Monday, August 12, 2019

"Sending Off" to be featured on NHK WORLD TV program "J-FLICKS"

Ahead of the Japan Premier of my new feature documentary「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」(WEBSITE) at the National Film Archive of Japan on the opening day of the Pia Film Festival on September 7 (STORY), I have some exciting news: the film (and I!) will be featured on TOMORROW'S (Aug 13) episode of the NHK World Japan program "J-FLICKS"!

It is a huge honour to have my work featured on a television program with the tagline:
Japanese cinema in-depth! The latest info on the best of Japanese cinema, from blockbuster to indie, stars, film festivals, interviews and insights!
This month's episode is called "Focus on Nippon Connection 2019", which is about the film festival in Germany where 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」held the World Premier and received the Nippon Docs Award (Audience Award for Best Documentary) (Story HERE).  This is the synopsis of the episode:  
Taking place every early summer in Frankfurt is the world's largest festival dedicated to Japanese cinema, Nippon Connection, which was held for the 19th year this June. On this episode of J-FLICKS, we present a film that received a Special Mention by the Nippon Visions Jury at the festival, "BLUE HOUR," directed by Yuko Hakota. We also look at Kensei Takahashi's "Sea," winner of the Nippon Visions Jury Award. And joining us in the studio as a special guest is Mr. Ian Thomas Ash, director of "Sending Off," a documentary that won the festival's Nippon Docs Award.
For exact broadcast times, please see the J-FLICKS website, which displays the air times for the zone in which it is accessed (WEBSITE).

Outside of Japan, the program can be viewed on the NHK World Japan channel, app (this one HERE) and website (watch LIVE HERE); inside Japan, it can be viewed on the website and app. After the August 13 air date, the episode will be available to watch for free On Demand (watch On Demand HERE), and it will also be rebroadcast on September 9.

Back on June 21, the day of the studio recording, this is what I posted on social media:
Huge honour to have my documentary work featured during today’s taping of NHK WORLD-JAPAN program dedicated to Japanese film J-Flicks for their special episode “Focus on Nippon Connection - Japanese Film Festival“ with presenter Sarah Macdonald and studio guest Rob Schwartz, who is Asia Bureau Chief for Billboard magazine. While discussing my film “Sending Off”, which is about end-of-life care in Japan, Rob revealed that his father was Morrie Schwartz of “Tuesdays With Morrie” and presented me with a copy of the book. I have chills- my mother had given me a copy before she died but I had never been been able to bring myself to read it. It must be more than a coincidence that Rob had already been booked as a guest when they decided to feature my documentary. I am so grateful. Episode airs August 13 and September 10.



Thursday, August 01, 2019

Japan Premier of "Sending Off" announced!

「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」日本初上映9月7日 in ぴあフィルムフェスティバル! さっすがに「カッコいい女編」Dr. 今田かおる! 

Following the successful World Premier of my new feature-length documentary "Sending Off" in Germany in May where I had the honour of receiving the Audience Award for Best Documentary (STORY), I am happy to be able announce the Japan Premier today as the press embargo has just been lifted.

Taking place on Saturday, September 7, on the opening day of the Pia Film Festival (PFF) which will be held at the National Film Archive of Japan (INFO and TICKETS HERE), "Sending Off" will be screening in a specially curated section of films that all feature "Cool Women", which is so fitting for the amazing Dr. Kaoru Konta and her team of nurses whose work I had the honour of documenting.

