An Interview with Sae Suzuki, Director of Strangers [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

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Sae Suzuki’s career as a filmmaker began when she enrolled in the Department of Body Expression at Rikkyo University and studied directing under director/critic Kunitoshi Manda. She then went on to study film directing under Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Nobuhiro Suwa at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts and her graduation film My Identity (2019) was selected for the  Busan International Film Festival 2019 and Japan Cuts 2020. She is currently making films as a freelancer and her latest work Strangers played at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022.

Strangers is a melancholic but hopeful short film about people wrestling with experiences of sexual harassment, negative thoughts on gender and sex, and suffering in silence. Manami Usamaru of Sisterhood (2019) fame plays Yukie, a dental nurse from a rural town who flees her workplace with the clinic’s cash following sexual assault from her boss. A train transition leads her and us to Tokyo where she can be free to do as she pleases and so she changes her appearance and personality and meets up with a guy named Minato (Akihiro Yamamoto) who offers her day of non-judgemental companionship that allows her to process her negative feelings. It turns out that he has trauma of his own and together, as strangers, they offer each other hope for a new life.

The film comes at an interesting time as people in Japan take to SNS to talk more openly about difficult subjects like discrimination and harassment. Through excellent use of visuals and performers, Sae Suzuki allows audiences to enter into these difficult topics with a very thoughtful and beautiful film.

I would like to thank Sae Suzuki for delivering this interview in both English and Japanese and the efforts of Osaka Asian Film Festival staff for facilitating the interview.

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An Interview with Azusa Hieda, Director of Summer Wedding [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Azusa Hieda Landscape Shot

Azusa Hieda’a short film Summer Wedding received its World Premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022 where it was one of the few films to directly use the Covid-19 in its narrative. In her work, writer/director Hieda utilised social isolation during the pandemic to offer a space for two lovers, a bride (Rika Kurosawa) and her groom (Daiki Nunami), to change their lives in unexpected ways. Between a strong set and acting that carried emotions undercutting what should have been a happy event, audiences are able to read between the lines and experience a story rich in contrasting emotions.

A graduate of the Department of Broadcast Film Studies of Visual Arts Osaka, Hieda has worked on one short, Fuyu no Aka and a number of trailers. To explain more about her latest work, she took part in an email interview in Japanese and English. This was done with translation by Takako Pocklington.

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

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,

Azusa Hieda’s profound short film Summer Wedding uses the Covid-19 pandemic as a prompt for the self-reflection and change in its main character.

The titular summer wedding should be a happy affair but it is rife with countervailing emotions stemming from its setting. This wedding is a makeshift event held not in a church but in a suburban house due for demolition. Furthermore, its participants, a less-than-blushing bride (Rika Kurosawa) and her lover (Daiki Nunami), seem uneasy around each other. “If it weren’t for Covid, we wouldn’t be here,” says the bride wistfully as she prepares her own cake and directs the unofficiated, unattended, and, ultimately, melancholy ceremony.

Summer Wedding Film Image Rika Kurosawa Continue reading “Summer Wedding 恋がする Director: Azusa Hieda [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] V-Cinema”

An Interview with Tetsuki Ijichi, Director of “Laundromat on the Corner” (2020)

Tetsuki Ijichi is a veteran in the international film industry, having worked as a, assistant director, producer, projectionist, publicist, and sales rep (amongst many other things) in Japan since the 80s. Now based in Philadelphia, USA, he is using his experiences to bring Japanese films stateside as the president of Tidepoint Pictures Don’t Look Up (1996), Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005) and Uzumaki (2000) – Rain Trail PicturesVideophobia (2020), Lovers on Borders (2018). I now have the chance to interview him but not for his important contribution as a film distributor but as a director in his own right as his short film, Laundromat on the Corner (2020) is available to stream on FilmDoo.

Laundromat on the Corner is a supernatural romance that effectively mixes Eastern and Western culture together for a film that could be said to be a modern twist on Ugetsu Monogatari (1953). The film, set in working-class Philadelphia, follows Josh (Eric Slodysko) a deep-in-debt down-on-his-luck desperate divorcee eager to escape his miserable situation as a put-upon home helper to a terminally-ill lady named Mary (Joanne Joella) and her daughter Beth (Heather Blank). Respite comes in the form of Ming (Stephanie Pham), a woman in a white dress who catches the eye of Josh at a laundromat he starts to use. Of course, there is more to Ming than meets the eye and it isn’t long before Josh finds the borders between life and death collapsing…

Having had the chance to review the film, I was eager to ask Tetsuki some questions relating to the making of it, his influences (a fellow horror film fan!) and his experiences of working in Japan and America!

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Laundromat on the Corner Director: Tetsuki Ijichi (2020)

Laundromat on the Corner    Laundromat on the Corner Film Poster

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 18 mins.

