Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

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The Adventuress Spirit

The poster for Nishikawa Fumie’s The Azemichi Road depicts a young girl in school uniform captured ecstatically jumping mid-air on a country dirt road. It’s a pastoral image processed to resemble a painting that invites the viewer to speculate the story within. Though a poster is no means representative of the movie itself, in this case, the image does give insight into the Tokyo native. Nishikawa loved to draw manga and write stories in elementary school. She was studying to pursue that path when her eyes were opened to the wonder of movies during high school. Her ambition shifted from illustrating a picture to telling the story within it; to bring that image to life. It’s a fundamental component of her craft apparent in her graduate thesis at London College of Communication where she went after high school to study film & video production. Nishikawa wrote, shot, and produced While You Sleep. With its evocative title and simple premise of a teen awakening to family realities when her mother falls into a deep coma, the …

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Art of Persistence

For many, movies are manufactured reality, a stylized representation of it even if based on factual events. True situations are the purview of documentaries. However, the filmmakers at Supersaurus, producer, Ochiai Atsuko (pictured), and director, Sakaguchi Katsumi, have pursued an unconventional authenticity in their storytelling which have not so much blurred the line between fiction and non-fiction, but warped their defining spheres. Established in 1999, Supersaurus–named after the giant sauropod in reference to their desire to plod on making movies until their extinction–has released only six movies in their 18 year history. Each dealing with human dilemmas, their filmography serve as both snapshots of people’s lives, and also mnemonics of the best and worst qualities of humanity. They accomplish this by employing a kind of home movie immediacy, no doubt a function of their small, independent budgets as well as Sakaguchi’s background as a director of over 100 television documentary news programs. His camerawork is intimate, yet never overly “cinematic.” The cast are usually relative unknowns or first time actors, but with intimate understanding of …

Daisuke-Miyazaki-Profile

Entertainer with a Cause

Yokohama born Miyazaki Daisuke posseses a pensive quality not readily evident in his relaxed gaze and mild-mannered smile. Make no mistake, however, inside burns a well stoked fire for incisively entertaining stories. A graduate of Waseda University, Miyazake attended a 2004 film school administered by New York University in Japan. The resulting thesis short, The 10th Room, garnered the program’s grand prize, certainly no fluke for the Political Science and Economics major. From there, he was a production design assistant on Leo Carax’s Merde and an assistant director for Kurosawa Kiyoshi. He made a few more shorts before teaming with Tokyo Sonata cinematographer, Ashizawa Akiko, in 2010 for his first feature-length movie, End of the Night. The stylish hitman tale feels like something out of cinema’s heyday of the 70s and 80s. Though its noir-ish tone, wry humor, and topicality seem outwardly “foreign,” its soul is distinctively Japanese and perhaps a completely original type of noir. Moreover, it is a wonderful showcase of the kind of savvy low-budget filmmaking that would have made Roger Corman …

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The Measure of Success

Synchrony is defined as “simultaneous action, development, or occurrence.” What better word to describe the connection between John Williams (no, not that one) and Shiozaki Shohei, the two principles of production company, 100 Meter Films. From an early age, both men had become enamored with movies. The Welsh raised Williams began making 16mm experimental movies with a used Bolex at the age of fourteen after a viewing of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God kindled a desire to pick up a camera. Similarly, Shiozaki’s interest in filmmaking was first kindled when he began watching movies at the theater while a high school student in Nara Prefecture. He realized then how the moving image could emotionally influence the viewer. Both also eventually uprooted themselves from their homeland. Williams went to teach English in Japan. Intending on tapping Japan’s Bubble Era prosperity to save for film school, he ended up shooting independent shorts instead. Likewise, Shiozaki crossed the Pacific Ocean to attend San Jose State University as a film student. Then in 2001 the parallel trajectories …

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The Osaka Asian Film Festival: Beacon in the West

East and West, two directions on a compass which have often taken on much more significance than their navigational meanings. On a macro-scale, the differences between the two play out on an entirely different stage, becoming equally representative of global ideologies. On a micro level, the terms can be more innocuous. Take for example, Los Angeles and New York; representative cities of the east and west coasts of the United States. One could travel from one city to the other in a few hours, but the cultural distance between the two is likely far wider. New York’s high-rise, hustle-and-bustle metropolis is a far cry from the laid back, urban expanse stitched together by miles of congested freeways that is Los Angeles. New York is the capital of theatre. Los Angeles is the home of Hollywood. New York is a melting pot of ethnicities, while it could be argued Los Angeles is more a fusion of cultures. The rivalry and differences between Japan’s Kanto (East) region and Kansai (West) regions, particularly between the cities of Osaka …

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An Indie Filmmaker in Cannes

Selected as one person who has contributed to and influenced local films in the article by the prominent newspaper, Nikkei Entertainment, titled, ‘100 People Shaking Up Japanese Cinema,’ Tsujioka Masato was motivated to make movies by observing Tsukamoto Shinya’s film making while on Tsukamoto’s set as an actor. He attracted attention in 2003 at the age of 23 with his debut film, Lost by Dead which depicted teens on a self-destructive rampage. His second film Divide was decorated at the Toronto ReelHeART Film Festival in 2006. The film’s opening in Tokyo set a new record for attendance, and with numerous mass media exposure, resulted in the rare theatrical nationwide release for an independent movie. In 2014, Tsujioka took his completely self-produced 7th movie, Black Room, to the Cannes Film Festival’s Marche du Film and booked a screening room in order to generate awareness for it at an international level. He has written his impressions of being at the world’s most prestigious film festival as an independent Japanese filmmaker. Original Japanese Text by Tsujioka Masato Arriving …