Interview with “Slowly” Director Momoko Fukuda and Producer Jumpei Inoue [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019]

I interviewed a number of people at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and these interviews are being published over at V-Cinema. Here was the first to go online on May 04th.

MomokoFukudaJumpeiInoueOAFF19

Momoko Fukuda hails from Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture. After studying at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image, her graduation work Goodbye Mother (2014) was selected by a number of Japanese festivals including the Yubari International

Oishii Kazoku Film Poster
Oishii Kazoku Film Poster

Fantastic Film Festival. In 2015, she took part in the New Directions in Japanese Cinema (NDJC): Young Filmmaker Development Project run by the Japanese government’s Agency of Cultural Affairs. It is designed to foster a new generation of directors who can bring new life to the Japanese film industry and Fukuda seems truly unique in her tastes. The resulting film, Dad’s Marriage (2016) (here’s my trailer post), was screened at international festivals such as Camera Japan in Holland where it stood out for its unique pacing and a story that challenges the norm of what people consider to constitute a family. She is turning it into a feature film, Oishii Kazoku, due for release in 2019. Her most recent works have been shorts, one a part of the omnibus film 21st Century Girl (2019) which appeared at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, and the other is the a rather offbeat Slowly which appeared at the 2019 Osaka Asian Film Festival.

Slowly is a slice out of the lives of two old friends. After their high school reunion, they drive back to some unspecified point, their conversation awkwardly hovering around questions about their past and future and the changes to their hometown. Their journey is stopped by a tennis umpire’s chair, which lies on the road. The two suddenly find themselves helping a third person carry the chair away and we watch as they lug the thing through a beautiful series of pastoral scenes and mundane small town shots while still talking about their lives. The film seems aimless and has a laidback rhythm because not much happens. But through conversation and behaviour, we can read a lot and it is interesting to wonder over the images and actors.

It reminded me of my 1990s childhood when a variety of European films from Rohmer or Aki Kaurismaki and stageplays by Beckett were on terrestrial television in the UK rather than squirreled away on some satellite channel. I ended up watching the film a few times and felt quite moved by the experience, sensing a certain longing, acknowledging the nostalgia for my past and some gaps in my present as I identified with the characters.

There were two screenings at OAFF and I caught the film’s first screening where the audience seemed to appreciate the experience. I was due to interview Fukuda and her producer Jumpei Inoue after the second screening. When I arrived at the cinema, I was told that one person had reacted negatively to the film at this second screening but, despite this, Fukuda and Inoue, along with two of their team, sat down with me. Undaunted and thoughtful, they kindly spent over 30 minutes talking about the making of the film and their inspirations.

Help with translation was provided by Keiko Matsushita while translation of the transcription of the interview was overseen by Takako Pocklington.

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Slowly ゆっくり Dir: Momoko Fukuda (2019) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Slowly  Slowly Film Poster

ゆっくり  Yukkuri

Running Time: 25 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Momoko Fukuda

Writer: Jumpei Inoue (Screenplay),

Starring: Jyonmyon Pe, Ai Bitou, Takeshi Donguri,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/if08.html

Dates:

3/10 (Sun) 12:00 Cine Libre Umeda 4

3/11 (Mon) 14:50 Cine Libre Umeda 4

Momoko Fukuda is a director going places and quickly. Originally from Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture, she studied at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image and her graduation work Goodbye Mother (2014) was selected for big festivals such as the Yubari. In 2015 she took part in the NDJC: Young Filmmaker Development Project, a hotbed for young directors to grow in terms of their skills, and she made Dad’s Marriage (2016), a story where a make-up artist returns home on the occasion of her mother’s memorial to discover her father (played by actor and comedian Itsuji Itao) wants to become the bride of a local handyman. This was screened at international festivals and she is currently turning it into a feature. Recently she was tapped to create a short for the high-profile female led omnibus film 21st Century Girl (2018) and she appeared at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019 with the world premiere of her film Slowly, a short drama which goes in a totally different aims to use absurdity to examine the human condition.

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Afternoon Breezes 風たちの午後 デジタルリマスター版 Dir: Hitoshi Yazaki (1980) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Afternoon Breezes    Afternoon Breezes Film Poster

風たちの午後 デジタルリマスター版 Kazetachi no nengo Digitaru rimasuta-

Running Time: 105 mins.