Director: Tetsuki Ijichi

Writer: Tetsuki Ijichi, Doris Chia Ching Lin, (Story), Judith Redding (Screenplay)

Starring: Eric Slodysko (Josh), Stephanie Pham (Ming), Keizo Kaji (Old Chef), Josh Hammond, Nico Chang Lynch, Heather Plank,

Website IMDB

In what one might see as a modern twist on Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), a man eager to escape his bleak existence finds himself entering an unconventional relationship. While not a terrifying time, it has a good horror atmosphere and effectively mixes Eastern and Western culture together for something unique.

The Ugetsu update takes place in working-class Philadelphia where a desperate man named Josh (Eric Slodysko) has washed up following divorce and money problems. We learn of his woes from exposition-friendly sources like text/voice messages on smart phones that get viewers up to speed quickly about the depths of his despair. From there, we see how he falls under the spell of a mysterious lady love.

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An Interview with Mai Nakanishi about Her Horror Short “SWALLOW”

As a horror film fan, Mai Nakanishi is talking my language. When I first saw HANA at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019, it stood out to me as an expertly crafted minimalist horror film given depth by having a subtext about motherhood and career pressure. When news of her latest film came to me, I was very much excited at the prospect of seeing more of her work and that work is… SWALLOW

SWALLOW is Nakanishi’s sophomore short film where the rivalry between two actresses culminates in them attending a banquet which one believes holds the promise of providing food that can sustain her youth. Underneath a bit of body horror lies a satire of our beauty-obsessed world which drives women to pursue youth and good looks at any cost. Expertly shot, this Taiwan-set film features an exquisite horror atmosphere of lavish sets drenched in red and a gripping short character study brought to life by excellent dialogue and performances. 

Mai_picThis is just the next step for Nakanishi who has worked in various roles, including as an assistant director for Eric Khoo and as a 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, an event which champions horror movies from a female perspective.

In the run-up to SWALLOW playing at forthcoming Skip City D-Cinema Festival, both online (July 21 – 27) and also on site (Convention Hall – 7/18, 13:50 – and the Audio Visual Hall – 7/22, 11:0o), as well as playing online at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (July 07-17). She generously allowed me the chance to watch her latest work and interview her about her fascination with horror, life after HANA, and the making of SWALLOW in Taiwan during Covid conditions, and much more.


Thanks for allowing me to watch SWALLOW”. I was really impressed by HANA– congratulations on Hanawinning the Goule D’or Directors Award at the 2019 Portland Horror Film Festival and Best Short Film at the 2018 Monsters of Film in Sweden! – and I was intrigued to find out where your career would go next, especially because I am also a fan of horror films. SWALLOWis your second work and it has won an award already at the Tampere Film Festival 2022 where it won a Special Mention in the Generation XYZ competition – so congratulations go out for that, too!

I’m grateful to get the chance to interview you and have a number of questions.

Looking at your career, horror films are your chosen metier. What inspired you to become a filmmaker and why focus on horror movies?

I actually started my career in film business with experiences ranging from marketing, programming and acquisitions of films for pay-TV broadcaster and international sales and acquisitions for film distribution companies. I’ve only been involved in filmmaking since 2013, where I had the opportunities to work with international genre stalwarts as a producer, assistant director and assistant production designer and before I knew it, I was directing “HANA”.

I’ve been a huge of fan of the horror genre since I was small. There are many great horror films containing hidden subtext and relevant social commentary beneath the thrills and scares which fascinate me.

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Swallow 喰之女 Director: Mai Nakanishi (2021)

Swallow    Swallow Film Poster

喰之女

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 23 mins.

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Script),

Starring: Han Ning (Mimi), Liu Dai-Ying (Xue-Lan), Vera Chan (Annie), Arrow Chih-Hsuan Peng (Waiter),

 IMDB

One woman’s greedy pursuit of movie stardom leads to a sticky end in Swallow, a 22-minute short from Mai Nakanishi. Winner of a Special Mention at the Generation XYZ competition at Tampere Film Festival 2022, Nakanishi’s film offers a grisly and gorgeous story that gives audiences a bite of body horror, a taste of surreal imagery, and some ideas to digest in a satirical take of our beauty-obsessed culture. For such a short film, there is a lot on offer to delight the senses and intellect.

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An Interview with Akinori Ikuse, Director of Out of Tokyo 202x [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

 

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A mood of optimism radiates from Akinori Ikuse’s 14-minute short, Out of TOKYO 202x, a time travel movie where two people from the future, Rika (Ucyu Imagawa) and Shin (So Morozumi), spend time together after meeting on the grounds of the Tokyo Olympic stadium. Their shared experience is both romantic and hopeful as they get swept up in the cheer and the happiness of an event that was surrounded by controversy given the Covid-19 pandemic. Benefiting from actually being shot on location, Ikuse brings viewers the sight of crowds of onlookers as well as special events like a fly-past by Japan’s Blue Impulse aerial acrobatics team. Beyond this, he manipulates the look and sound of the film to vibrantly convey the intense atmosphere of the occasion.

Ikuse took part in an interview where he explained the making of the film, his filmic inspirations, and what it was like to shoot on location at such a historic moment. This interview was conducted with the help of staff at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and via the invaluable translation of Takako Pocklington.

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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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