Japanese women directors

J.sharp j.sharp at hpo.net
Fri Dec 22 13:26:41 EST 2006

This is interesting. At Raindance Festival this year I got talking to a
freelance journalist who was doing a bit of research about women film
directors. It seems that in North America, the UK and much of Europe, the
number of films being made  by women directors has dropped significicantly
in the past 5 years.

As it happened, three of the films I selected to be screened in the Japanese
selection were directed by women, all first time feature directors, and all
three make my best of top 10 which will appear on Midnight Eye sometime very
soon. The films were Dear Pyongyang, Bambi Bone, and Moon and Cherry.

Moon and Cherry proved to be one of the most popular films of the festival,
and the sort of work that it amazes me foreign distributors don't pick up on
- this is a film that people of any culture will find funny, sexy,
thought-provoking and poignant, and is one of the best independant films of
the past few year, by a woman or otherwise. It tells the story of a young
virginal male university student who joins an erotic writing club and is led
a merry dance by the clubs only feel member, and the only one published, who
uses him as the raw material for her next work. I really look forward to
seeing the next film from its director Yuki Tanada

Bambi Bone is arty, expressionistic and definitely not for all tastes, but
signals the arrival of another really talented director in the form of
Noriko Shibutani, telling a tale about two errant kids running riot around
their working class environment in a film that perhaps most resembles Nobody
Knows meets Julian Donkey Boy.

And finally, Dear Pyongyang is a documentary in the Naomi Kawase vein by
Yong-hi Yang, tackling the North Korean issue in the form of an intimate
portrait of her aging but remarkably charismatic father - he is utterly
ambivalent about Japanese homeland, and fiercely patriotic towards the
country of his origins, believing strongly in the idea of a united communist
Korea - to such an extent that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice
in 1971 of splitting up his family and sending his three sons, then aged 14,
16, and 18, to live forever in Pyongyang as part of a repatriation project
that saw 90,000 such zainichi returning to North Korea. Much of this
fascinating work follows the filmmaker, her father and her mother on a
family visit to their estranged family in Pyonyang.

So there's been some brilliant independant features by women directors in
Japan in recent year, and I would definitely add my voice to the chorus of
approval for Hebi Ichigo. It is just such a shame that none of these women
ever make it as big in the industry as their male colleagues- there's a
serious threat of these directors suffering similar problems getting new
projects funded as Lynne Ramsay, certainly among the most interesting
directors to emerge in the UK in recent years. Its curious for example how
Naomi Kawase seems to have fallen off the map recently, and one has to
wonder when we'll see anything new from her.

Jasper Sharp

Midnight Eye: The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema


Available now in bookstores everywhere:
The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (Stone Bridge Press)
by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
"Easily one of the most important books on Japanese cinema ever released in
- Newtype USA

--------- Original Message --------
From: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Subject: Re: Sharasojyu and Hebi Ichigo
Date: 21/12/06 17:06

> In North America, at least, it's _quite_ difficult to find Japanese
> films by female directors. There are some fairly well-known female
> _screenwriters_ (Wada Natto comes immediately to mind, and Nobumoto
> Keiko who wrote many of the _Cowboy Bebop_ episodes), but directors...
> well, that's another story all together! _Hebi Ichigo_ sounds
> interesting--anyone want to contribute titles to a &quot;must see&quot;
> But to keep this from becoming &quot;just a list&quot; which seems to
> some people, add a short line or two why the film is a 'must see'...
> Let's get a jump on the 2006 Top Ten lists...! ^_^
> Tim Iles
> University of Victoria
> Quoting Michael McCaskey &lt;mccaskem at georgetown.edu&gt;:
> &gt; Sharasojyu is a really great film, and I hope that at some point
> &gt; there will be a DVD with English subtitles that I could show parts
> &gt; of to my students (or is there already one with subtitles that I
> &gt; don't know about?).
> &gt;
> &gt; Another film that I somehow associate with this one is Nishikawa
> &gt; Miwa's Hebi Ichigo (2003). Maybe only because both are by women
> &gt; directors, both are visually striking, and I saw both around the
> &gt; same time. I believe my Japanese DVD of Hebi Ichigo does have
> &gt; English subtitles, though I haven't watched it for some while.
> &gt;
> &gt; Michael McCaskey
> &gt; Georgetown Univ.
> &gt;
> &gt; ----- Original Message -----
> &gt; From: tim.iles at utoronto.ca
> &gt; Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 4:07 pm
> &gt; Subject: Re: Actor's name in _Sharasojyu_
> &gt;
> &gt;&gt; Many thanks--back in my office now with the credits in front of
> &gt;&gt; me, it
> &gt;&gt; looks like the boy is Yamamoto Masashi (not sure about the given
> &gt;&gt; name)--small part, IMDb doesn't list him, but as a character
> &gt;&gt; _runs_
> &gt;&gt; well, at least!
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt; Best,
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt; Tim Iles
> &gt;&gt; University of Victoria
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt; Quoting Frako Loden &lt;frako at well.com&gt;:
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt; &gt;
> &gt;&gt; &gt;&gt; Could anyone tell me off-hand the name of the actor who
> &gt;&gt; Kei
> &gt;&gt; &gt;&gt; in Kawase Naomi's _Sharasojyu_? I'm away from my copy of
> &gt;&gt; film
> &gt;&gt; &gt;&gt; at the moment and so can't check the credits...
> &gt;&gt; &gt;
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Tim, I don't see a character named Kei in any cast lists.
> &gt;&gt; is what
> &gt;&gt; &gt; I have (and it agrees with imdb.com):
> &gt;&gt; &gt;
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Shun	FUKUNAGA Kohei
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Yu	HYOUDO Yuka
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Reiko	KAWASE Naomi
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Taku	NAMASE Katsuhisa
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Shouko	HIGUCHI Kanako
> &gt;&gt; &gt;
> &gt;&gt; &gt; Frako Loden
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;&gt;
> &gt;

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