Friday, September 25, 2015

Life and death in the DMZ

アジア・グランプリ受賞しました。本当に感謝。 I am extremely honoured to have received the award for best film in the Asian Competition section for my film '-1287' (WEBSITE) last night at the closing ceremony of DMZ Docs Film Festival in Korea (WEBSITE).

In their statement, the Asian Competition Jury wrote they were awarding -1287:
... for its freshness in approaching the perennial theme of life and death in the Asian context...
Through deeply intimate conversations between the filmmaker and his subject, this film not only shows their mutual respect and understanding despite their different gender and cultural backgrounds, but also the courage of the female character to be honest with her life in a society which has limited space for women to express freely their emotions and thoughts.
Thank you all so very much for your continuing support!

Much Peace and Gratitude,
Ilsan, Korea

From Yonhap News HERE
From the DMZ Docs website HERE

Thursday, September 24, 2015

DMZ in Focus

It has been an amazing week at DMZ Docs in Korea (WEBSITE), filled with amazing experiences and fabulous films.

Arriving last Friday, I was reunited with old friends, such as Wood Lin, the director of the Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF), and provided with the opportunity to make new ones, such as "The Decent One" filmmakers Vanessa Lapa and Tomer Eliav.

with Wood Lin
"The Decent One" filmmakers Vanessa Lapa and Tomer Eliav
On Sunday, guests were invited to take a tour to the DMZ, from where North Korea could be seen.  After meeting and speaking with people directly affected by this conflict, together with watching several documentaries about North Korea followed by discussions with the directors of the films, I am embarrassed to admit that all I had known about North Korea had come from Western media.  I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to visit this part of the world. 

beyond the DMZ, a view of North Korea
On Tuesday, my film '-1287' was screened (INFO), and I was honoured to be able to participate in the post-screening Q&A.

It is so hard to believe that the festival ends this evening!  I have written fewer entries from this festival than I have from so many others because most days have seen me in the cinema all day, followed by drinks each evening with fellow filmmakers.

A few of my film recommendations from DMS Docs:

The Descent One, directed by Vanessa Lapa (INFO):
Through previously undiscovered private letters, photos and diaries that were found in the HIMMLER family house in 1945, the The Decent One exposes a unique and at times uncomfortable access to the life and mind of the merciless "Architect of the Final Solution" Heinrich HIMMLER. A unique portrait of one the most prominent figures of the Third Reich: The Reichsfuhrer-SS: Heinrich HIMMLER.
Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi by directed by Neal Broffman (INFO):
A family's search for their missing son and the hunt for suspects in a terror attack tragically converge in Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, a film about truth and community in the age of social media. While in the throes of depression, Brown University student Sunil TRIPATHIi walked out of his Providence apartment and disappeared into the cold Rhode Island night. In a desperate search to find him, his family launched a social media movement that reached across the country and brought together a community dedicated to finding him. In the days following the Boston Marathon bombings the family's month-long investigation into Sunil's disappearance exploded into a virtual confrontation with e-vigilantes, citizen journalists and traditional media eager to feed their insatiable hunger for breaking news.
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, directed by Freida Lee Mock (INFO):
This documentary explores the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Although it became one of the most beloved memorials in the world, Maya Lin's elegant design was initially greeted with skepticism. Lin was an unknown architect whose entry had been selected after a nationwide competition. She was only 20 years old, and it angered some politicians that she was Asian. Yet through all the vitriol, Lin persevered, ultimately realizing her stirring artistic vision.
On the Rim of the Sky, directed by Hongjie Xu (INFO):
In the hidden cliffs of Sichuan province lies the Gulu Village. Shen is the only teacher of the village who runs the “Gulu Primary School". One day a young man who calls himself the "Don QUIXOTE", Bao TANGTAO came and with him the words about the village spread, and donation and visitors have upsurged. And the conflict between Shen and Bao arises about the donated money.
Hana, Dul, Sed, directed by Brigitte Weich (INFO):
Hana, dul, sed gives us a subtle glimpse of the workings of Pyongyang society and the way ideology functions in its citizen’s and personal lives. It is a film about four young women, their friendship, dreams, hopes and the passion for football they share.
Memory of a Forgotten War, directed by Deann Borshay Liem (INFO):
Memory of forgotten War conveys the human costs of military conflict through deeply personal accounts of the Korean War(1950-53) by four Korean-American survivors. The film's personal accounts are interwoven with thoughtful analysis and interpretation of events in a broader historical context.
Aim High in Creation, directed by Anna Broinowski (INFO):
Aim High in Creation! is a ground breaking propaganda film, made according to the rules of his 1987 Manifesto The Cinema and Directing. Determined to stop a new gas mine near her Sydney home, Anna BROINOWSKI goes to North Korea to learn from the masters of propaganda cinema.  The movie reveals an unexpected truth about the most isolated nation on earth.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


On Friday evening, my film 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) was screened in NYC by the Centre for Remembering and Sharing (INFO).  I had the honour of joining the post-screening discussion via Skype, from the comfort of home holding a nice, hot cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.
Also on Saturday, an article about the cancellation of 'A2-B-C' screenings in Japan was published by in the Voice of America China edition (ARTICLE).  The article was written by Louisa Sakai, who attended last weekend's screening of 'A2-B-C' (INFO), the first in Japan in 6 months.