Six years ago, the Japan premier of my documentary "A2-B-C" was also held on the opening day of PFF (STORY).  I am extremely grateful to the festival and its director, Araki Keiko, whose support for "A2-B-C" helped to jump-start my filmmaking career in Japan... which then literally changed my life.
with PFF director Araki Keiko in 2013

〜 〜 〜 〜 〜 ADDED August 11〜 〜 〜 〜 〜 

We have made a flyer to go with the cute programmes that just arrived from the festival.  We will do our best to get the word out and to have a great turn out at the screening.  Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

"Sending Off" awarded at World Premier in Germany

After spending the weekend before last outside of Berlin on the farm of dear friends for some much-needed rest and relaxation, last week on Monday I flew to Trier, Germany, to attend a screening of 「売買ボーイズ」"Boys for Sale" at the Universität Trier (INFO) where the post-screening discussion was lively and went late into the night.
On my friend's farm
With moderator Jun.-Prof. Dr. Ronald Saladin
Universität Trier

On Tuesday, I moved on to Frankfurt to attend the 2019 Nippon Connection Film Festival where the World Premier of my new feature-length documentary「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」(WEBSITE) was to be held.  I was joined in Frankfurt by my father and Dr. Kaoru Konta, the physician whose amazing home care practice I documented.


During the week at Nippon Connection, I tried to see as many of the films in the newly established Nippon Docs competition as possible, and it was a fascinating look at the styles, trends and topics covered by some of the biggest documentaries coming out of Japan this year.  One of the most impressive was "Tower of the Sun" by director Sekine Kosai, a spectacular big-budget extravaganza about the artist Okamoto Taro co-produced by documentary giants Parco and Spoon.  Another was a beautifully researched historical film called "Boy Soldiers: the Hidden War in Okinawa" by directors Mikami Chie and Oya Hanayo produced by the powerful entities Documentary Japan and Tofoo Films and which has been a massive commercial hit in Japan.

In between watching the documentaries, I also enjoyed some narrative features in the Nippon Visions program, mostly films by young up-and-coming directors. One particularly impressive film was "Sea" directed by Takahashi Kensei. The film stands on its own as a startling and beautiful debut, but when you learn that Takahashi is a 23 year old student and that this was his graduation film, you have no choice but to be in awe. And it is no wonder that at the closing ceremony Takahashi was bestowed with the Nippon Vision Award by the jury.

Screening more than 100 films, Nippon Connection is the largest festival of Japanese film in the world- including Japan! And attending Nippon Connection is a kind of homecoming for me; I had the honour of attending the festival in 2013 with my documentary "A2-B-C" (for which I received the Nippon Vision Award STORY), and in 2015 with my film "-1287" (for which I received the Nippon Visions Audience Award STORY).  I also attended in 2017 with 「売買ボーイズ」"Boys for Sale" on which I served as producer (STORY).

The screening of 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」took place on Friday afternoon (INFO) and the post-screening discussion with the audience was electric. While film festival audiences often have the opportunity to hear from filmmakers, it is rare for them to be able to ask questions directly to the people whose stories have been documented, so having Dr. Konta present made the screening particularly special. We recorded the Q&A, and I hope to be able to find some time soon to edit and share it.

In the meantime, I will share the interview I did for the festival blog, called Guest in Focus: Ian Thomas Ash, The Balance between Observation and Empathy while filming Death (STORY).


On Saturday morning, the attending filmmakers had their individual portraits taken as well as a group photo outside the Naxoshalle theatre, one of the charming festival locations that provides a place for Nippon Connection's warmth, energy and hospitality to flourish.

In the afternoon, I had the great honour of speaking on the panel "Outlaws and Outsiders in Japanese Cinema"  led by moderator Luk van Haute (INFO) alongside legendary film directors Nobuhiro Yamashita and Shinya Tsukamoto, who was at the festival to receive the Nippon Honour Award (a lifetime achievement recognition).


Last night was the closing ceremony of the festival where the recipients of the awards were announced.  In addition to the Nippon Visions and Nippon Cinema awards, this year was the first time for documentaries to be in a separate competition.  But rather than being decided by a jury, the winner was determined by popular public vote with theatre-goers scoring films after the screenings, making the prize an Audience Award (more on the description of the category and award from the Nippon Connection website is below).

When 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」was announced as the recipient of the 2019 Nippon Docs Award, I was grateful, thrilled and humbled.  And the responsibility I felt for securing a wide release of the film and to ensure that it is seen by as many people as possible so that Dr. Konta's story can inspire people all over the world was redoubled. 

