Diversity, Versatility and Desire Drive Female-Only Omnibus
In a special program outside the 31st TIFF Japanese Cinema Splash competition, 14 emerging female directors, born around 1990, selected and overseen by U-ki Yamato (2016 hit Drowning Love) — who contributes to 21st Century Girl as well as produces — were invited to make works of eight minutes each on an issue of sexuality or gender. The result is what the omnibus itself labels “defiant films dedicated to girls in the 21st century.”
While some of the young writer-directors have already released feature films or received awards for short work, and several have already appeared at Berlin, Cannes and other leading festivals, the range of styles, visions, themes and genres on display in the omnibus bode well for the future careers of all those involved. The films are all beautifully shot, with impressive production and costume design, and some of Japan’s most popular actresses are featured, including Kaho Minami, Ai Hashimoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Kiki Sugino, Sairi Itoh and Serena Motola.
Appearing with popular actress Ai Hashimoto (Parasyte, A Beautiful Star) before the world premiere of 21st Century Girl on November 1, Yamato told the audience, “I’m not quite sure I can find the right words to say this, but I wonder how many films made today have the power to change the future, and how many such films a filmmaker can make in a lifetime.” She then paused, hand over mic, apparently collecting herself. “I had about 200 lines of script for this,” she finally said, “but I could only say two. Now I know how actors feel when they have to say lines at the last minute.”
She then continued, “I am so happy to have been able to work with so many talented directors, and so many strong and strong-willed actors like Ms. Hashimoto. I predict that there’s going to be an outburst of female directors. I think there are many wonderful forms of art, but only through cinema, which has long arms and can reach all the way into remote areas, can they all be consolidated and contribute to changing a woman’s life.
“We are all committed to putting all our efforts into film. And when a spark is lit and we’re able to share it together, 10 years hence it will become legend, and 100 years hence, it will become culture.”
Hashimoto, who stars in the omnibus segment by Hana Matsumoto, Low Resolution, High Emotion, watched the producer closely throughout her speech, and then said, “It’s difficult to speak after hearing such words, but I had the pleasure of seeing the film beforehand and it left me with tears streaming down my face. I hope that Ms. Yamato and the other directors have made work that strikes a chord with you. I’m also an ardent believer in the power of cinema. I think this experience tonight will be something for everyone to treasure.”
Following the premiere, all the directors except for Sakura Tamagawa, who contributed the end-title animation and the film’s colorful poster image, gathered for the second time ever (the first was their TIFF red carpet appearance), and shared stories about their inspirations, impulses and experiences shooting each of their short films.
Producer-director Yamato commented that it was the first time she’d heard all the stories, and she was as moved by them as the audience clearly was. These 21st-century girls — Aya Igashi (Your Sheet), Yuka Eda (Love Desiccant), Ayaka Kato (Mucous Membrane), Yukari Sakamoto (Reborn), Aimi Natsuto (Spring-ing), Kanae Higashi (Out of Fashion), Momoko Fukuda (Sex-less, Sex-friends), Hana Matsumoto (Low Resolution, High Emotion), Yuka Yasukawa (Muse), Yoko Yamanaka (Anytime, Anywhere) and Yurina Kaneko (Projection), Rin Shuto (I Wanna Be Your Cat), Risa Takeuchi (Mirror) and Yamato (For Lonesome Blossoms) — have staked a claim to ongoing careers, and made a lasting impression.