East of Jefferson ジェファソンの東  Dir: Koji Fukada (2018) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

East of Jefferson

ジェファソンの東 Jefason no Higashi

Release Date: June 16th, 2018

Running Time: 18 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Yuri Ogino, Tatsuya Kawamura, Tsuyoshi Kondo,

Website

This short film is about the night two men and a woman meet at a love hotel. While it sounds like a set-up for an AV film, it turns out to be a blackly comic take on a “reunion” with a bleakish ending rather than some erotic fun. Much like Human Comedy Tokyo (and much of Fukada’s oeuvre), the awkward interactions between humans are the focus of the story.

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Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops アイスと雨音 Dir: Daigo Matsui (2018) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops

アイスと雨音 「Aisu to Amaoto」   Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops Film Poster

Running Time: 74 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director:  Daigo Matsui

Writer: Daigo Matsui (Screenplay),

Starring: Kokoro Morita, Taketo Tanaka, Reiko Tanaka, Guama, Yuzu Aoki, Jotaro Tozuka, Kazumasa Kadoi, Mimori Wakasugi, Momoha,

IMDB Website JFDB

Daigo Matsui is famous as a director who has worked on mostly youth-oriented movies like Afro Tanaka (2012), Sweet Poolside (2014), How Selfish I Am! (2013) and Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) but did you know he is a former manzai performer and has his own theatre company? Matsui takes on the theatre world here with an adaptation of British playwright Simon Stephens’s coming-of-age drama “Morning”. However, instead of simply recording a performance to screen in cinemas, we are delivered into how the original story is translated into a Japanese setting and how universal its message of teenage angst is. What plugs us into this creative space and new and unique understanding of the text is that the film is done in a flawless 74-minute take that gets behind the scenes of the play and shows all the pressures and risks for the actors involved in bringing their roles to life. 

In 2017, a stage performance of “Morning” is scheduled to run in a small town. It is a savage play that has been attracting attention in the theatre world for its story of a violent act by two best friends fighting through a rough adolescence. The film starts a month before the opening night. A cast of six young actors are being pushed to their limit by a director who gives out abstract plans and demanding instructions:

“I want to show you all really living on the stage.”

“Be messy and raw.”

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Yalta Conference Online ヤルタ会談 “オンライン化”!  Dir: Koji Fukada (2020) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Yalta Conference Online

ヤルタ会談オンライン化“!  Yaruta Kaidan “Onrainka”!

Release Date: June 01st, 2020

Running Time: 38 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroko Matsuda, Yozo Shimada, Fumie Midorikawa 

The Yalta Conference Online is, like the title suggests, a re-imagination of the famous meeting that happened on February 04th, 1945, between Stalin (Hiroko Matsuda), Roosevelt (Fumie Midorikawa) and Churchill (Yozo Shimada). There is none of the pomp and ceremony given to these grand old men, this is a Zoom meeting and so they all get online to chat about the post-war world. Pleasantries turn into negotiations over how to finish the fighting, and who occupies where but the writing and performances are done with the flippancy and awkwardness of an online talk and the humour is shadowed with the audience’s understanding of how their plans turned out.

It is based on a Hirata Oriza stage-play which was made expressly for the We Are One Global Film Festival and it works well within the limitations. The historical figures are all played as caricatures with our manner and social mores. The fact that they wear silly costumes and that the gender of the actors doesn’t matter should be a good indication of this being a comedy and the performances ply absurd and ironic laughs from what is a cheeky adaptation of history.

The dialogue comes thick and fast with grandstanding mixed with gossiping and through their talk we see their overblown pride and prejudice and inaccurate readings of the future. Particularly biting is the casual anti-semitism, orientalism and prejudice as well as the sense of western supremacy and superiority which still exists to this day. What steers this from being offensive is that the characters are clearly parodies of the real people and the film allows audiences to critique their ideas so it is able to be viewed as mordantly funny when they are dismissively talking about liquidating a group of officers or their treatment of refugees. Also, having Japanese play these people helps in lessening any offence and adds some interesting subtext in the mocking of the imperial mindset of Japan at the time which adds an interesting dimension of self-awareness.

There are some inconsistencies in the area of dialogue such as a mention of James Bond which Ian Flemyng created after the war and the constant reference to England rather than Britain, but the dialogue is delivered with witty repartee as the actors, all part of the same acting company, have whizz-bang chemistry that gives them brilliant line delivery. Of particular note is Hiroko Matsuda who has worked with director Koji Fukada on Human Comedy Tokyo, Hospitalite, and Au revoir l’eteI believe. Everyone has perfect timing but she goes up and down the scales of hysteria at different times for added comic oomph.

This is based on a stageplay from Hirata Oriza and the actors all belong to his Seinendan group (some of whom are in The Woman of the Photographs) and they are all pitch-perfect in their parody and are fairly physical despite the limitations of online chats. Ensuring that this isn’t a visually uninteresting talkpocalypse, each person has a prop and costume that fits in with the national stereotype and they move around to fiddle with their computer’s camera, green screens, and Zoom backgrounds for some quick gags. The screens change position and size depending upon who joins the chat and text is used. The way tech is display and characters behave accurately captures the new way we communicate in this era of Covid-19 and that makes the film even funnier.

Inabe いなべ Dir: Koji Fukada (2013) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Inabe   Inabe Film Poster

いなべ Inabe

Release Date: November 01st, 2013

Running Time: 38 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay),

Starring: Hiroaki Matsuda, Ami Kurata, Yui Ito, Koji Nishida, Minami Inoue,

Website IMDB

Koji Fukada is regarded as one of the leading lights of Japanese cinema and he is someone who I have covered on this blog, from his opener Human Comedy Tokyo (2008) to his Cannes award-winner Harmonium (2016) and other titles. He has the ability to tackle subtle elements in human relationships with black humour and seriousness as well as a light touch. Inabe stands as one of my favourites because of its simplicity and earnestness but more is lurking underneath the honest emotions shared between two siblings who are reunited after years apart.

Tomohiro (Hiroaki Matsuda) is a 30-something guy who hasn’t seen his older sister Naoko (Ami Kurata) in 17 years. He is surprised and suspicious when she returns to their hometown of Inabe with a baby, her son Naoki. Their meeting is out of the blue. She steps off a train, walks to the pig farm he works at, and waits for him to clock off. Initially awkward, they talk as they head to the family home where Naoko reintroduces herself to relatives and soon she is digging into Tomohiro’s current marital woes. This digging gets deeper and more personal as the two wander around childhood haunts.

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Japanese Films at the We Are One Global Film Festival

Due to COVID-19, film festivals around the world have had to postpone or cancel events. Then, in April, Tribeca and YouTube announced they were teaming up for a 10-day online festival called We Are One and working together with other festivals to create a digital film festival.

We Are One Film Festival Image

The festival will stream a selection of films online on YouTube for FREE from May 29th to June 07th. There will be 31 features and 72 shorts over 10 days, the titles have been co-curated by over 20 film festivals from across the world, including Annecy, Cannes, London, Venice, Sundance, Berlin, Locarno, Toronto and Tokyo. Viewers can also enjoy virtual talks with directors.

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