My only regret is that Dr. Konta herself could not be present as she had returned to Japan that morning to continue her important work caring for patients.
PHOTO: © Jumpei Tainaka/ NC19
PHOTO: © Jumpei Tainaka/ NC19
PHOTO: © Jumpei Tainaka/ NC19
PHOTO: © Jumpei Tainaka/ NC19
Today, my father and I have flown to Krakow, Poland, where we will stay for several days.

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement over these years.

Peace and Gratitude,
Ian Thomas Ash
Krakow, Poland
June 3, 2019

-----------------------------------------------------

From the Nippon Connection website:

Should documentary be considered its own genre? Is there a clearly-defined boundary between documentary and fiction film? Among film scholars, questions like these can be discussed almost without end. In any case, documentary films broaden our horizon, they take us to foreign cultures or to social environments that we hardly ever get to see. Yet, they can also bring us closer to people like the ones we meet daily, so that we will discover something new in the familiar or start reflecting on old habits. The NIPPON DOCS section gathers a series of Japanese documentaries on various topics of high social relevance.

For the first time, the NIPPON DOCS section will have its own audience award this year. The NIPPON DOCS AWARD is endowed with 1,000 €. (LINK)

All of the 2019 Award Winners (LINK)

Nippon Cinema Award 2019
Fly Me To The Saitama by Hideki TAKEUCHI

Nippon Visions Audience Award 2019
Melancholic by Seiji TANAKA

Nippon Visions Jury Award 2019
Sea by Kensei TAKAHASHI

The Nippon Visions Jury's Special Mention:
Blue Hour by Yuko HAKOTA

Nippon Docs Award 2019
Sending Off by Ian Thomas Ash

Nippon Honor Award 2019
Shinya TSUKAMOTO

ドキュメンタリー映画はジャンルでしょうか、それとも映画の種類でしょうか?ドキュメンタリー映画と劇映画は明確に分かれていますか?映画学者はそれについて長時間議論できます。いずれにしても、ドキュメンタリー映画を観ると世界が広がります、普段見れない文化と生活環境に連れて行かれます。また、日常生活で出会う人をもっと良く知ることもできます。慣れていることの中で新しい発見があり、昔からの習慣を顧みることに繋がります。NIPPON DOCS部門で、様々な社会現象をテーマにした日本のドキュメンタリー映画が紹介されます。

NIPPON DOCS部門で今年はじめて独自の観客賞が贈られます。賞金は1,000ユーロです(10頁参考)。(LINK)


2019年の受賞作品 (LINK)

ニッポン・シネマ賞 Nippon Cinema Award 2019
『翔んで埼玉』 武内英樹監督

ニッポン・ヴィジョンズ観客賞 Nippon Visions Audience Award 2019
『メランコリック』 田中征爾監督

ニッポン・ヴィジョンズ審査員賞 Nippon Visions Jury Award 2019
『海抜』 by 高橋賢成監督

ニッポン・ヴィジョンズ審査員のスペシャル・メンション The Nippon Visions Jury's Special Mention:
『ブルーアワーにぶっ飛ばす』 箱田優子監督

Nippon Docs Award 2019
『おみおくり〜Sending Off〜』 イアン・トーマス・アッシュ監督

ニッポン名誉賞 Nippon Honor Award 2019
塚本晋也

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From Holland to Harlem

It was a huge honour to hold the World Premier of  my new short documentary “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」 at the Harlem International Film Festival on Saturday (STORY).



For filmmakers, festivals are of course about attending screenings but they are also about making connections and meeting new friends and potential collaborators.  On opening night, I met Angela Atwood, director/ writer/ costar of Lady Hunters, a poignant black comedy about women, rape and revenge.  Not only is her film wickedly funny, but she is a blast to hang out with as well. 

The level of films here was outstanding and the curation/ programming was diverse, challenging and broad, and it was a privilege to be able to watch so many amazing films in such a short amount of time.
 
