Tuesday, March 2, 2010

23-year-old director Yosuke Okuda takes top prize at Yubari with "Seishun Hakaba"

by Chris MaGee

I have been reading updates from colleagues who were lucky enough to make it to Hokkaido for this year's Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, including Outcast Cinema's Marc Walkow who was lucky enough to sit on the jury (Congrats, Marc!), and wishing I was there. Sadly (for me) the 5-day event wrapped up Monday, but not before the jury headed by Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To announced its top pick of the fest. That honour went to "Seishun Hakaba - Ashita to Ishoni Aruku no da" directed by 23-year-old filmmaker Yosuke Okuda (above right being presented with his award by actor Ryo Ishibashi).

The film, a raucous action/ comedy, is apparently based on Okuda's own experience. "Seishun-hakaba", translated as "Grave of Youth" (although some English-language news sources are referring to it as "Hot as Hell") is about two young men who get a bit more than they bargain for after trying to pick up a girl at a local supermarket. Back and her apartment they encounter a group of yakuza and all hell breaks loose.

Okuda, who only just graduated from Waseda University's Kawaguchi Art School in 2007 and had unsuccessfully submitted his work to the Yubari Film Fest twice before, was in tears during the awards ceremony. Through a comment posted in response to a story on this year's Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival Okuda spoke about his nervousness about having his film included in competition, "When my movie was on screen, I was afraid of seeing your reactions," he writes, "and so I hung around the town of Yubari. After the movie, one of the audience got out of the theater and approached me, and said, 'Your film was interesting.' Such a thing occurred many times. I got delighted, indeed. I felt dizzy."

It's interesting that this is the second year in a row that an indie film about young males in Japan written and directed by a young Japanese man has taken home the top prize at Yubari. Last year Yu Irie's low-budget film "SR: Saitama's Rapper (a.k.a. 8000 Miles)" came out of nowhere to win Best Film. here's hoping that "Seishun-hakaba" will have the same success on the international festival circuit that Irie had after his Yubari win.

It's toon soon to know if and when "Seishun-hakaba" will make its way to our shores, but for now check out the trailer below. Looks like a load of fun. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter for this news, and Cinema Today for the above photo.

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