All posts tagged: Drama

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Beloved Nora: A Chance Encounter with Happiness

In terms of the role they play in the lives of humans, pets have gone from being “domesticated animals” fulfilling a function for their masters to being integral members of the family. Whether cat, dog, fish, bird, snake, or something more exotic, pets figuratively and often times literally occupy a special place in the home. For young children, they may seem like another sibling. For adults, they may be viewed like their own children; in some cases, pets take the place of children who have left they nest or had never been. This is the essential focus of Beloved Nora – A Chance Encounter with Happiness (lit. translation). The story revolves around an insignificant screenwriter, Tsukumo Sakumi and the stray cat which wanders into his life. Naming the cat Shiro, he and his wife, Hiori, decide to keep it. Without children of their own, the couple dote on Shiro like parents would a child. Then one day Shiro does not return home after going outside. Sakumi disregards his work to go in search for Shiro, …

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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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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 …