All posts tagged: Documentary

Yamamoto Hyoe Interview Feature Image

Insider Looking Out – Yamamoto Hyoe

Becoming a filmmaker requires specific skills. An understanding of and practical experience with film production techniques is a matter of course, however a non-English speaking filmmaker will also need to become English proficient if they aspire to the world stage. Unfortunately, the language barrier is still a daunting and significant obstacle for a large majority of Japanese filmmakers in 2019. Yamamoto Hyoe perhaps innately sensed the importance of learning English when he left Japan to attend high school in Massachusetts before entering NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to study film production. Back in the mid-to-late 90s, this made him somewhat of a trailblazer if not an oddity, but doing so would give Yamamoto early insight regarding how filmmaking, like language, possesses a cultural component which can not be fully understood until one fully immerses oneself in that culture. From the creative process to business fundamentals, major and independent film production alike in the U.S. does differ from Japan’s idiosyncratic film industry–sometimes significantly. This education and experience is brought to the fore in Yamamoto’s debut …

Eye-On-Domains

Domains

Aki and Naoko are childhood friends who are drifting apart as adults. Immersed in her family life, Naoko now has a husband and daughter; Aki, on the other hand, remains single and is on leave from work due to a personal crisis. The plot might sound familiar but it has never been told like this. The director Kusano Natsuka stages the interactions through an actors’ table-read and, as the lines are repeated, the scenes gradually develop into on-location conversations. Moreover, she repositions the dramatic peak of the story to the beginning: Aki has murdered Naoko’s daughter. Structurally inventive, Kusano’s daring cinema implements ‘distantiation’ effects to get to the heart of friendship issues at times when life has settled. While the repetitions convey the suffocation of role patterns in both friendship and family, a line left out or added in unsettles and reminds us life can take unexpected turns. (IFFR 2018) Kusano Natsuka’s Best Director and SKIP City Award-winning debut Antonym is an intriguing character study of a relationship between opposites, of differences that define the other as the …

Eye-On-Criminal-Engravement

Criminal Engravement – A Young Tattoo Artist Challenges the System (Working Title)

Why are tattoo artists getting arrested in Japan? Despite its rich history and tradition that dates back centuries, tattoo is one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Japan. A young tattoo artist stands up for his rights and dares to open Japan’s “Pandora’s box” that exposes a society that is fast becoming an undemocratic totalitarian state. Yamamoto Hyoe is following up his compelling documentary Samurai and Idiots – The Olympus Affair with another feature documentary this time focusing on a case barely being covered in local media. Once again approaching the issue from the standpoint of a Japanese who has also spent most of his life in America, Yamamoto is placing the spotlight on the impact this case may have beyond the reach of tattooing itself. Despite the popularity of Japanese-style body art abroad, tattooing still carries a negative stigma associated with the yakuza and therefore people with tattoos are often stereotyped as not being “upstanding” citizens. The stigma has also carried over into unscientific-like arguments over the sanitariness of people with tattoos which …

Eye-On-Gaika

Gaika (working title)

The principal woman featured in this movie begins showing the initial symptoms of mottled spots on the skin at the age of seven. The onset of stupor beings when she is 10-years-old. She is diagnosed with leprosy at 22 and the following year in 1957 she is separated from her family before being mandatorily quarantined at the Tama Zenshoen Sanatorium. 10 months later she meets a man also quarantined there with leprosy and the two are wed. However, sanatorium rules at the time stipulated the castration of any male leprosy patient who marries another leprosy patient within the facility. The couple have no other recourse but to accept the rule for the sake of their married life together.  Director’s Statement I was very young when I first learned of leprosy. People said “get too close and you’ll be infected by the disease” so leprosy was a very scary sickness for me at that tender age. I became familiar with leprosy in a proper sense in 1999. I was involved as a director of a one …

Eye-On-Shinjuku-Tiger

Shinjuku Tiger

Shinjuku, Tokyo’s leading entertainment district. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Shinjuku was the epicenter of social movement. Now, an old man people call “Shinjuku Tiger” exists there. Wearing a tiger mask and gaudy clothing, he can be seen walking all over Shinjuku each day. In 1972, when Shinjuku Tiger was 24-years-old, he determined to live as a “tiger” until he dies. What happened to him in 1972? Through interviews with the staff at a newspaper distributor where he works; personnel from Tower Records which used him in posters for the 1998 grand opening of Tower Records Shinjuku as well as the store’s renewal in in 2012; and shopkeepers in the Golden Gai district among others, the film uncovers the true purpose hidden underneath the tiger mask, and the important role the town of Shinjuku has played. A graduate of the University of Southern California film school, director Sato Yoshinori has directed two independent movies which have played throughout Japan (at self-run, alternative venue screenings) and abroad. This is his first feature documentary which looks …

Eye-On-Danchi-Woman

Danchi Woman

For the past 3 decades 85-year-old Uchikoshi Shizu has been living in the 50-year-old Seaside Road “Danchi” – the Japanese word for public housing – and filling it with a lifetime of souvenirs that have always kept her company. Due to the scheduled demolition of the complex to rebuild them as newer danchi, Uchikoshi and the women in the apartment are faced with problems of relocation and rent. Uchikoshi and her neighbors must say goodbye to their homes, and move into smaller apartments that cannot hold all of Uchikoshi’s momentos. This intimate documentary captures Uchikoshi’s sense of humor and profound nostalgia, as she sorts through relics of her past, choosing which memories she must fit into her new home, and which ones she can let go of. Director Sugimoto Akiko had covered this very same public housing complex in her independent film Seaside Road Danchi Story. Her camera turns its attention on the apartments’ residents as they move out and continue their lives in their new homes. Japan’s aging population has created a number of challenging …

Eye-On-Samurai-and-Idiots

Samurai and Idiots–The Olympus Affair

The whistleblower has often provided movies with an underdog character whom audiences can root for such as Russel Crowe’s character in Michael Mann’s The Insider. In 2002 Time magazine’s Persons of Year were three women, real whistleblowers who exposed FBI intelligence failures as well as corruption at corporate giants Enron and WorldCom. They were hailed as heroes for defying the larger entity to which they belonged in order to expose truth . In 2011, then president and CEO of the Japanese Olympus Corporation, Michael Woodford, blew the whistle on a 1.7 billion dollar fraud the company kept secret for more than two decades and was abruptly dismissed from his post by the board of directors citing “cultural differences” in management style. Instead of being hailed a hero, the few Japanese media that bothered to cover the story used the angle of this just being another example of a foreigner failing to adapt to the Japanese way. The international press, however, reported a brewing scandal in which Woodford’s ousting was done to damage control the effect …