All posts tagged: Drama

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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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Innocent 15

Kai Hirokazu’s feature-length debut, Innocent 15, first came to my attention through its poster (below). A simple, photographic image of a young girl apparently sitting on a young boy’s lap, his face advancing on her’s, perhaps a first kiss, though somewhat unwillingly. It’s a moment simultaneously capturing youthful innocence as well as its loss. The mid-teens are turbulent time for most. The struggle to be “grown up” while still being treated as a “child” creates inner conflicts which often manifest in what adults regard as “rebellion”. However, on occasion, outside elements force youth to grow up which is the theme of Kai’s movie. As he explains why the movie is titled Innocent 15 at the Raindance Film Festival (paraphrasing): “The two 15-year-olds are in one sense ‘pure and unspoiled.’ But the world isn’t like that. There are horrible situations in this world like those depicted in the movie–no, worse probably exist–yet because they’re still ‘unworldly,’ such things are like scenery blurring by in a car window; they’re irrelavant to them. But slowly, the harsh world …

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Tayutau

Though Japan is not a Judeo-Christian or even particularly “religious” country per se, LGBT issues are, if not morally reprehensible, still socially unaccepted–at least publically–in a patriarchal society where the role of men and women are still maintained. Over the years some transgender men have been able to gain notoriety as well as acceptance as television talent, but one sometimes feels they do so by becoming everyone’s stereotypical friendly “jovial gay;” the “life of the party” everyone laughs with (and at) in TV programs and movies. This leaves the exploration of LGBT issues to smaller, indepedent productions like Tayutau, the feature-length debut by twenty-something director, Yamamoto Aya, who based her screenplay on a conversation she had with a friend who doubted their gender identity. Kataoka Junko (Jun), whose emotional identity have been at odds with her biological identity, shares a room with her friend since high school, Kinoshita Akari, who doesn’t know the father of the fetus growing in her stomach. After being dumped by an older companion, Jun now worries she will live her …

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The Sower

For independent filmmakers, shooting a family drama has the added benefit of a low production cost. However, the story and script must then be the primary value of the movie, and this is where wheat is separated from the chaff. Takeuchi Yosuke’s The Sower seems to have all the qualities to set it apart from most others. It’s theme of redemption and renewal may be representative of the genre, but the journey on which Takeuchi takes the characters is both special and emotionally impactful. A man afflicted with the mental and emotional grief of working in the disaster stricken areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake is released from a mental hospital after three years and is warmly welcomed back by his brother and his sister-in-law, who have two children; two girls, one with down syndrome. When the man agrees to take the two children to an amusement park, a tragic accident occurs which tears apart the family. A lie begets another lie while sorrow and anguish brings to the fore long held, deeply held …

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The Albino’s Trees

“Which is the harmful being?” The question posed in the trailer for Kaneko Masakazu’s The Albino’s Trees is the perfectly loaded question for encapsulating both the inner struggle of the protagonist and the larger conflict between mankind and our surroundings. Rationalizations, as varied as the motivations fueling them, are what drive the story of Yuku, “a hunter who works for animal damage control programmes in the mountains of central Japan. In order to afford the medical bills for the treatment of his mother’s illness, he accepts a lucrative contract to kill a rare, white deer that lives in the forest by a remote village, and whose presence is thought to undermine tourism in the region by the neighbouring town’s bureaucrats….” However, Kaneko begs whether there should be an acknowledgement of something greater, no matter the rationale. Summing up the central theme of his movie, Kaneko states: Being human inevitably implies the killing of other living things. Yet we often lack the real sense of what killing means, and our awareness of it is usually limited …

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Innocent Prayer

“Kill ’em all. I hope he kills everyone.” The tagline for Kamei Toru’s independent movie, Innocent Prayer, based on Hirayama Yumeaki’s short story collection, certainly isn’t mincing words. Only more shocking than the  request itself is the young heart and mind uttering it. Child-abuse and bullying are subject matters often dealt with in movies through varied ways, from over-the-top fantasies of heroism to grave calls to attention for previously unknown injustices. Revenge, of course, is one of the genres employed to achieve an effect, both in fiction and sadly, in real life. With Innocent Prayer, however, there is an interesting wrinkle which deserves notice. A 10-year-old girl, Fumi, is subjected to vicious bullying at school. Even at home, the daily abuse inflicted on her by her step-father worsening day by day, while her mother, seeking a spiritual solace from her husband’s abuse, is sinking deeper into a new religion. With no place for respite nor anyone to help her, Fumi’s endless despair is never-ending. Until one day, she learns of a series of murders occurring …