All posts tagged: debut feature

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 …

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, …

Siblings of the Cape Feature Image

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 …

Red Snow Feature Image

Red Snow

Thirty years ago, a young boy disappeared amid mysterious circumstances involving a sociopath, her troubled daughter, and a devastating fire. Today, what is known of the tragedy is shrouded in a morass of clouded and fictionalised memories, stubborn silence, and well-rehearsed lies. When a journalist arrives intent on getting to the bottom of the long-closed case, a tinderbox of pent-up emotions and misplaced guilt ignites; a spiral of violence erupts from the clash of competing histories and debilitating psychological injuries. (Int’l FF Marrakesh) The first thing one will notice about Red Snow is its distinctive palette and cinematography. At face value this accomplishes to provide the crime-centered story a noir aesthetic, but it is also safe to say this director who originally worked in the short film format and in video art was also looking to visualize the muddled nature of human memory at the core of the characters’ psyche also essential to noir. Strong thematics and powerful imagery have been a hallmark for Kai who has co-directed several acclaimed short movies, while her solo directorial shorts have …

Life Untitled Feature Image

Life: Untitled

On the fourth floor of an anonymous building, the lives of female escorts intersect as they wait for calls from their customers. Kano (Sairi Ito) has just joined the group. Quickly disillusioned, she nonetheless sticks around as an employee, managing bookings, cleaning up, and bearing witness to the lives of her coworkers. An eclectic group of women gravitate around the place, their lives “yet to be titled”, yet full of unspoken dreams, desires, heartbreaks and rivalries – all repressed in the face of the everyday misogyny inherent to the trade, and to Japanese society. (Fantasia Film Festival) There are more than a few reviews of Yamada Kana’s debut feature which reference the legendary filmmaker Mizoguchi Kenji in comparing how it differs from the “tradition” of brothel-set movies in Japanese cinema, specifically in how it portrays sex workers with dignity despite their lower social status and stigma of their profession. Other genres have served up the hooker, the call girl, etc. for more exploitive purposes. As Japan Cuts writes: “Portraying an industry frequently exploited in Japanese media …

Wasted Eggs Feature Image

Wasted Eggs

Junko is nearly 30, nearing the customary “best before” age of Japanese society, and is feeling stronger pressure from those around her. Without a significant other or even a particular wish to have children anytime soon, she decides to become an egg donor; and not just for the free Hawaii trip that would be the prize if her candidacy is successful. At a counsellng session, she meets her niece Aki who has similar plans. Together, they soon see how competitive social and evolutionary rules can mess up the best human relationships, particularly when such rules are mixed with the fossilized attitudes of a society which is frantically hanging on to traditions. At the age of 32 when she completed Wasted Eggs, Kawasaki Ryo is almost certainly drawing on real experiences and feelings for a society that continues to pressure women to marry and raise children, and unfortunately many Japanese women still consider to be the epitome of femininity. The decision between having a career or having a family still beleaguers contemporary Japanese women, including filmmakers like …