There are millions of people living in Tokyo, and most of them moved from somewhere else to Tokyo in order to find work in the bustling city. Among these millions is a large number of people who choose to forgo a long commute and live on their own in a tiny apartment, so we’re sure many share very similar experiences at home.
A whimsical CG film entered in the 17th DigiCon6 ASIA Supreme Short Movie Contest has captured a ton of popularity for its animation style, which many say is reminiscent of a Pixar movie. But what really sets it apart is the fact that the short film shares Pixar’s playfulness as well.
Created by Takuya Okada, this short movie starts off with a normal “end of the day” scene that we imagine any officer worker in Tokyo would recognize, but it soon turns into a magical journey through a runaway imagination.
These dream-like sequences are probably a product of a worker’s incredibly tired mind, since we all know how long the average office worker’s day is. Still, it’s a treat to see the crazy adventures that play out in our mind animated in such an exciting way! The 17thDigiCon6 ASIA Supreme Short Movie Contest is being run by TBS in Japan and this particular short film is an audience choice entry. Voting ends on November 6, so if you enjoyed watching it, make sure you give it your support on their voting page (click the pink box).
You can also check out Takuya Okada’s YouTube page for other videos.
Pixar has released exciting news about their newest short film, “Sanjay’s Super Team.”
The short’s director, Sanjay Patel, admits that much of his own life and experiences shaped the story. Specifically, his childhood battle between his American upbringing and his Indian roots. Sanjay felt conflicted between the side of him that watched cartoons and read comics versus the side of him that performed puja, a daily Hindu meditation and prayer ritual.
“My parents’ whole world revolved around their gods, the Hindu deities,” Patel told the Los Angeles Times. “Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”
This also seems to be the case with young Sanjay, the animated protagonist in the 7-minute Pixar short. When Sanjay is pulled away from watching cartoons to meditate and pray, he is both bored and reluctant. As such, he begins to daydream and imagines the Hindu deities as a team of superheroes. Needless to say, he becomes entranced in his daydream. With a newfound interest in the Hindu deities, he becomes one step closer to understanding his religious immigrant parents.
“If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short,” Patel said the Los Angeles Times. “I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy’s story to the pop culture zeitgeist. To have a broad audience like Pixar’s see this … it is a big deal. I’m so excited about that.”
Intrigued? You should be. Director Sanjay Patel has quite an impressive amount of achievements under his belt an animator on A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles. This short will be released with the upcoming Pixar film The Good Dinosaur on November 25th. But if that’s just too far away, you can catch “Sanjay’s Super Team” early at June’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France.
It seems unavailing, if not petty, that a movie might’ve caused one of the tenser international disputes in recent years – a Seth Rogen film, at that – but The Interview stirred quite the controversy. Broad-chested in rhetoric, Americans quickly advocated the film as exercising the very brand of Freedom® the country was founded upon; it was argued a farce – and who are we (as humans, of course), after all, if we cannot laugh at ourselves? Well, as it turns out, you might just live in North Korea: home of the world’s most oppressive regimes but also the proud host of a staunch cinematic tradition. The biennial Pyongyang International Film Festival was recently held, with GQ maverick Mitch Moxley behind the keyboard to write one of the more compelling travelogues this side of democracy – “The Reddest Carpet: I Survived The Korean Film Festival.”
Enjoy a key excerpt from the piece below, then head here for the full article.
I’m standing below the mural, staring gape-jawed at the Kims as attendees file into the auditorium. Swirling around me are military men in olive uniforms and half-moon hats, high-ranking government officials with jet-black hair, and hardworking citizens of the capital decked out in fine suits and traditional dresses that look like Christmas trees. There’s also an oddball assortment of foreign delegates from countries as far-flung as Myanmar and Iran.
