MADE IN JAPAN
The Hot Docs 2017 Festival will showcase recent works from Japan in its Made In Japan program with six feature films.
“Japan is a country that continues to fascinate the world, and we’re excited to showcase new Japanese documentaries at Hot Docs this year,” said Hot Docs director of programming Shane Smith. “An emerging movement of young, independent filmmakers are bringing their passion and perspective to stories from their homeland, with an eye to reaching global audiences. And Japan’s master filmmakers continue to set a high standard for non-fiction storytelling.”
Together with the six films, there are two others that are Japanese productions and co-productions. This years lineup also includes the following three Japanese shorts and three films shot in Japan and produced by other countries: A Friendship in TOW/TOE, Dish, Sit, The Departure, Tokyo Idols and Shiners. These can be found in the programs Magnificent Obsessions, Special Presentations, Canadian Spectrum and Focus on Maya Gallus.
FREE Daytime Screenings > Seniors (60+) & students with valid ID can take advantage of free admission to films that start before 5:00 pm. Pick up your tickets at the screening venue’s box office the day of the screening, subject to availability.
Canadian craftsman David Bull and American designer Jed Henry work together, despite being separated by an ocean and a generation gap, to reinvigorate the ancient art of Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e. With fewer than 10 ukiyo-e artists left in Japan, the threat to this world-renowned, centuries-old tradition is real. David is a self-taught ukiyo-e artisan who learned the technique on his own, without apprenticeship to a master. So when young Jed approaches him to collaborate, he can hardly say no. Combining old-school craft, new-school design and contemporary pop culture references from Super Mario to Pokémon, the outsiders revive the art form known worldwide as the Face of Japan. Ukiyo-e Heroes is an addictive process-driven documentary that preserves hundreds of years of mastery by showing the creation of a woodblock print from start to finish, and features iconic Japanese artists and grand masters whose tools and materials support the work. Angie Driscoll
Considered an edible embrace, comforting ephemera and an art form by master chefs and legions of fans, ramen—the perfectly slurpable combination of broth and noodles—inspires umami poetry. Japan’s reigning king of ramen, Osamu Tomita, takes us into his kitchen, where he shares recipes, trade secrets and flavour philosophies. A mouthwatering survey of culinary history, famous restaurants and specialty ingredients, Ramen Heads makes a compelling case for finding Japan’s heart through its stomach. Chef Tomita takes the viewer on a tasting tour that includes visits to his favourite shops (some are even kept anonymous for fear of discovery), long waits in even longer lines and behind-the-scenes access to his restaurant’s 10th anniversary. Together with two other ramen masters, he creates a once-in-a-lifetime batch of ramen he hopes will inspire the next generation. For this event, foodies wait overnight for limited meal tickets. Ramen is a rock star. Angie Driscoll
Shrouded in mystery, artist Rei Naito refuses to appear on-screen. After two years of correspondence, filmmaker Yuko Nakamura must find creative ways to reveal the elusive creator and the invisible-made-visible essence of her creations. A dynamic portrait that puts the fragile work in focus materializes. With space to breathe, the sculptures and installations remind us of the faint presence of things that remain unseen unless we make the effort to see them. Surprising use of an intergenerational cast of women, interactive voiceover, text and segues allow the viewer to enter and fully experience the pieces. A Room of Her Own: Rei Naito and Light is like a deep prayer, one that connects audience, artwork and artist in intangible ways, encouraging us to feel one another despite the taboo of that intrusion, and to fully awaken to the existence of others. Angie Driscoll
About My Liberty
A group of millennials mobilize against Prime Minister Abe after he passes a security bill erasing 70 years of pacifism by permitting the use of Japanese military in foreign wars. Forming the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy and protesting with a style and scope Japan has never seen—noisy, well-marketed, fun—the younger generation makes itself heard in ways that rattle the old guard. Cell phone speeches, colourful brochures, catchy English slogans and cute t-shirts are all extensions of the cause, and proof you can care about shopping and still protest for peace, wear crop tops and still be political, demand the president’s resignation and still manage the media with savvy. The future seems to belong to this youthquake. As the demonstrations grow to include all generations, a nation determined to make peace a societal value and founding principle emerges loud and clear. Angie Driscoll
Osaka supergroup NMB48 and its revolving lineup of singing and dancing dervishes in baby doll dresses offers a backstage pass into Japan’s pop idol craze. A fascinating immersion into pecking order, competition, individuality and independence, Raise Your Arms and Twist takes a philosophical approach to the highly choreographed entertainment. Using quotes from Nietzsche and the performers’ thoughtful perspectives, a bigger picture of empowerment through adulation emerges. The female performers are active producers of culture and celebrity while their male fans are passive consumers. Fame, capitalism and human psychology collide in this pretty package that’s so much more than its veneer. Alpha group leader Saya, hardworking underdog Okita and the next generation of girls coming up through the organization’s ranks are proof that the person and the product peddled to the masses don’t have to—and probably shouldn’t—match. Angie Driscoll
Ryuichi Hirokawa is a human being first, a photojournalist second. He considers journalism the right to know, and relief work the right to live—two things that have informed his character and career. Recently retired from Days Japan magazine as editor-in-chief, the septuagenarian goes back into the field and revisits the sites and stories of his past. He returns to Israel and Palestine, and remembers a Lebanese refugee camp massacre—images burned into his brain that sent shockwaves around the world. Then he travels back to Chernobyl, where he was the first Western journalist allowed to enter the no-go zone after the nuclear disaster. But all roads lead home, where his focus now rests on fundraising in the wake of Fukushima. Ryuichi Hirokawa: Human Battlefield is a reverential character portrait that ruminates on the man behind the camera and whether the purpose of journalism is to record things that happen or to stop them from happening. Angie Driscoll
ADDITIONAL JAPANESE PRODUCTIONS & CO-PRODUCTIONS
With access to all the biggest players and tournaments, director Takao Gotsu shows the professional Street Fighter gaming world in a fresh way, tackling the essential nature of confidence and competition and focusing on Japan’s top talents. Emotionless champion Daigo delivers knockouts with more precision than personality, while skillful couple ChocoBlanka and Momochi play with finesse not flair. But in a scene where winning in the flashiest, most memorable way possible is what counts, can these practice-makes-perfect players compete against those who deliver excitement and entertainment? Stars are born and myths are made of lesser players who create compelling narratives and signature moves without achieving the highest scores. Living the Game is an eye-opening look at the culture of modesty that shapes the Japanese style of play, and the psychology of winning and losing, pride and shame, confidence and doubt that makes up the players’ mental game. Angie Driscoll
For Filipinas, working overseas in Hong Kong brings financial opportunity but comes at a great cost. Most of the women work menial jobs, where the bedroom is just an extension of the kitchen. Many live in fear of being deported if they’re out of work for more than 14 days. Over the course of four years, Filipino filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama tracks the lives of five charismatic and courageous women who choose to reclaim their dignity by competing in a pageant that serves as a voice for the 190,000 Filipinas working in Hong Kong. One of those five women is Leo, a fiery lesbian who’s been organizing beauty pageants in Hong Kong since 2008, blazing a trail for the women who follow. Sunday Beauty Pageant is an empowering narrative that locates new voices among the growing body of work on migrant labour. Ravi Srinivasan