other being My Country, My Home, it is shot with remarkable confidence considering it is the debut feature-film from Osaka-born director Akio Fujimoto who uses a documentary film style to show the uncertainties of life as an immigrant feeling the pull of two different cultures.

Continue reading “Passage of Life  僕の帰る場所 Dir:  Akio Fujimoto (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

An Interview with Daisuke Miyazaki, director of “TOURISM”, at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Daisuke Miyazaki was born in 1980 in Yokohama, Kanagawa. A passion for analysing films turned into a career when he started making them while studying at Waseda University. In 2004, he participated in New York University’s summer school that took place in Japan. His thesis The 10th Room won the Christine Choi Award, which is the grand prix at the KUT Film Festival held by the NYU. His following film Love Will Tear Us Apart was invited to be a special screening at the Image Forum Film Festival 2006, which is the largest experimental film festival in Japan.

The next stage in his career was to work his way up through the film world from lighting assistant to acting as an assistant director for Kiyoshi Kurosawa on Tokyo Sonata(2008). Miyazaki’s first feature film, End of the Night (2011), was exhibited at the Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema International Film Festival, and received a special award at the Toronto Shinsedai Film Festival. His work on the omnibus film 5TO9 was screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 (OAFF) and his second feature Yamato (California) was screened at OAFF 2017.

He returned to OAFF in 2018 with his latest feature film, Tourism, an amusingly hip youth movie following two Japanese girls named Nina (Nina Endo) and Su (SUMIRE) who get lost in Singapore, which was shot in the space of five days. This is the first of a planned five film run which could take Miyazaki around the world.

Daisuke Miyazaki

Miyazaki kindly took part in an interview at the ABC Hall in Osaka midway through the festival where he went into detail about the shoot and his background.

Continue reading “An Interview with Daisuke Miyazaki, director of “TOURISM”, at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

Tourism Dir: Daisuke Miyazaki (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Tourism    Tourism Film Poster

Running Time: 77 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Screenplay),

Starring: Nina Endo, Sumire, Takayuki Yanagi,

IMDB

Daisuke Miyazaki is fast becoming a director to watch., quickly following up his last film Yamato (California) (2017) with Tourism, the second of a two-part video installation commissioned by the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and Singapore International Film Festival for an exhibition called “Specters and Tourists”. The project aimed to explore the nature of contemporary life and an under-seen side of Singapore. Nina Endo, one of the stars of “Yamato (California)”, takes the lead role here (as well as acting as stylist and co-producer) and is paired up with SUMIRE, a popular fashion model and daughter of Tadanobu Asano, to make a cute double-act that Miyazaki sends to Singapore on a journey off the beaten track.

This story happened a while ago, in two countries on a certain planet.”

Continue reading “Tourism Dir: Daisuke Miyazaki (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

An Interview with Anshul Chauhan, Orson Mochizuki, and Takaeshi Kawaguchi Director and Actors of “Bad Poetry Tokyo” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Bad Poetry Tokyo (BPT) is the debut feature film from Anshul Chauhan, an animator turned indie film director. Born in India in 1986, Anshul’s main job is working as an animator in Japan. His career stretches back to 2006 with work in both TV and film and it has progressed to include some recently released major titles such as Final fantasy XV: Kingsglaive and Gantz: O. Life as a live-action director began with short films which is how he met his lead actors for BPT. With his actors lined up and having gained some experience, he finally made the leap into features with this BPT, a dark drama built around an acting tour de force from a trio of talented actors, Shuna Iijima and her co-stars, Orson Mochizuki and Takashi Kawaguchi

Continue reading “An Interview with Anshul Chauhan, Orson Mochizuki, and Takaeshi Kawaguchi Director and Actors of “Bad Poetry Tokyo” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

Bad Poetry Tokyo 東京不穏詩 Dir: Anshul Chauhan (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Bad Poetry Tokyo    Bad Poetry Tokyo Film Poster

東京不穏詩 Tōkyō fuon uta

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Anshul Chauhan

Writer: Anshul Chauhan, Rand Colter (Screenplay), Anshul Chauhan (Original Story)

Starring: Shuna Iijima, Orson Mochizuki, Takashi Kawaguchi, Nana Blank, Kohei Mashiba, Kento Furukoshi,

Website    IMDB

Fake it till you make it. It’s a useful mantra to live by. Appear confident and people will accept it. We all do it, but every once in a while the mask will slip. What happens when you simply run out of energy to hold that mask up?

