Films, films.....映画! 映画!
Updated: Jun 17
2023 年 6 月 15 日
It's 9.30 pm on Monday evening. This morning I said goodbye to my last passenger, a lecturer at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Sayako さん was just one of many grateful, kind and interesting people I met in my job as a driver for Nippon Connection, the annual Japanese film festival in Frankfurt. But as I sit here writing this, I realize with a shock that, although I am finished with the festival, she is still sitting in her plane enduring the 15 hour flight to Tokyo.
This link will tell you all you need to know about the festival. In English, German or 日本語
🎬 My job has involved a lot of sitting. Trains, cars, sofas and cinemas. This is the faithful Regional Bahn which brought me into Frankfurt every day for the last week......私の毎日の電車はニッポンコネクションへ
There's a car photo later on. However I did not take a photo of the important black leather sofa which was the central feature of the festival office. And the Cinema? Well, there were many to choose from....the Naxos Halle, the DFF, the Mal Sehen Kino, the El Dorado, and the Mousonturm. All venues for this amazing feast of Japanese films. So between driver jobs I slipped into a few of the films on offer. Let's dive in straight away with this unusual documentary...................いくつかの 映画は シリアスな映画でした.....
📽 People who have been wrongly convicted and spent nearly 30 years in prison are not usually as positive and passionate as Shoji Sakurai. As well as revealing a very negative side of the Japanese judicial system, this documentary showed the extraordinary life of a man who has suffered because of it. But he leaves bitterness behind him to help others with a similar fate. Shocking and inspiring. It won the Documentary Award. The Director was there to answer questions about it - a useful bonus which was quite a common feature of the festival. ドキュメンタリー 私の記念日
📽 And I have already mentioned this film last week......"......Anyone who has seen Japanese tourist brochures will have seen alluring pictures of the chain of islands in the south : Okinawa. https://visitokinawajapan.com/Broad, idylic beaches and clear water. The reality for young people who actually live there can be rather less than idyllic. Masaaki Kudo traces the struggles of a very young couple with a toddler. Father is immature and clings to a selfish "power" role over his partner. The young mother is disillusioned with life and despite her disgust, but for want of money, is forced into prostitution. This is real cinema. Kudo spent 3 years in Okinawa and his screenplay is based on personal experience. This is no fantasy. Loud applause greeted the end of this film, and a lively discussion. I was soooooo glad I was there......." 沖縄を知っていると思いますか？........
📽 In the next film we saw how the potential release on parole of a girl convicted of the murder of her classmate causes anguish and closure for the affected family. A very powerful film, exploring stubborn anger (the father wanting his daughter's killer to stay in prison) coupled with humanity and a need for closure (the mother). A Brilliant exploration of the psychology of forgiveness and need for communication. Interestingly, the Director Anshul Chauhan is an Indian living in Japan. 興味深いことに、監督のアンシュル・チョーハンは日本在住のインド人です。
📽 After this I needed this light relief. A smart Tokyo architect suddenly finds himself deciding the fate of his father's inheritance - a public bath - Sentō (銭湯) in a rural part of Japan. His disdain for all things "backward" and "rural" is soon undermined by the sheer charm, humanity and weirdness of the local community. I haven't laughed so much for a long time! I loved this film. …...大笑いした 映画は Yudo です......😂
📽 Having some time to kill between jobs I slipped into this....Sayonara, Girls. It was popular enough to get an honorable mention by the visions jury. But for me it was yet another High school coming-of-age film. 🥱 欠伸...........oh well, "each to his own" as they say in English.....
📽 Now to the next film I watched. This film, My Small Land, with its theme being the fate of a Kurdish refugee family in Japan, did not appeal to me on first glance. But then I met the director, Emma Kawawada, who asked me to watch it and give her some honest feedback.
A difficult request to refuse, being asked in such a charming manner. Of course my interest was piqued by the British/Japanese background, so I guessed that I might be seeing something interesting here. Ken Loach (of Kes fame https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kes_(film)
came into our conversation, as was her work with 是枝 裕和, Koreeda Hirokazu (Our Little Sister 海街 diary, Umimachi Diary ).
I missed the first screening due to a driver job, but managed to squeeze into the second screening as a "staff" member. I was so glad I had made the effort! Kawawada's story shows us a Kurdish family who have managed to carve out a life in a very foreign land - Japan🎌. The father has employment, but still clings on to their old family traditions, even to the point of choosing a future husband for his daughter.
