Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

Until Rainbow Dawn Feature Image

Until Rainbow Dawn

Takahashi Hana and Hoshino Ayumi are two deaf women who meet at a sign language society. Though bewildered by her attraction to someone of the same sex, Hana begins dating Ayumi. Some time later, Hana returns to her family home. When she tells her parents about her relationship with Ayumi, she could not foresee being rejected by her usually supportive mother. Shocked by her mother’s rebuff, Hana nevertheless is unable to sever her ties with Ayumi. Meanwhile, Ayumi is unable to bear the sight of Hana’s distress and invites her to a hearing impaired LGBT event taking place in Tokyo which she found out by chance. There the two meet and engage with deaf LGBT people for the first time and gradually, Hana’s heart starts to blossom. Imai Mika’s movie has been making the rounds at LGBTQ specific film festivals around the world, placing focus more on the two women’s love story than the fact the movies performers and its director (plus a good portion of the staff) are themselves hearing impaired. It would be …

I Quit Being Friends Feature Image

I Quit, Being “Friends”

What is common sense to you, makes no sense to me. What is ordinary to me, is off-putting to you Worn out from reading too much into different situations, and unable to get along well with people, that’s Asperger’s syndrome Ma-chan. Having the appearance of understanding, but filled with agony inside, that’s me, the film director. From some petty misunderstandings, our relationship becomes strained, but, is it because of her Asperger’s? Or is it a problem with me? We have to try to understand each other…I have to try to be a good person…Ah, but! In order to stay friends with Ma-chan, I turned the camera on us, and began filming, but the answer I arrived at was, I quit being “friends”. Imamura Ayako shot her self-documentary Start Line to tackle her own frustrations at avoiding personal issues revolving her deafness–namely communication with people–by riding a bicycle across the length of Japan. Here she once again tackles human interaction by documenting her relationship with her friend who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Given Imamura’s own insecurities about her deafness, …

On the Road to Love Feature Image

On the Road to Love

One day, film director Ishii Tatsuya (now Tatsujo Kuya) began documenting his life, spurred by a phone call he received from Fukuda Mei, his girlfriend of two years who tells him that he’ll someday regret not filming her. When Ishii visits her home with camera in hand the day after the phone call, she had lost her memory of the two years they’d been dating. Fukada was once admitted to a psychiatric ward after becoming emotionally unstable due to the deterioration of their relationship caused by Ishii constantly recording them. What Ishii’s camera ultimately had captured was the concept of true love through the raw images of Ishii and Fukuda completely laying themselves bare without hesitation or pretension. Issues of mental health and emotional well-being have been coming to the forefront in recent years. Before then, director Ishii Tatsuya (now Tatsujo) experienced a situation in which his then girlfriend suffered a mental breakdown after their relationship soured, partly perhaps of Ishii constantly documenting them with his camera. How ironic that this footage should then become …

The Sower Feature Image

The Sower

Mitsuo suffered debilitating mental trauma after volunteering to clear out the debris in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. After spending three years at a psychiatric care facility, he is released and warmly welcomed back by his younger brother Yuta, his wife Yoko, and their daughters Chie and Itsuki who has down syndrome. However, the sweet family reunion is shattered by a tragedy when the two girls are left in Mitsuo’s care during which Itsuki accidentally dies. Thus begins a spiral of blame and guilt which pits family members against one another with Mitsuo and Chie caught in the middle. The debut independent feature by Takeuchi Yosuke throws into relief many of Japan’s unspoken attitudes toward the mentally ill and mentally disabled. In fact, Takeuchi decided to make the movie in response to how he saw his own niece, Takeuchi Ichika who plays Itsuki in the movie, was being treated both within closer circles and society at large. Therefore Takeuchi makes sure those those unspoken attitudes are heard loud and clear, …

Just the Two of Us Feature Image

Just the Two of Us

Shunsaku suffered a spinal injury in a motorcycle accident and was paralyzed from the neck down at the young age of 36. One day, a blind woman named Hanae arrives to be his caregiver. Though Shusaku’s ill-nature and verbal abuse increasingly frustrates her, Hanae also harbors a tremendous sense of being deprived that she does not express to others. Fujimoto Keita and a staff from the Kyoto University of the Arts brings to life a script which won an honorable mention at the 10th Japan Scenario Awards. The setting of Kyoto’s Nishijin district provides a picturesque backdrop for this “unconventional”–only in that the protagonists happen to be disabled–love story which examines these two people’s frustrations at what they’ve lost. But also portraying the solace they ultimately provide to one another becomes a showcase for how the human spirit can transcend those physical limitations, or the barriers put up by the world around them. Just the Two of Us is being sales repped by Freestone Productions.

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Siblings of the Cape

Two siblings live together in the margins of society. The brother Yoshio has an injured leg and has difficulty walking, the sister Mariko has a mental disability and spends the majority of her time shackled in the shed where they call home. When Yoshio loses his job, he crosses all boundaries and sells his sister’s body to make money for food and rent, which leads to consequences he cannot foresee. –Freddy Olsson (Goteborg Film Festival) Director Katayama Shinzo’s blistering feature-length debut is a hard look at marginalized people driven to desperation for survivable both as victims of their disability and equally exploiters of it. Mariko, played by Wada Misa, is perhaps a soul sister to Moon So-ri’s Gong-ju in Lee Chang-dong’s Oasis, both of whom display remarkable human beauty in contrast to the uncaring world in which they exist. The morally questionable actions of Yoshio and the men of their community, as the Japanese Film Festival Australia writes, “raises many questions about the moral and physical treatment of vulnerable people, and the importance of having the freedom to …

37 Seconds Feature Image

37 Seconds

In order to escape her oppressive home life and stop working as a ghost writer, Yuma, a naive paraplegic comic book artist begins to illustrate for an erotic manga, but is told by the sympathetic editor to come back once she has some actual sexual experience. Yuma’ s first encounter with a male prostitute at a “Love Hotel” ends in disaster, but it is there that she meets Mai, a sex worker specializing in caring for the handicapped. And so begins Yuma’s unexpected journey of self-discovery. Not much needs to be written about director HIKARI’s feature film debut that hasn’t already been proven by the dozens of festival berths and awards it has been accumulating in addition to being picked up by Netflix for distribution. The result of almost three and a half years of research and interviews, 37 Seconds presents an honest, fresh look at a person with a disability that challenges the audiences’ preconceptions and perhaps even prejudices.  Beating out a hundred hopefuls in open auditions held across Japan, lead actress Kayama Mei is a …