Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

Eye-One-Complicity

Complicity

Chen Liang has come from China’s Henan Province to work in Japan as a technical trainee, but runs away from his place of training and becomes an illegal resident. He lies to his mother back home that he is continuing his training all the while performing work-for-hire petty larceny. In an unexpected turn of events, he takes a call for a job meant for another and pretends to be that person. He starts his new life living and working at an elderly soba master’s soba restaurant in Yamagata with the fear that his identity could be exposed at any moment. The feature length debut by Chikaura Kei deals with a timely issue–that of foreign workers, immigrants, or refugees making a new home in another country. Complicity in particular deals with “technical trainees” in Japan, a program for allowing foreigners to receive “training” while working in specific fields. The program has been criticized (and exploited) as a poorly veiled form of cheap labor. Rather than focus on the abuses which begins the story, the independent China-Japan …

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The Lasting Persimmon

Risaki is coming back home to her wintery countryside, Yamagata which is 400 km away from Tokyo. There she finds the seemingly unchanging snowy life of her beloved family and home village—snow shoveling, making pickles, bridges over a big river covered with snow, and persimmon fruits left unharvested on its tree. The original Japanese title of Chikaura Kei’s 2016 short movie is Nagori-Gaki which is a type of Japanese persimmon that become very ripe and sweet when left unharvested to endure the brutal winter. This is a custom in northern areas of Japan in order for travelers and birds to have something to eat. “Warm, Gentle and Strong” is how Chikaura described the people from the region and their customs that inspired The Lasting Persimmon. Homepage at: http://persimmonfilms.com

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After the Exhibition

At the closing of his exhibition in the rural city of Mito, local artist Qualia declares “I don’t feel like going home” and loiters around the gallery. His girlfriend and his friends ultimately begin filtering out the door. Then Qualia comes up with an idea. Though shorter than YEAH, at 24 minutes, there is still no less to be digested in Suzuki’s observation about the nature of our interactions with one another depending on the situation. In the case of After the Exhibtion, Qualia–a real-life artist whom Suzuki befriended in Mito–is seen in different lights, when he is at the front of the gallery versus the time he spends in the gallery’s “backyard”. Or in other words, the separation between our public and private selves. Currently, Suzuki is working on his second feature-length, tentatively titled “Abokke” which will also be set in Mito and by all accounts may have already begun shooting.

Eye-On-Yeah

Yeah

Ako, a resident of a housing complex, appears to have some sort of personal problem. As a consequence, she is unable to find her own apartment and has no choice but to keep wandering about the housing complex grounds. Sometimes, she begins speaking with inanimate objects as if they were people–a tree here, a bicycle there, but never people. What exactly is her problem, and where does she intend to go? Suzuki, currently residing in the Ibaraki Prefecture capital of Mito, got together with actress Yanagi Elisa (Capturing Dad, Rolling) and decided to shoot something together in Mito. With the determined support of staff members from his previous movie Ow and newly made acquaintances in Mito, Suzuki was able to shoot this distinctive work which once again looks to be demonstrating Suzuki’s penchant for eccentricity combined with satirical wit as in Ow. This not only makes for fascinating viewing, but simultaneously provides ample food for thought. YEAH world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2018 where programmers commented: “In this politically charged setting, …

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2018: Looking Back & Forward

Indievisual’s first full calendar year (it went live in April of 2017 with a Year-in-Review posted 8 months later) set new milestones and solidly built upon the momentum of its launch. The number of interviews published approached a respectable pace of one every two months. Caught My Eye write-ups also saw an increase following the new guiding principle for how they would be written as detailed in this blog entry. And with some good fortune, the number of Side Stories remained unchanged. 2018 was a landmark year for writing articles and interviewing filmmakers. Or…that is what could have been written. Sadly, the reality is quite different. 2018 was a good year certainly for paid work with many opportunities received from long time collaborators. This was also the first year translation work needed to be juggled with a job in the other realm in which I have a foot still planted. For more on this, please follow this link as I do not wish to dedicate space for it here. Suffice it to say, simultaneously working …

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Killer Smile – Asakura Kayoko

There is a perceptual problem in cinema that women are not suited for or interested in directing genre movies. Making such an assumption about Asakura Kayoko based on her model-esque stature and charming smile would be a disservice to the well-versed director and passionate fan of genre fare. At the 2014 Etheria Film Night where Asakura’s slow burn horror short HIDE and SEEK screened, feminist magazine ‘Bitch Media‘ reported a man expressing incredulity the evening’s chills and thrills were directed by Asakura and the other female filmmakers who walked on stage post-screening. Many male directors have become reliable brand names of genre movies, but there are few female directors with equal clout. The fact Asakura has had even fewer working female directors in her native Japan to venerate, especially in genres such as horror, makes the attention she has gained to date all the more remarkable. Raised in Yamaguchi Prefecture, her first encounter with cinema was in the form of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. when she was young child. After graduating high school she left Yamaguchi in …

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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 …