The communist government of Kim Jong-il’s apple-cheeked son, Kim Jong-un, has allowed exactly eight tourists to attend the festival. I am one of them. We’re a collection of curious film buffs who have paid a group called Koryo Tours about $2,000, on top of airfare to and from Beijing, for the privilege of visiting the secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It’s a strange time to be in the country: Just three days ago, a 25-year-old American named Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years of hard labor for tearing up his tourist visa upon arrival because of a “wild ambition,” he supposedly said, to see a North Korean prison. Meanwhile, two other Americans are languishing in the country’s penal system for alleged Christian proselytizing. This is all while Seth Rogen and James Franco are preparing to promote The Interview, the Kim Jong-un assassination comedy that will ultimately provoke North Korean sympathizers to launch an epic cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, nearly forcing the studio to abort the film’s release—which shouldn’t have been surprising, for this is a country that treats cinema as a matter of life and death.
Today is the start of Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and for the lucky attendees, that means snow, parties and most importantly, tons of movies to watch. Here at Audrey we have highlighted the Asian and Asian American films premiering at Sundance this year, but we wanted to give a special spotlight to the film Advantageous which is directed by, written by and starring Asian American women. Because the amount of working female directors hasn’t increased since 1998, and the fact that “moviegoers were as likely to see an other-worldly [non-human or alien] female as they were to see an Asian female character” in 2013, we are heartened by the amount of roles Advantageous provides for Asian women both in front of and behind the camera.
Sundance has already uploaded a video highlighting Advantageous writer and director Jennifer Phang, who briefly discusses her film. While Advantageous takes place in a sci-fi future, the emphasis of the film seems to be motherhood, parental sacrifice and what it means to be selfless.
According to the synopsis posted on the Sundance website, Advantageous takes place “in a metropolis in the near future, Gwen Koh, a beautiful woman full of poise and grace, works as the spokesperson for the Center for Advanced Health and Living, a company that offers a radical new technology allowing people to overcome their natural disadvantages and begin life anew. But when a shift in company priorities threatens her job and her family, will Gwen undergo the procedure herself?”
Advantageous is based off a short film by Jennifer Phang, which is available to watch below:
So if you are lucky enough to be at Sundance, check out Advantageous! For the rest of us who can’t, we hope that we can see Advantageous in a theater near us very, very soon.
When her latest film Man From Reno won the top prize at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival this summer, Ayako Fujitani was initially confused. “Dave [Boyle, the director,] told me, ‘We won!’ and I said, ‘For what?’” she remembers. She laughs. “I had forgotten it was a competition! The project had come such a long way from the [initial] Kickstarter [fundraising campaign]. We had such a tough time even finishing the movie, and we were super happy to even get in the L.A. Film Festival. So when we won, we were super shocked and surprised, in a good way.”
This is the second time the hapa actress (born to Japanese aikido master Miyako Fujitani and American action star Steven Seagal) has worked with Boyle, the first experience being in his 2012 black- and-white indie romance Daylight Savings, in which she had a supporting role as Goh Nakamura’s ex- girlfriend. After that wrapped, Boyle was working on a crime film that started out as a pair of simultaneous mystery stories with vastly different protagonists, a Japanese writer and an elderly sheriff. The sheriff character, who’d eventually be played by Pepe Serna, came from an unproduced screenplay Boyle had written previously, but the Japanese writer Aki was a new addition and written with Fujitani in mind.
“I think she has a unique cerebral soulfulness about her that was perfect for the part of Aki,” says Boyle. “While the sheriff’s storyline is more of a traditional police procedural, Aki’s is a bit more emotional and character driven. She is the classic amateur sleuth, but she has secrets of her own that make her darker than your average heroine.”
“Aki is a very successful Japanese mystery novel writer who’s not happy about her success for some reason,” explains Fujitani of her bilingual character. “She runs away from her book tour to San Francisco — and runs into a real mystery.”
During post-screening Q&As during the film’s festival run, Fujitani remembers Boyle joking that after she got involved, the Aki character suddenly became super dark. “Before, the character didn’t feel too much regret or sadness,” says Fujitani. “But if she was happy, no one would really care about what she goes through.”