Tomorrow evening (September 14), my film '-1287' (WEBSITE) will be screening at LA's Live Regal Cinema during the Awareness Film Festival (INFO).

On Friday, I fly to Korea for DMZ Docs, during which '-1287' will be screening twice (September 18 and 22, INFO).
From Korea, I will be conducting the post-screening Q&A for the September 26 screening of '-1287' in Holland's Camera Japan Festival (INFO).  This will be the third time to screen one of my films in this wonderful festival of Japanese film, although I have not yet been able to attend.  I look forward to attending a future edition of the festival!

From there, I will continue on to Taiwan, where '-1287' will screen in the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (TIEFF) on October 3 (INFO).  Two years ago, my film 'A2-B-C screened in this festival, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to the attend this festival for the first time.

Coming up this autumn there are several more screenings of my films around the world, and I look forward to sharing the news as soon as the official announcements are made.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Double vision

Today was the first screening of 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) in Japan since screenings were suddenly cancelled in March of this year (HERE).  The screening, which took place outside of Tokyo in Saitama (INFO), was paired with a screening of my film 'In the Grey Zone' (WEBSITE).  As I had immediately started working on 'A2-B-C' after finishing 'In the Grey Zone' (which is actually Part 1 of this story) I never had time to promote that film domestically, so this was the first time for 'In the Grey Zone' to be screened in Japan.

To be honest, with all the problems surrounding 'A2-B-C' (STORY), I had been slightly concerned about today's screenings.  But I need not have been as I was in friendly territory: today's event was organized by film-lover and second-generation Hiroshima hibakusha (victim of radiation exposure) Mr. Kaneoka, who screened 'A2-B-C' last year on Hiroshima Day (STORY).

The screenings were well-attended and the Q&A's that followed were lively.  The atmosphere in the room and the way in which the attendees were engaging in the discussion reinforced for me that the importance of events such as these lie not only in the watching of films (which could technically be done in the privacy of one's own home) but it is in the coming together of people to make connections, discuss and debate.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


An article about the cancellation and subsequent re-establishing of Japan domestic screenings of my documentary 'A2-B-C' (2013) was published today in the Asahi Shinbun (Digital) LINK.  This follows the August 4 announcement of the re-establishment of the private screening system on the website of the film (INFO).  The article in the Asahi faced a long and uphill battle to publication, and while I am glad that it is finally available to online readers, this does not alter my disappointment that an editorial decision was made to not carry the article in the print edition.

Meanwhile, screenings of my documentary '-1287' (2014) continue around the world.  Screenings of the film in festivals this autumn will be taking place in LA (Sept 14), Korea (Sept 18 & 22), Holland (Sept 26), Taiwan (Oct), Midwest USA (Nov) and NY (Nov).  Screening information, including at which screenings I plan to be in attendance, can be found on the film's website (HERE).

Thank you all so very much for your support!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Festival of the dead, part 4: Out with a Bang

The weekend festivities continue on Saturday, but so does the threat of rain.  Yet this does not keep away the citizens of Nakagawa, who are eager to dance and enjoy the festival.

Even a sudden, heavy downpour, which sends the people scrambling for the nearest tent, does not dampen the mood.  In fact, the more than 50,000 fireworks that were set off for the attendees somehow seemed even more beautiful reflected on the wet ground and the outsides of glistening umbrellas.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Festival of the Dead, part 3: Playing with Fire

When the dance and games are over, the lights illuminating the grounds suddenly go out, casting the crowd in eerie shadows.

It is not a power blackout, but rather preparation for what is perhaps the most anticipated part of the evening for the children: the fireworks.  Unlike some fireworks displays where the crowd is invited to watch from a safe distance as professional pyrotechnics put on a choreographed display, here the crowd is invited to step forward and take part as literally thousands of fireworks are passed into the waiting hands of dozens of small children.  To a backdrop of bottle rockets being set off directly behind them, adults armed with lighters ignite the sparklers and other small explosives held in the hands of the delighted children.  

I must admit my heart skipped more than a few beats as little children screamed with delight while running around waving flaming sticks of fire.

To be completed in part four.

Festival of the Dead, part 2: Dancing with the Dead

The musicians climb atop the bandstand and the dance begins.  The neighborhood attendees gather and follow the chalk line to form a circle around the bandstand. And then they begin to dance.

Worried that the rain may again begin to fall, the musicians have decided to keep the big taiko drum under the tent.  Although they are separated from the singers and flute player, the percussionists are together with them in song.

Partway through the dance, the participants break for a much-needed rest and refueling.  The children enjoy the free cotton candy, shaved ice and games, while there is plenty of beer for the adults.

After a second round of dancing, large boxes of candy, treats and small toys are hoisted to the top of the bandstand.  The participants, armed with large plastic bags, gather around in anticipation of what is to come.  The musicians, with as much energy as they had sung and played, throw treats by the armful to the delighted crowd below.  While some skillfully catch them directly in their bags, others sink to the knees, slithering between the legs of those still standing, as they scoop up the treats that have fallen to the ground.

To be continued in "Festival of the Dead, part 3: Playing with Fire"