At the World Premier, the festival in Holland programmed “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」last in a series of short films (INFO), while here in Harlem it was screened prior to "Where Theo Lives" (WEBSITE) a powerful feature film by director Dariun Robinson about two sisters who were sexually abused by their uncle.

To be honest, I had been a little concerned about how my film would be received in America.  The story in “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」is unsettling, for sure, but it was not just that; the film is not constructed in the way a film typically is, so I worried if the audience here would be as open as they had been in Europe to enter the dark world the film depicts without many of the tools cinema viewers have come to expect.

But during the screening, I could feel the audience hanging onto every word of the story- sometimes even audibly reacting to it.  And when the post-screening discussion began, I was so humbled by the reaction, support and praise from fellow panelists director Dariun Robinson and music composer David Durrah (both from "Where Theo Lives") as well as the audience members.  As I did in Holland, I recorded a few reactions from people who saw “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」and I hope to be able to edit them together sometime soon.


I am now at JFK airport, getting ready to board the plane home to Tokyo.  But it will only be for two days as I leave again on Friday to head to Germany for the World Premier of my new feature documentary 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」(INFO).

Thank you all so much for your support.
Much Peace and Gratitude,
Ian Thomas Ash
NYC, USA

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

More screenings of “The Father’s Love Begotten”, "Sending Off" and "Boys for Sale"

I have only just returned home to Japan today from an amazing experience in Holland where my short documentary “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」 received the Audience Award at the Leiden International Short Film Experience (STORY), but I am already preparing to fly out again.

In two days, I will travel to New York City to attend the North American Premier of “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」in the Harlem International Film Festival (fest website HERE).  The screening is on Saturday, May 18 at 10PM (!) and is in a block with a feature film called "Where Theo Lives", which is also about abuse. I will be participating in the post-screening Q&A, and tickets are available HERE.


After I return from New York, I will be in Japan for a few days before flying off yet again- this time to Germany for the World Premier of my new feature documentary 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」in the Nippon Connection, which I announced a last week (STORY), on May 31 in Frankfurt (INFO).

Meanwhile, "Boys for Sale"「売買ボーイズ」, the documentary about male sex workers in Tokyo that I produced (WEBSITE), is still enjoying limited screenings.  It will next be playing in Trier, Germany on May 27 where I will be in attendance and take part in a Q&A (INFO); it will also be playing in the The San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film & Arts Festival on May 25 (details TBA).

While this is a really busy time of travel and promotion, I am especially extremely grateful for so many opportunities to screen my work.  Thank you all so very much for your support.

Monday, May 13, 2019

“The Father’s Love Begotten” awarded at World Premier in Holland

I was extremely humbled to receive the Audience Award last night at the closing event of Leiden International Short Film Experience (LISFE) for my documentary “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」. Awards bestowed by juries are an absolute honour, but an award by the viewing public left me nearly speechless and bumbling.

The World Premier of the film, (film website HERE), took place on Thursday (May 9) with an encore screening on Sunday (May 12) in a strand the festival called Camera Obscura (INFO).  A description of this program is below.

“In this session, we seek to lay bare the influence of images on our construction of self and reality. By heightening the ambivalences between the visible and invisible, these four films hope to direct attention to what we cannot see; that which is hidden from view and that which is simply unfathomable. When neither imagination nor representation can be trusted in the digital age, where does that position us as spectators? If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the price of darkness?”

Director of The Father’s Love Begotten present + Q&A by Erik Daams, savvy projectionist, film programmer and lecturer for film history based in The Hague.
I have only ever seen “The Father’s Love Begotten” 「父なる愛生せば」in a proper theatre with an audience twice (during two test audience screenings held last year) so I must admit that I was concerned about how a festival audience would react. My concern was not only because of the subject matter of Chris’s story, but also because of how the film is constructed. It is difficult to explain in more detail without “giving it away”, but watching the film in a cinema with an audience that has no idea what is about to happen was absolutely nerve-wracking.

