by Chris MaGee
This past year through my duties as co-programmer of the Shinsedai Cinema Festival that I got to see a lot of new and lesser known films from Japan, the kind of projects that get me most excited. One of these was Masaki Iwana's 2008 film "Vermilion Souls". Iwana is an internationally known butoh dancer and choreographer, but with this sometimes subtle, sometimes downright shocking film he adds director to his resume and it's with great pleasure that the Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow and Naomi Hocura, curator of this past summer's "Seconds Under the Sun: Japanese Short Animation" are proud to present the Toronto premiere of Masaki Iwana's 2007 film "Vermilion Souls" on Friday, February 5th @ 7:30PM at Cinecycle.
The winner of the Best Film Award at Portobello Film Festival 2009 and official selection of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2009 "Vermilion Souls" is set in 1952 Japan and tells the story of a young boy who, after following a trail of leaflets being dropped by an airplane, enters a restricted area outside his town. There he finds a medieval castle occupied by a handful of strange characters afflicted with a fatal disease - an old calligrapher with fins for hands, a prostitute who must hide from the sun, a surviving kamikaze pilot, and a mysterious woman with the powers of an ancient oracle. All exist in limbo between life and death, reliant on the whims of a government official for the word as to whether they will live or die.
Iwana describes "Vermilion Souls" as being about the "'skill of life that dares to live death', the underlying concept of Butoh since its inception 50 years ago." It takes the audience into a world infused with these concerns, a surreal cinematic vision that hearkens back to the tradition of avant-garde master Shuji Terayama.
This is a unique opportunity to see a film directed by a butoh artist, and it's sure to be a film that will divide audiences. Don't miss it, and make sure to check back Friday for our full review.