Jun Fujita (Shuna Iijima) is 30 years old. She majored in English at Tokyo University and dreams of appearing in Hollywood movies. For the time being, though, she works as a hostess at a shady club where her boyfriend Taka (Orson Mochizuki) is employed as a barman. Some of that is true, some of that is false. Life hasn’t turned out the way Jun imagined when she fled her home in Nagano Prefecture five years ago. Still, she yearns to be an actress and is about to make it when betrayed by her lover. Broken and made savage by the experience, she heads back to her sleepy countryside hometown to lick her wounds. As far as she can tell, things seemingly haven’t changed much when she first arrives and is reunited with her father and her old lover Yuki (Takashi Kawaguchi), which is a problem because there are ugly secrets about her past that made her flee in the first place.CO01_BadPoetryTokyo

The drama of Bad Poetry Tokyo opens with a sequence showing Jun perpetrating a violent attack while her narration tells us some of what has driven her to this point. It then cuts back to an earlier period of time so viewers can trace the sequence of events that has to the moment that the weight of the world has become too heavy for Jun to bear.

Continue reading “Bad Poetry Tokyo 東京不穏詩 Dir: Anshul Chauhan (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

Yosuke Takeuchi Interview at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Yosuke Takeuchi is an award-winning independent filmmaker based in Japan. Born Yosuke Takeuchiin 1978, he graduated from Shibaura Institute of Technology in 2000 and, in 2002, went to France to learn painting. In 2003, his work won the Jury’s Special Award at the exhibition of the Academie de Port-Royal before he took to travelling to various places in Europe and Africa. In 2004, Takeuchi returned to Japan and started his career as a filmmaker, debuting with Segutsu which was nominated for the Short Shorts Film Festival in Tokyo in 2008. His short film Katsuko won the Associate Grand Prix at the Mito Short Film Festival and his screenplay for People’s Vanity won an award at a contest for new writers in 2012.

His time in Paris proved to be very influential since it was there that he first encountered the works of Vincent van Gogh and was inspired by them. That inspiration went into The Sower, his first feature film which transplanted aspects of the tragic artist into characters seen on the screen and tackled issues surrounding mental illness. Made in 2016, this drama has been screened at Nippon Connection 2017 as well as the 57th Thessaloniki Film Festival where it won Takeuchi the Best Director award as well as netting the Best Actress award for its young lead Suzuno Takenaka. It received its Japan Premiere at the 2018 Osaka Asian Film Festival which is where this interview took place.

This interview was conducted with the help of the interpreter Mana Kukimoto, a volunteer at the Osaka Asian Film Festival whose help proved important for the development of the conversation that took place.

Continue reading “Yosuke Takeuchi Interview at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

The Sower 種をまく人 Dir: Yosuke Takeuchi (2016) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

The Sower      A1PosterAward2

種をまく人  Tane o maku hito」    

Running Time: 117 mins.

Release Date: 2016

Director: Yosuke Takeuchi

Writer: Yosuke Takeuchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Kentaro Kishi, Suzuno Takenaka, Tomomitsu Adachi, Arisa Nakajima, Ichika Takeuchi,

IMDB           Website

As far as movies inspired by artists go, most tend to be autobiographical such as “Lust for Life” (1956) which stars Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh. Yosuke Takeuchi’s film “The Sower” is an independent movie that takes inspiration from that famous and tragic artist who lived with a naive but passionate connection with the world and suffered for it.

Mitsuo, the lead character here, fixates on sunflowers, wears a hat and bears a beard that is similar to the genius who roamed the fields of Provence, but Mitsuo’s story finds itself connected to the efforts made by farmers and volunteers to plant sunflowers across swathes of Fukushima prefecture to help the soil absorb radiation leaked from the region’s damaged nuclear power plant but have they absorbed other aspects of life? Mitsuo is the titular “Sower”, a man who believes they have. He is riven by guilt over a death he had no power over but it isn’t just his story, it is that of the people around him, all of whom are unique individuals with issues.

