Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

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Sweating the Small Stuff

It’s often said a filmmaker’s second work tends to be their most personal. For Ninomiya Ryutaro, the writer, director, editor, and star of his sophomore effort Sweating the Small Stuff this could literally be the case. Reportedly based on true events, and apparently shot in the locations those events happened, is the story of the protagonist (also named Ninomiya Ryutaro) spinning his wheels through a nihilistic life his very own? Auto mechanic Ryutaro, 27 years old, lives a fairly simple life. He seems confident, at least his swagger communicates as much, but spends much of his time reading books and drinking beers with friends. Something seems to be holding him back. One day, he receives a phone call from Yusuke, his childhood friend whose mother, Ryuko, is dying from Hepatitis C. Despite knowing for a while that Ryuko was sick, Ryutaro hasn’t visited her. And then he finally decides to go. Japanese independent cinema is populated with similar tales of characters aimlessly drifting through life but Ninomya’s movie may be able to distinguish itself from …

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Indie Forum 2018

The 2018 Osaka Asian Film Festival once again beckoned with its Indie Forum section offering a mix of surprising, delightful, thoughtful, and once in a while challenging movies thus preserving its position as an important showcase of independent Japanese cinema. Read about the twelve films viewed.

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All In Due Time

If taken just on face value, the career of Furuta Wataru might seem inapplicable to a magazine about independent film directors. After all, the Shizuoka Prefecture native studied economics and computer programming at a Canadian university and upon graduation landed a job as a programmer for a computer company before being transferred to manage sales, advertisement, and promotion there. Only upon joining a production company did he begin creating visuals as a computer graphic artist. However, look a little closer and you’ll discover Furuta is an award-winning director of short movies that have played at various festivals both at home and abroad. His unique vision and humor has often been praised including by the likes of director Izutsu Kazuyuki, the Japanese equivalent of Simon from ‘American Idol’, who had “no complaints” about Furuta’s short, Confession, saying it was “a masterpiece.” Even when not in the director’s chair, the works with which he’s been involved still garner attention. He produced the outrageous Burst the Earth short movie compilation which created quite a buzz following its broadcast …

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A Look Back

Indievisual went live in April of 2017. It’s been ten months since then and the journey has been amazing. Revisiting filmmakers interviewed, features written, and movies introduced, I look back at a year of learning to crawl before I walk.

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Through a Theater Darkly

The role of media in society has changed significantly over the last several years. It’s becoming more difficult to tell if media influences the masses or if the masses influence the media. Ogata Takaomi was becoming aware of this blurring of lines between sensationalism and journalism almost a decade ago. An avid lover of cinema since childhood, the Fukuoka native speaks of movies with an eager grin and a mild manner which belie the movies he has made. At the age of 25, he left the startup-up he founded as a partner and traveled abroad extensively. It was then he began to see the only way of life and society he knew in an entirely different light. His filmography is a gallery of thought-provoking studies intended to shed light on the biases instilled by society and the media in all of us. Ogata’s filmmaking is likely best described by the old adage “walk a mile in another man’s moccasins”. Having once aspired to journalism, he is unwavering in his dedication to steer his stories away …

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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 …