The two Q&A’s (which I recorded and hope to share parts of soon) were amazing, and I was grateful to the festival for scheduling an extra amount of time for them so that a deep and thoughtful discussion could take place with the audience.  That, paired with the programmers’ decision to screen the film last in the block and to ask film expert Eric Daams to lead the discussion which would be solely about “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」, meant there was the opportunity for an extended and focused time to spend on the story documented in the film and the way in which it was told.

Following every screening block during the festival, audience members exiting the cinemas were presented with iPads on which they could vote for their favorite film in the session.  Unbeknownst to me, the four films that had received the highest numbers of votes during the festival would be screened again at the closing night Audience Award session after which the viewers would vote again- ultimately deciding the audience favourite for the 2019 edition of the festival.

When I showed up at the cinema, I learned how the Audience Award would be decided and was told that “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」was in the top four. 

While I was extremely honoured by this recognition, I also became immediately concerned: this time, the audience would have no idea what films were going to be screened or what they were about.  There would be no introduction of my film by a festival programmer, no Q&A to help viewers process what they had seen. With no tools to help guide them, my film (as every film must do) had to stand on its own or stumble and fall.

The first film screened in the Audience Award block was an uproariously dark black comedy which had the audience in stitches, the second was a fascinating look at hip hop culture in China by a Dutch director, and the third was a beautiful and abstract look at a cruise ship. 

As The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」began, I held my breath...

At first you could hear a pin drop.  And then, about a minute in, you could hear some people shifting in their seats, unsure of what was happening.  But soon, any restlessness had settled down as the audience was drawn into Chris’s story.  What happened next in the theatre may not happen every time the film screens or with every audience, but it was absolutely electric... and it solidified my understanding of the power of cinema, of a coming together to collectively experience film. And it was in that moment that I truly understood the name of the festival: Leiden International Short Film Experience. It was indeed an experience, and one that can not happen in isolation while watching on a computer at home.

I am extremely grateful to the programmers of LISFE for believing in “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」and for selecting it, to the members of the viewing public for voting for it from among the nearly 130 amazing films screened at the festival, and to Chris for his courageousness in sharing his story.

I am also humbled to be reminded of an extremely important lesson when filmmaking: trust your audience.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Announcing TWO World Premiers!

Now that the press embargo has finally been lifted, I am greatly honoured to be able to announce the World Premier of my new feature documentary 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」(WEBSITE) in the 2019 Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. The screening will take place on Friday, May 31 at 16:30 in the Naxoshalle Kino (INFO).

Screening in Nippon Connection is like a kind of homecoming for me; I have had the honour of attending the festival in 2013 with my documentary "A2-B-C", in 2015 with my film "-1287" and in 2017 with "Boys for Sale" which I produced. 

I am so very much looking forward to sharing this story with the audience in Frankfurt!

But before I leave for Germany, I will be making a quick trip to Holland (leaving tomorrow morning) where I will have the honour of attending the World Premier of my other new film "The Father's Love Begotten" 「父なる愛生せば」. This short documentary, which I first wrote about HERE, is about the story of a young man who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest when he was 12 (film website HERE).

The World Premier will take place in the Leiden International Short Film Experience on Thursday, May 9 at 20.45 in the Kijkhuis Zaal I with an encore screening on Sunday, May 12 at 15.45 in the Kijkhuis Zaal II (INFO).  A description from the program is below as is a link to the trailer.

In this session, we seek to lay bare the influence of images on our construction of self and reality. By heightening the ambivalences between the visible and invisible, these four films hope to direct attention to what we cannot see; that which is hidden from view and that which is simply unfathomable. When neither imagination nor representation can be trusted in the digital age, where does that position us as spectators? If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the price of darkness?
Duration: 58 min. (4 films)

Director of The Father’s Love Begotten present + Q&A by Erik Daams, savvy projectionist, film programmer and lecturer for film history based in The Hague.

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement.
 
Much Peace,
Ian
Tokyo, Japan