“[Once] we realized how game Ayako would be to push the character further and further into the darkness, she made all three of us [Boyle and co-writers Joel Clark and Michael Lerman] braver as writers to make the character rougher around the edges. Her fearlessness gave us confidence,” says Boyle.
Though Fujitani wouldn’t describe herself as the type of actress who practices method acting, it was difficult for her to get Aki out of her head. Part of the reason was because they shot many of the film’s foreboding scenes in a hotel room in San Francisco, which was right next door to the actual hotel room where Fujitani stayed during the weeks they were filming in the city. “When you’re basically on the set in the same hotel room the whole time, it’s almost impossible to forget the character,” she says. “It helped my acting a lot, to get into the maze of this world, but I felt like I had no way out.” She laughs.
“So after I finished the movie, it was like, I need to go to Hawaii or something!”
A relaxing vacation wasn’t in the cards, however, because Fujitani, also a filmmaker herself, has been working on numerous projects that take her back and forth between the U.S., Japan and Korea. Her short film The Doors, shot entirely on an iPhone 5 without any special lenses, recently played at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. (It was originally made for the Olleh International Smartphone Film Festival in South Korea.) She also co-wrote a four-episode short film series, A Rose Reborn, a collaboration between acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook and the Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, which stars Daniel Wu and Jack Huston. She is currently developing another Korean short film, a dark comedy that follows a nervous, picky, routine-driven businessman.
“She’s very confident and has a great eye and ear for unusual characters and interesting dialogue,” says Boyle of Fujitani’s work as a writer and director. In fact, he often relied on Fujitani’s instincts when it came to the Japanese-language scenes in Man from Reno, which also stars actors Kazuki Kitamura, Yasuyo Shiba, Hiroshi Watanabe and Tetsuo Kuramochi. “We worked with a lot of great translators during the scriptwriting process to make sure the Japanese version would be up to snuff, but a couple of days before we started shooting, Ayako and I did a last brush up that did amazing things for the movie,” says Boyle. “Having her ear at our disposal was huge.”
Man from Reno, which has also won awards at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and Wichita’s Tallgrass International Film Festival, has a theatrical release planned for next spring. Next up, Fujitani is off to shoot a film with Japanese director Takashi Miike, known for bloody cult films such as Ichi the Killer, Audition and 13 Assassins. “After I had been in Korea for a while, I visited Japan, and as soon as I arrived and turned on my Japanese cell phone — which is never on when I’m in another country — I get a call from Miike’s producer,” says Fujitani of the role she seemed fated to get. A fan of Miike’s work, Fujitani said yes before she even read the script. She plays a nurse in a medical drama about doctors from Nagasaki, Japan, going to Kenya. “This is a departure for him,” she says. “It is definitely not one of the horror, crazy-in-a-good-way films that Miike is known for.”
Rinko Kikuchi just keeps on going. After the release of mainstream action films such as Pacific Rim and 47 Ronin, Rinko Kikuchi took a break from all the fighting and robots to shoot films steeped in human drama and to record her first J-Pop album Kaigenrei under the name “Rinbjo.”
Earlier this year, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter premiered in Sundance and received rave reviews for both the film and Rinko Kikuchi’s performance.
Synopsis from Sundance:
Kumiko lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She works as an office lady, robotically preparing tea and fetching dry cleaning for her nitpicky boss. But on her own time, she obsessively watches a well-known American film on a weathered VHS tape. Rewinding and fast-forwarding repeatedly, she meticulously maps out where a briefcase of castaway loot is buried within the fictional film. After hours of intense research—convinced that her destiny depends on finding the money—Kumiko heads to the United States and into the harsh Minnesota winter to search for it.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter hits select theaters on March 13, 2015. In the meanwhile, Rinko Kikuchi is already nominated for Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards, which will air on February 21, 2015 on IFC.