Release Date: December 11th, 1980

Director:  Hitoshi Yazaki

Writer: Shunichi Nagasaki, Hitoshi Yazaki (Screenplay),

Starring: Naomi Ito, Setsuko Aya,

Website IMDB  OAFF

People who attended Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018 (OAFF) had the chance to see the latest work of Hitoshi Yazaki, Still Life of Memories. It seems Osaka has become a favourite place for the man because he attended OAFF 2019 with Afternoon Breezes. It has been 40 years since it was released and its original 16 mm print has been given a digital remaster after being subject to a crowdfunding campaign. The film is a somewhat tragic tale of a one-sided lesbian romance. Due to its style and LGBT subject-matter, it broke boundaries because it was one of the first openly gay-themed films in Japan and it put Yazaki on the map and earned him comparisons with important directors from avante-garde cinema movements of the 60s and 70s like Chantal Akerman. In its black-and-white look and with its central protagonist who is disconnected from reality, it is sort of like Akerman’s Saute ma ville (1968) if you’ll allow the glib comparison

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Jeux de Plage 浜辺のゲーム Dir: Aimi Natsuto (2019) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Jeux de Plage 

浜辺のゲーム Hamabe no Ge-mu

Running Time: 77 mins.

Release Date: May 04th, 2019

Director:  Aimi Natsuto

Writer: Aimi Natsuto (Screenplay),

Starring: Haruna Hori, Shinsuke Kato, Juri Fukushima, Otsuka Nanaho, Donsaron Kovitanitcha,

Website IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c07.html

Following her directorial debut, “Spring-ing”, an entry in the omnibus film 21st Century Girl (2019), Aimi Natsuto graduates to features with Jeux de Plage, which received its world premiere in the Competition section of the 2019 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival. With her feature, Natsuto brings back two of the stars from her 21st Century Girl entry, Haruna Hori and Juri Fukushima. Having only read a synopsis, I cannot really comment on her earlier work but Jeux de Plage feels familiar, a Nouvelle Vague inspired comedy, which is par for the course for her collaborators here.

Natsuto’s past film experience comes, most notably, from collaborating with Kiki Sugino having acted alongside her in Chigasaki Story (2015) and worked as a script editor on Snow Woman (2017). Jeux de plage was produced under the auspices of Sugino’s production company, Wa Entertainment, and shares the outfit’s internationalism in terms of it being a co-production between Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Korea, having a somewhat international cast, and of course its reverence of French cinema. While watching the film, I was reminded of Koji Fukada’s Au revoir l’ete (2013), also made by Wa Entertainment. However, I was much more entertained by Jeux de plage. While the two films share passions for various things Gallic, similar themes, a coastal setting and scripts with deconstructions of character and romance very reminiscent of Eric Rohmer’s oeuvre, Natsuto’s work is more focused and lively compared to the languid experience turned in by Fukada.

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Maggie 메기 Dir: Yi Ok-seop (2018) South Korea Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Maggie   

메기

Running Time: 88 mins.

Release Date: October 2018

Director: Yi Ok-seop

Writer: Yi Ok-seop, Koo Kyo-hwan (Screenplay),

Starring: Lee Ju-young, Moon So-ri, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Ju-yeong, Mun So-ri, Koo Gyo-Hwan, Myeong Gye-nam, Kim Kkobbi Flowerain,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c09.html

Winner of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019’s Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) as well as Busan International Film Festival 2018’s CGV Art House Award and Citizens’ Critic Award, Maggie heralds a new directing talent in Yi Ok-Seop, someone who brings a lively verve to her examination of how doubt can infect everything and how such an infection should be cured by seeking the truth. It’s a large topic tackled with a disparate range of elements from a talking catfish to mysterious seismic activities and audiences will be forgiven for having doubts of their own as to how everything links up and if it will be satisfying but it works in the end.

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The Crossing Dir: Bai Xue (China) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

The Crossing 

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: March 15th, 2019

Director:  Bai Xue

Writer: Bai Xue (Screenplay),

Starring: Huang Yao, Sunny Sun, Carmen Soup, Ni Hongjie, Elena Kong, Kai Chi Liu, Jiao Gang,

Website IMDB

The Crossing is a coming-of-age film set to the background of a smuggling ring operating between Hong Kong and mainland China. It is a remarkably confident debut from writer/director Bai Xue and captures a new form of living what with the vagaries of living a transnational life and the opportunities travel affords.

