All posts tagged: Drama

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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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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 …