All posts tagged: current events

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The Hungry Lion

The internet was once hailed as the “information super highway”; information would travel across vast distances at incredible speeds allowing people to have more access to more types of information than they ever had before. Today, however, the internet more closely resembles a battleground than a highway, with information becoming the barbs and arrows of the media and its consumers. It is becoming more difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. “Fake News” has probably come to be the defining phrase of 2017 and perhaps beyond. Director Ogata Takaomi was aware of the way the mass media was beginning to trade away its obligation to provide objective information for the sake of profitability and audience size long ago. His latest movie, The Hungry Lion throws into relief how the proliferation of convenient means to record and disseminate information across the vastness of the internet is not only turning us into prey, but potential predators as well thanks to a mass media that is packaging information for ready consumption by a hungry public. One morning, 18-year-old Hitomi’s …

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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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Out of My Hand

The death of the American dream is a typical trope a variety of movies have tackled, mostly to the somber tune of disappointment and sadness. However, trope or not, there are still a plethora of stories on the subject matter still remaining to be told. What will separate wheat from chaff is the angle a filmmaker chooses to approach it. Just as Kohki Hasei avoided “poverty porn,” in the case of Hokkaido born Fukunaga Takeshi, that angle was not a tale of bitter realities in an unfamiliar country, but the resilient and determined spirit of immigrants looking to better their lives in a new country. Considering the controversial issue immigration has become recently, one might think Out of My Hand to be extraordinarily timely were it not for the fact Fukunaga shot the movie, his debut feature, in 2013. Feeling “out of place” in Japan, Fukunaga moved to New York wanting to meet and learn about people from other countries. After studying film production at Brooklyn College, he worked as an editor for a documentary about Liberian …

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Stolen

North Korea is on the minds of a lot of people these days with its leader and the U.S. President goading one another like impetuous children attempting to prove their manhood on a playground, except they are not playing with sand. North Korea’s ballistic missile program is certainly the latest threat from Pyongyang, but for Japan and South Korea–two countries literally currently caught in the middle–a much more human dilemma continues unresolved: the kidnapping of its citizens a few decades ago. The governments of the two countries had been engaged in negotiations to compel North Korea to either return its citizens or at least provide their current status and whereabouts. With the focus shifting to a military/defense affair, the plight of the kidnapped victims and their families have all been but brushed aside. In fact, the kidnapping issue has all but disappeared from public consciousness despite being seen as a top foreign affairs issue not so long ago. It is this human element to which the mid-length movie, Stolen, attempts to draw attention once again. Its …

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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 …

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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 …