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.

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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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SANKA: Nomads of the Mountains 山歌 Director: Ryohei Sasatani [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains    Sanka Nomads of the Mountains Film Poster

山歌(サンカ) Sanka

Release Date: April 22nd, 2022

Duration: 77 mins.

Director: Ryohei Sasatani

Writer: Ryohei Sasatani (Screenplay),

Starring: Rairu Sugita, Naru Komukai, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Kisuke Iida, Shungiku Uchida, Yoko Ran,

Website

Films featuring the clash between modernisation, tradition, and the natural world are plentiful in cinema, perhaps most memorably in the magical movies of Miyazaki and Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame with Princess Mononoke (1997) and Pom Poko (1994). Documentarian Ryohei Sasatani makes his narrative feature debut with crowdfunded indie Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains and channels these themes onto the screen via the self-actualisation of the film’s young protagonist.

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An Interview with M Haris Sheikh, Director of HOWLING [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Howling (review) is a blackly-comic neo-noir from M Haris Sheikh who subverts the genre by creating a collection of characters defined by desperation, cowardice, and disappointment rather than the expected avarice and lust.

We follow a motley bunch of no-hopers living lives based on lies they tell others to cover their miserable situations. They are led by a very flawed 40-year-old unemployed guy named Ryuji Tanoue (Ichiro Hashimoto) who is in desperate straits and equally desperate to be a hero which leads to him being a bit of a fantasist. Their number includes a housewife named Chisato (Sanae Kotani) and a 20-year-old student named Akane (Yukino Takahashi), two women who fulfil the role of femme fatales who manipulate a woefully underprepared and cowardly main protagonist into a situation requiring him to kill people. Alas, what Ryuji thinks will be easy become increasingly dangerous and blackly comic due to a serious case of sophistry blinds that him to his personal failings. For all of their flaws, the characters never lose our interest or investment in their quest to escape their situations as they are multifaceted and capable of change, but will change come in time for everyone? Viewers will find themselves gripped by the twists and turns until the film reaches its jaw-dropper of a finale which will leave viewers shocked and laughing.

Thanks to the help of festival staff, members of M Haris Sheikh’s team and the translation services of Takako Pocklington, I was able to interview the director on his singular vision.

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Howling 遠吠え Dir: M Haris Sheikh (2022) V Cinema Show Review [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Howling    Howling Film Poster

遠吠え Toboe 

Release Date: April 16th, 2022

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: M Haris Sheikh

Writer: M Haris Sheikh (Screenplay),

Starring: Ichiro Hashimoto, Yukino Takahashi, Ryoma Ikegami, Sanae Kotani, Takahiro Ono,

Website

There is no rule stating that a film has to have a hero who is successful or likeable. There doesn’t even have to be a hero. Such is the case with Howling, a  neo-noir by writer/director M Haris Sheikh where the story’s sad-sack “hero” operates with self-aggrandising sophistry that ultimately undermines his quest to be a leading man.

Our so-called hero is Ryuji (Ichiro Hashimoto), a 40-year-old who has no woman, no stable job, and no intention of living in reality as witnessed when the film opens and he is shown sexually harassing one of the part-timers who works with him at a karaoke parlour. He claims he is “rescuing” her from another colleague but as the woman argues back, Ryuji has stalked her for quite a while. When he explains to a much younger job interviewer a couple of scenes down the line that his firing was all about appearances, he glosses over the reality.

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An Interview with Yusaku Matsumoto, Director of BAGMATI RIVER [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

B-River-Yusaku-Matsumoto

Bagmati River received its world premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022. It is the latest work from director Yusaku Matsumoto, a talent who broke onto the international film scene with Noise (2017), a drama set in Akihabara and based on a stabbing incident. It focused on the travails of working-class kids and their families to show how such a thing could happen. Matsumoto’s latest work turned out to be quite a departure from what audiences might associate him with as he takes them to Nepal in the company of rising actress Junko Abe of Still the Water (2014) who plays a young woman seeking to confront the disappearance of her brother in the mountains. Also backing up Matsumoto in this Nepal-set film was Kentaro Kishi (Hammock, The Sower), a cinematographer and actor (amongst other things) who worked on and appeared in Noise.

In order to get some background on the film, I interviewed Matsumoto via email thanks to the help of festival staff and through the translation services of Takako Pocklington.

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Bagmati River バグマティ リバー Dir: Yusaku Matsumoto (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] vcinema review

Films about characters processing grief are common and are usually totally Bagmati River Film Posterfictional. A memorable romance between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s characters was sustained via the supernatural in Jerry Zucker’s Ghost (1990), while Charlotte Rampling’s frosty academic couldn’t shake the spectre of her missing husband in Francois Ozon’s Under the Sand (2000), and Machiko Ono’s care-home worker was taken deep into the Mourning Forest (2007) by Naomi Kawase. Are films that are made to process grief as equally plentiful? Bagmati River, a short film by Yusaku Matsumoto, is one such work and it is based on reality.

The genesis of the film lies in the friendship between Matsumoto and a mountain climber named Nobukazu Kuriki. It began when the latter supported the release of Matsumoto’s debut feature Noise (2017), then recruited the director to make a documentary about his exploits in Nepal. However, when Kuriki died during his descent from Mount Everest, Matsumoto was left with profound lessons, one being the dangers of the mountains – Matsumoto himself experienced altitude sickness while filming – and the other in gaining an appreciation of the spiritual and physical aspects of Nepal from Kuriki’s influence. With Bagmati River, Matsumoto reflects his experiences and learns to let go of his friend through the journey, both spiritual and physical, of the main character.

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

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,

Receiving its world premiere at the 2022 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Azusa Hieda’s short Summer Wedding was the only work to directly use COVID-19 as a large part of its setting.

Like last year’s Among Four of Us by Mayu Nakamura, it is a pandemic-themed film that shows how isolation and distance prompt self-reflection and change in its characters in unexpected ways.

 

The titular summer wedding is a makeshift event involving a woman (Rika Kurosawa) and her lover (Daiki Nunami) at her family home. The ceremony is an unofficiated and imperfect affair marked not with joy but melancholy as the two are alone and awkward together. “If it weren’t for Covid, we wouldn’t be here,” says the woman wistfully.

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Far Away, Further Away 遠くへ,もっと遠くへ Director: Shinji Imaoka [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Far Away, Further Away    Far Away Further Away Film Poster

遠くへ,もっと遠くへ Toku he, motto Toku he

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 107 mins.

Director: Shinji Imaoka

Writer: Kishu Izuchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Manami Shindo, Kaito Yoshimura, Hitomi Wada, Ippei Osako, Yohta Kawase,

Website

In his latest work, Shinji Imaoka continues to put distance from his pink film origins by working with fellow prolific genre-hopping writer/director Kishu Izuchi (who also got his start in the pink film industry) to make Far Away, Further Away, an unsentimental yet humanistic drama that kindly looks upon two people discarded by their partners who pair up and go on a road-trip to Japan’s far north.

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