Sixteen-year-old Peipei (Huang Yao) is a kid who lives in Shenzhen with her mother (Ni Hongjie) but attends a high school in Hong Kong, a privilege granted by her father (Kai Chi Liu) who comes from the island. As a result of her parent’s former union, Peipei can catch a train between cities, effectively crossing a border every day. Customs officials pay her little mind because of her school uniform, innocent face and quiet demeanour.

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Still Human 淪落人 Dir: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan Hong Kong (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Still Human 淪落人   

Running Time: 115 mins.

Release Date: Summer 2018

Director: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan

Writer: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan (Screenplay),

Starring: Anthony Wong, Crisel Consunji, Sam Lee, Cecilia Yip, Himmy Wong,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c12.html

The city state of Hong Kong has been the setting for big emotions found in heroic bloodshed actioners, crime thrillers, romantic dramas, and martial arts extravaganzas. However, one of the most satisfying films to come out of the place in recent years is a small-scale drama about the friendship between a disabled man and his carer. Still Human is the debut feature film from Oliver Siu Kuen Chan and it has won accolades such as Best New Director at the 2019 Asian Film Awards, the Netpac Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival 2018 and the Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019. With a mixture of assured storytelling and great acting, it provides a moving drama that is sure to win over anyone who watches it. Just keep a hanky ready.

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Hana Dir: Mai Nakanishi (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Hana    Hana Film Poster

Running Time: 13 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Screenplay), 

Cinematography: Jun-sang Lee 

Starring: Jeong-bi Lee, Hee-Jin Jean, Do-Eun Kim,

Website IMDB

This is a re-write of my review that was published on V-Cinema a month ago. Corrections and a bit more thoughtful analysis were made as well as references to favourite directors. I want to see more from Mai Nakanishi.

Hana is a Korea-Japan co-production from newbie director Mai Nakanishi. Originally from Tokyo, she has spent much of her career abroad working in various roles on a wide range of international projects including working as an assistant director for Eric Khoo and as producer for Sion Sono. Nakanishi has also worked as 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, the only female-centric genre film festival in Asia. In short, she is a horror fan, and when she was selected by the Busan International Film Festival to be a fellow at the Asian Film Academy 2016, she produced this short film under the mentorship of the world-renowned Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-Liang. The final product is very much rooted in horror, her favourite playground, and is an effective short.

A home is a reflection of who lives there and how it is decorated and lived in says a lot about a person and how they want to shape their lives (which is why it can be terrifying entering one if you stop and think about it long enough). Couple that idea with the existential one of how we can never truly know another person, pressures and desires and all, then someone seemingly normal can actually be stranger than imagined which is what happens in this neat horror short.

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The Eternity Between Seconds Dir: Alec Figuracion (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

The Eternity Between Seconds    The Eternity Between Seconds Alec Figuracion (2018) Film Poster

Running Time: 83 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Alec Figuracion

Writer: Alec Figuracion (Screenplay)

Starring: Yeng Constanino, TJ Trinidad,

Website IMDB

There is something about liminal spaces such as airports which allows the mind to wander loose from the moorings that reality keeps us grounded with. While there, free from commitments to family or work, it is possible to drift in a sea of strangers as we travel from one location to the next which is when we reassume responsibility. We can take a break from ourselves and be open, not just to a change in place but also thinking. This is an idea explored realistically and relatably in The Eternity Between Seconds, a Filipino film where two weary souls meet and offer respite from life’s worries.

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Wild Tour ワイルドツアー Dir: Sho Miyake (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Wild Tour    Wild Tour Film Poster

ワイルドツアーWairudo Tsua-

Running Time: 67 mins.

Release Date: Summer 2018

Director:  Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay),

Starring: Honoka Ito, Ryutaro Yasumitsu, Osuke Kuribayashi, Takamasa Yamazaki,

Website IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/if10.html

Sho Miyake made waves with his 2012 sophomore feature Playback (2012), a time slip drama shot in monochrome which was officially screened at the 65th Locarno International Film Festival and won him international attention. Since then he has refused to conform to any one genre and dabbled in a myriad of projects with no common theme. 2014 saw him make the hip-hop documentary THE COCKPIT and that was followed by a 2017 period drama, The Courier. His most recent feature, the human drama And Your Bird Can Sing (2018), based on a novel by Yasushi Sato, was played at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and this year’s Berlinale. He has another film from 2018 and it goes somewhere else entirely as it combines a documentary about a scientific club with stories of first love.

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