Mitsuo (Kentaro Kishi) was one of those brave souls who answered the call for volunteers to clear out the debris left behind by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. The strain of the task proved to be too much and he spent three years in psychiatric care. Upon his release, Mitsuo finds solace when he is warmly welcomed into the home of his younger brother Yuta (Tomomitsu Adachi) and meets his sister-in-law Yoko (Arisa Nakajima) and two nieces, elementary school-girl Chie (Suzuno Takenaka) and Itsuki (Ichika Takeuchi), a three-year-old with down-syndrome. This sweet moment of family bonding is shattered by tragedy when the two girls are left in Mitsuo’s care and Itsuki dies in an accident. Even though he had no direct involvement in the incident, Mitsuo is blamed and he must deal with the burden of guilt and the struggle for atonement while Chie suffers equally as much over whether to tell the truth of what happened or not…

This slow-burn drama is something of a revelation. Considering it is Takeuchi’s debut feature film, it is an amazing achievement since it has so much grace and builds up an emotional current through patient direction and perfect acting that it sweeps the audience into a realm of individual’s suffering from profound emotions in such an almost visceral and a very beautiful and heartfelt way.

The film hinges upon the idea of guilt, trauma, and grief warping both Mitsuo and Chie and the people around them, trapping everyone in a negative space which brings out the worst in people and, for those too naive  to understand what is happening, it is better to remain silent than open up. This is nothing new. Chie is the subject of bullying and Mitsuo has seen horrific things in Fukushima as made clear in the opening, but neither verbalises it, her isolation from the class and his haggard look saying a lot more. How to tell such things to others? It’s a difficult struggle.

The_Sower_1Chie

Any attempt to tell the truth about what happened to Itsuki is handicapped by people’s prejudices towards those with mental health issues, protectiveness over children, and grudges held over perceived wrongdoing in the past. Family, the one place that should be a refuge becomes a minefield of broiling emotions, the implications and consequences of which rise organically as the temperature of the drama rises with every story twist while also offering a strong social commentary.

Yosuke Takeuchi is an artist who studied painting in Paris which is where he was inspired by Van Gogh. However his own story has become part of this film such as a niece with special needs taking on the role of Itsuki and his thoughts on how society treats people who are different. The hesitation to love those who have down-syndrome, the fear of genetic contamination and lack of understanding for mental health issues, they are all present in the minds of characters. They verbalise these contentious issues in dialogue that could be heard in everyday life and we see how wrong it is as we come to understand the suffering of Mitsuo and Chie who are tragically too naive to cope and it is harrowing stuff to watch them be buffeted around by the emotions of their community.

The acting and mise-en-scene are naturalistic allowing us to enter the conflict. Early scenes are documentary-like with fast editing at the start that helps builds up character, setting, and, tension until the horrific moment occurs and then the film slows down, using many extended sequences to locate the character in their environment, little Chie avoiding others by being alone while Mitsuo is shambling around with a shell-shocked look when he isn’t sowing seeds with fervour as an act of atonement.

The_Sower_2Mitsuo

Takeuchi favours scenes full of close-ups to show the aftermath of every emotional encounter such as when adults fight over Chie or when people openly talk about Mitsuo’s mental health issues and others must listen uncomfortably. These close-ups are even more powerful tracking the increasingly withdrawn and sullen visages presented by Chie and Mitsuo and the anger of Yoko and Yuta as they navigate how to deal with the conflicts that arise. The best one has to be at the start when Mitsuo and Chie speak about the sunflowers in Fukushima and their supernatural aspects. Their connection is made with the look of adoration the little girl has and the warmness of Mitsuo.

The sounds of the film are equally important in detailing the deep emotions on offer. It all takes place in summer so the sounds of cicadas and festivals are intense enough to offer a contrast to the deafening silences the characters go through. When it replaces speech, the audience focuses on the acting and when characters talk it generates more force and meaning. This sets up a tear-inducing finale.

When the ending comes, having journeyed through all of the complex pain and suffering, the audience will be blessed with a moment of catharsis delivered through an innocent and simple gesture and gazes that suggest moving on. This film has to be seen.

Here’s my interview with director Yosuke Takeuchi.