But the daughter is on another trajectory. She is now fluent in Japanese and even has a Japanese boyfriend. But when locals ask her where she is from she doesn't know what to say, so says she is German. This whole scenario crumbles when the immigration authorities unexpectedly decide that their family immigration status is no longer valid. There is a brutally banal scene where an immigration officer simply punches a hole in their visas - rather like a train ticket 🎫being clipped. Instant result: Father and daughter are not allowed to work anymore, and may not even leave their Prefecture, Saitama. In this astute film Emma Kawawada shows a keen understanding of people and the meaning of identity. It's that crisis of identity you see with second generation immigrants all over the world : the tension between your new life in a new country and the old family and traditions you have left behind. With two bilingual children myself I could relate to some of the themes here. However, I have the privilege of European status in a European country. No comparison. But this film really hit me. Not least for the sensitive acting and meticulous camera work, but also for the discreet and economical use of music 🎵. This is a marvellous, insightful work, and I told her so, trying to use the English idiom "you have hit the nail on the head". 実は（じつ）映画のリストを見た時、この映画に あまり興味が（きょうみ）がありませんでした。でも次の日、（つぎのひ）偶然（ぐうぜん）オープニングパーティーで、川和田監督（かんとく）に会いました。彼女は私に 映画の内容（ないよう）や背景（はいけい）を説明（せつめい）をしてくれて、興味（きょうみ）がわきました。彼女は、映画をみて、率直（そっちょく）な感想（かんそう）を聞かせてほしいと頼（たの）みました。そして、私は映画を見て、率直（そっちょく）な感想（かんそう）を彼女に伝（つた）えました. Here she is, (on the left) posing for a photo with her hospitality partner Deniz....川和田恵真さん (左)
📽 You may have heard of the film "Drive My Car" by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, where a producer at a local festival is assigned a chauffeur...the chauffeur being actress Toko Miura. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BPKPb_RTwI Well, here she was at Nippon Connection to receive the "Nippon Rising Star Award", and sat in the audience for the new film "Mountain Woman". Now this was real cinematic stuff. We are in 18thc rural Japan, where a bad harvest has resulted in hunger and hardship. A young girl leaves her village to atone for the sin of her father (he has stolen rice from the communal store). A film with a simple plot and neat ending. Mystic mountains and the flow of a mighty river........シンプルなプロットとすっきりとした結末の映画。 神秘的な山々、そして雄大な川の流れ……。
So as you can see, despite my job as a driver, ferrying film people between airport, hotel and station, I had time to see some interesting films. In addition to this there were outdoor events. Such as this calligraphy performance. This fascinated me. Here is Lanka, a calligrapher wielding the most enormous brush ふで I have ever seen..........書道パフォーマンス
....and who proceeded to paint "Infinity"........
This is another world from my neat, careful calligraphy at home. Bold, free expression is the driving force here........大胆で自由な表現
Every calligrapher signs their work with a stamp......a hanko はんこ.....判子
and what a lot of ink......!
The business card of a calligrapher is a work of art in itself....(!)....and here is her website: lankacalligraphy.nl
We also had music. Here is a friend of mine - Rena Kato "from" Chichester, who sang some of her songs. In English, German and Japanese...www.renakato.com
My job as one of the driving team was made easier by good organization. I knew exactly what I had to do, when and where. Special thanks to Vincent, Nils and Laura from the Driver organization group. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 良い組織
This festival has been running for many years, originally starting life as a student film event, and gradually evolving into an established part of Frankfurt's cultural calender and the worldwide network of film festivals..The hard work is mostly done by volunteers - whether it be in merchandising; catering; hospitality services; IT back-up; text editing; translating, on-stage interpreting (German/Japanese/English) or publicity.
And who are all these marvellously dedicated people? Well some of them are students studying Japanese at university. Others are budding film-makers and designers, or simple mortals like myself learning japanese. And of course there are many real Japanese from the ex-pat community who live in Germany. My conversational gambit was "...drive my car...." which received many a laugh......私の車で運転してください😆
Here are a couple of other random photos: Roses in bloom outside the main venue, the Mousonturm (a form soap factory built in the 1920s.......) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCnstlerhaus_Mousonturm
What do you call a group of film people? Here we have a merry little huddle......including (L to R) Shogu Kiriu ("Journey" Sci-Fi Première), Fumiari Hyuga ("I am a comedian") and Keiko Funato (http://www.alphaviolet.com)
Well there you go for this week. I suppose you thought I would be writing again about some hiking trip or other. It will indeed soon be time to get back into the countryside, but the woods it will have to be, for daytime temperatures under the burning sun are reaching the high 20s at the moment. すぐにまたハイキングに行きます.
The morning after the festival ended I parked the car, said goodbye and walked out of the office. But I didn't get very far. There was Taku Aoyagi, who had brought his "Tokyo Uber Blues" to the festival. I apologized to him for not seeing his film, but he merrily took this photo of me anyway..........
Thank you for reading "......Films, films.........."
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Thank you to Mikiさん for language tips!
Disclaimer: This is a purely personal subjective account of my experiences at Nippon Connection and does not represent any official stance or opinion