An Interview with Satoko Yokohama, Director of “Ito” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

While getting a World Premiere in the Competition section of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 would be a sign of quality for director Satoko Yokohama and her film Ito, her work ended up taking two high-profile accolades at the event as judges awarded it the Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) and viewers selected it for the Audience Award. These wins are richly deserved as Ito laces a youth film and a heartfelt tribute to all-things Aomori around a charming central performance from rising actress Ren Komai (駒井蓮).

In the film, Komai plays Ito Soma, a high school girl who lives with her father (Etsushi Toyokawa – 豊川悦司) and maternal grandmother (Yoko Nishikawa – 西川洋子) in a small town just outside Hirosaki city, Aomori. Ito embodies various aspects of the local culture, from having a thick Tsugaru accent to an innate skill in playing the Tsugaru shamisen, an ability inherited from her late mother.  Alas, Ito refuses to practice and stays silent due to her embarrassment over her country roots and also her melancholy over never having known her mother. What puts the girl on the path of self-acceptance and self-expression is an unlikely job at a maid café where she meets a coterie of kind people who offer encouragement and get her to embrace her cultural and family heritage on her own terms. You can read my review here

The film is based on a novel by Osamu Koshigaya and while its Japanese title “Itomichi” was shortened to “Ito” for the international version, the story still communicates all of the charms of Aomori. It is the latest project from Satoko Yokohama (横浜聡子), a graduate of the Film School of Tokyo who independently produced her first feature German + Rain (2007) which won the Directors Guild of Japan Newcomer Award. Next came Bare Essence of Life (2009) and The Actor (2015) which have both been screened at international festivals. Both she and lead actress Ren Komai hail from Aomori Prefecture, the setting of the film and audiences will be able to detect their knowledge and closeness really brought out deep details and atmosphere.

Director Yokohama kindly took part in an interview where she talked about adapting the novel, working with Ren Komai to get a moving portrayal of the main character plus an impressive shamisen performance, and what it means to be a filmmaker from Aomori and returning there to shoot a film. 

Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021

This interview was done through the translation skills of Takako Pocklington and the film/festival staff who set everything up.

Continue reading “An Interview with Satoko Yokohama, Director of “Ito” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

Ito いとみち Director: Satoko Yokohama (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Ito    Itomichi Film Poster

いとみち Itomichi

Release Date: June 25th, 2021

Duration: 92 mins.

Director: Satoko Yokohama

Writer: Satoko Yokohama (Script), Osamu Koshigaya (Original Novel)

Starring: Ren Komai, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mei Kurokawa, Yoko Nishikawa, Mayuu Yokota, Ayumu Nakajima, Daimaou Kosaka, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB OAFF

Winner of the Grand Prix and Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, Ito is the first solo feature film from director Satoko Yokohama since her 2015 drama The Actor. Her cinematic return, following a stint in TV, is an adaptation of the first of Osamu Koshigaya’s series of three youth novels that were serialised and published between 2011 to 2016. His novels find their setting in Aomori Prefecture, the birthplace of Yokohama and also of the film’s lead actress Ren Komai.

There must have been an attraction to working on a project that is so close to home and it feels as if their intimate knowledge of Aomori’s way of life helps make more unique and meaningful its heart-warming comedy drama about a teenage girl who finds her voice through maid cafes and shamisen.

Itomichi Film Ren Komai and Mei Kurokawa

Continue reading “Ito いとみち Director: Satoko Yokohama (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

Akihiro Toda’s “THE NAME (名前)” to Close Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

The team behind the Osaka Asian Film Festival has given a glimpse of the entire programme of films that will play at this year’s edition and full details of the film which will close this year’s festival, the Word Premiere of Akihiro Toda’s “THE NAME (名前)” which will play at the ABC Hall on Sunday, March 18th.

Here are details on the film:

The Name    The Name Film Poster

名前 Namae

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Akihiro Toda

Writer: Yusuke Moriguchi (Screenplay), Shusuke Michio (Original Story)

Starring: Kanji Tsuda, Ren Komai, Miho Kanazawa, Mako Komaki, Akari Kakimoto, Noriko Kijima, Yohta Kawase, Mayuko Nishiyama, Mariko Tsutsui,

IMDB

The Name Film Image

Synopsis: Moriya city in Ibaraki is a quiet place with residents who lead simple lives. Everyone, apart from a lonely angst-ridden bachelor named Masao Nakamura. Since losing his business and becoming penniless, he has adopted multiple identities to get by: Yoshikawa, a big businessman, Suzuki, the happy family man, Okubo, the doting husband who quit Tokyo to look after a sick wife. When his ruse about the sick wife is about to be exposed as a lie at work, a schoolgirl named Emiko Hayama steps in from out of nowhere and pretends to be his daughter.

Emiko is another person who loves to lie. Instead of facing a lonely home run by a single-mother, the girl hangs out with Masao and the pair strike up a friendship. It fills a gap in their lives but their lies hinder them from overcoming inner-turmoil. At some point a fake dad and a fake daughter will have to face their suffering in order to move on. Continue reading “Akihiro Toda’s “THE NAME (名前)” to Close Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”