Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shinsedai Day 2

It wouldn't be empty for long: The JCCC theater pre-screening

If you live in Toronto and you love independent film, odds are you were at Shinsedai Saturday. Between the Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, the between-film chats with fans, writers and bloggers, and (especially) the excellent selection of Japanese indie films shown, it was a blast. From noon 'til almost midnight I enjoyed the following:

12:00 PM - "Freeter’s Distress"
(screening w/ "Suzuki & Co.")
These two films (one short, one documentary) examine the current employment challenges facing Japan's under-30s. "Suzuki & Co" was a humorous look at one guy's search for a way to keep in snacks; "Freeter's Distress" was a low-tech but immediately compelling video autobio about a young man's life as a temp. By turns sad and motivational, I had to wonder if it was strictly autobiographical, or if some elements were stressed to accentuate the drama. In any case, it was a popular choice with attendees.

2:00 PM – Peaches Programme
"Peaches" is an annual omnibus of short films directed (and in these cases written) by women. Connected by the merest thematic thread (this year's was "kiss"), these films are assembled into a sort of traveling mini-filmfest by organizer and producer Atsuko Ohno who's attending Shinsedai and was kind enough to do a Q&A after the screening of three of this year's peaches: "Bunny In Hovel" (Dir. Mayumi Yabe), the excellent "Emerger" (dir. Aki Sato, starring "Bashing" actress Fusako Urabe), and "Kushikosuposuto" (dir. Yumiko Beppu). Ohno-san (who also produced last year's omnibus film "Tokyo!") quite patiently answered everyone's questions and seemed pleased at the great response the films got.

6:00 PM - "Aruongaku"
(screening w/ Takagi Masakatsu shorts)
Today's avant-garde selection was astonishing: 4 short video-art films and a concert documentary. Dropped jaws for almost 2 hours of beautiful, intense music. Masakatsu-san has toured with Sigur Ros and David Sylvian and it's clear that he belongs with that crowd--he's that good. A complete surprise.

7:40 PM – "Thunderfish" ("Raigyo")
(screening w/ Right Place)
A sexy, quasi-supernatural mystery with noir overtones. Huge crowd for this one, even bigger than last night's opening, and everyone was impressed by the film's look and tone. Director Touru Hano, Lead actress Junko Kimoto, and Cinematographer Tetsuhiro Kato engaged the crowd afterwards in a Q&A session led by Midnight Eye co-founder and "Behind the Pink Curtain" author jasper Sharp:

Jasper Sharp conducts the "Thunderfish" Q&A

9:50 PM - "Electric Button" ("Moon & Cherry")
(screening w/ The Evening Traveling)
The laugh-out-loud crowdpleaser so far, "Electric Button" manages to have it's cake and eat it too. It's a fun, sexy romp that would delight most any fan of Apatow or the "American Pie" movies, but it's smart and true and never pandering. Peals of laughter through practically the whole film.

Reviews of most of these films and up-to-the-minute (er, day) festival news can of course be had here or over at Shinsedai-fest -- click away, there are plenty of archived reviews, film summaries, and more. We're getting video of all the Q&A sessions which should hit YouTube within the next week, but watch here at Powwow for transcriptions much sooner.

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