Filmmakers, particularly writer/directors, drawing on their personal lives to inform or even inspire the movies they direct is not uncommon. When leading a production crew and directing actors on one’s first few films, communicating what one wants based on one’s experiences more than likely aids in achieving the desired results. At the age of 19, director Igashi Aya directed her Toho Gakuen Film Techniques Training College graduate thesis, Tokeru. She stated the movie was the story she could make at that age as a young girl living in the Hokkaido countryside. Tokeru is an outpouring of her frustration at watching and hearing her classmates banal conversations and pointless ambitions. The emotional and adolescent confusion portrayed by the lead character as well as the authenticity of its worldview across its 45 minute runtime attracted the attention of Kawase Naomi which lead to Tokeru being screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cindefondation section.
Now 22, Igashi is working to complete her latest project, A Crimson Star, which by all accounts deals with matters as they relate to her thoughts and feelings a few years as an adult. This is an intriguing time when a person is at the cusp of youth and adulthood–a time one’s teenage idealism is being tested and tempered by the “real world”. Igashi seems to symbolize these two aspects in the two main characters. The story focuses on Yo, a young girl who encounters while hospitalized, Yayoi, a kind nurse with whom she becomes emotionally attached. A year later, the two meet once again by chance but under quite different circumstances. Gone is the kind nurse and in her place is a Yayoi who is prostituting herself. Despite the gap in their ages and maturity, they foster a relationship through one summer they share together.
The material is unmistakably tackling more sophisticated emotions which straddle innocent infatuation and grown-up lust while perhaps exploring notions of conditional and unconditional love. Once again, Igashi is drawing upon personal experience as she relates in the Introduction to her project, the most salient portion being the following: “Around 10 years later, I was in Tokyo and watched a film. The film reminded me of loneliness, then I talked about it with my precious friend. I [became aware] that she is precious but I can’t fill her loneliness and also mine can’t be filled by her.”
Capturing the nuance of such a statement would be a test of her writing and directorial maturity, so Igashi shot a proof-of-concept short which can be viewed below.
Igashi has cast two talented, upcoming actors to realize her story. Komatsu Miku, who is making her feature film debut, plays Yo and Sakurai Yuki, who is slowly making a name for herself with challenging roles, plays Yayoi. Both will be tasked with personalizing Igashi’s deceptively complex themes that are not limited to just heterosexual or romantic aspects of love, but may exceed or break the bounds of these to dramatically render the limbo between reciprocal feelings and unrequited love.
As if work on this movie weren’t challenging enough, Igashi is also participating along with 11 other young female directors in 21st Century Girls, a short movie project initiated and produced by fellow up-and-coming director Yamato U-ki. More on this soon.
My sincerest gratitude to Igashi Aya herself for her cooperation in providing the materials used in this article