Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Year in Review

Thanks to the support and encouragement of so many family and friends, 2017 has been another year of humbling experiences for which I am extremely grateful.  In 2013, I began posting the year's highlights (HERE), a tradition I continued in 2014 (HERE), 2015 (HERE), and 2016 (HERE).  The highlights for 2017 are below.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.


PS  As I publish this on my 42 birthday, I remember one of the most poignant birthdays I have marked; it was 2013 and I was spending the day in Fukushima where no one knew it was my birthday (READ).

"Learning to Say Goodbye", the last column I would write for magazine "5" was published (READ). It was in this column that I came out again in 2015 (STORY).  I had the honour of serving as the MC of a press conference about the "Voluntary Evacuees" of Fukushima at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (INFO), and the broadcast of my documentary "Suturing Cultures" on NHK World was announced (STORY).
The second documentary-style PR video  I directed for the Imperial Hotel (about its bars and lounges) was released (WATCH).  The Director's interview for my film "Suturing Cultures" was published (WATCH).
Events marking the 6th anniversary of 3.11 were held.  I was honoured to serve as the MC for the press conference "Yoshiko Aoki, Fukushima storyteller" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, and I was honoured to screen my film "A2-B-C" and take part in the post-screening discussion via Skype at the event "The Politics of Uncertainty: Reassessing Japan After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster" arranged by the Japanese Cultural Association at Brown University (READ).  I was invited to travel to Canada to screen the work-in-progress of "Sezaruwoenai", the third film in my series about the Fukushima nuclear disaster (INFO) at "The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11" (INFO) which was held at the University of British Columbia with sponsorship from the Centre for Japanese Research (INFO); a second screening was held at the Prince Takamado Japan Centre, University of Alberta and the Centre for Japanese Research, University of British Columbia (INFO).
The third installment of the documentary-style series I directed for the Imperial Hotel Tokyo (about their tea ceremony room) was published (WATCH).  I marked one year since I live-Tweeted the reunion between a dying father and the son he had not seen in 30 years (Mr. Hata and T) by publishing the story in Japanese (INFO).

I attended the East Coast Premier of the award-winning short documentary "Acres of Diamonds", directed by Shawn Small, on which I served as one of the producers (STORY).  The World Premier of "Boys for Sale", directed by Itako and for which I served as the Executive Producer, was announced (READ).

The World Premier for "Boys for Sale" was held in front of a sold-out crown in Germany (STORY), The North American premier of the film in LA's OUTFEST was announced (INFO), and the first of several deleted scenes was published (WATCH).
The North American premier of "Boys for Sale" was held in LA (INFO) where it was also awarded at the closing ceremony (STORY).  Part one of the documentary-style PR videos featuring the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel was published (WATCH).
More screenings of "Boys for Sale" at festivals across the world were announced (INFO).
While even more screenings of "Boys for Sale" at festivals around the world were announced (INFO), I attended the Dutch premier of the film (STORY).
I attended the UK premier of "Boys for Sale" in London's Raindance (STORY).  My NHK World-commissioned documentary "Dying at Home" was re-broadcast (INFO).  Nine more screenings of "Boys for Sale" were announced (INFO) while the film received "Best Documentary" in South Africa (STORY).  The New York premier of "Boys for Sale" was held in NewFest (STORY).

More screenings of "Boys for Sale", including the Australian premier, were announced (INFO) as was the Japan premier (INFO).  "Boys for Sale" received TWO more awards for Best Documentary in Mexico (STORY) and in Ecuador (STORY).  The Japan Times published a full page article about "Boys for Sale" (READ), and the Japan Premier of the film was standing room only (STORY).
A four-page feature about my documentary work in Japan was published by the Metropolis magazine (READ).  Part two of the documentary-style PR videos featuring the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel was released along with a 40-second commercial (WATCH).  I screened my documentary “Suturing Cultures” at the 9th Asian Medical Education Association Symposium cum Frontiers in Medical and Health Sciences Education 2017: “Preparing Healthcare Learners for a Changing World"  at the University of Hong Kong (STORY).

Monday, December 18, 2017

"Suturing Cultures" in Hong Kong

It is always so humbling when my films can be used for education. It was an honour to be invited by Dr Harry Wu (Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, University of Hong Kong) to screen my documentary “Suturing Cultures” at the 9th Asian Medical Education Association Symposium cum Frontiers in Medical and Health Sciences Education 2017: “Preparing Healthcare Learners for a Changing World" last week. And it was an additional honour to join the post-screening discussion with a panel of experts including Professor Aronowitz (University of Pennsylvania), Professor Shafer (Stanford University), Dr Tinsley (University of Hong Kong) & Dr Wai (University of Hong Kong). Symposium information HERE.

My documentary "Suturing Cultures" is about 2nd year medical student at Juntendo Medical University in Tokyo learning about how to care for patients from other countries.  The documentary program was my second commission from NHK World and originally aired on February 6, 2017, with a re-broadcast on May 29 (program information HERE).

While I was in Hong Kong for several days, I had only one day where I could go out and actually see a bit of the island...and that was only because I played hooky and skipped part of the conference. ;)  It was wonderful to visit Tai O fishing village and walk around and see a bit of downtown.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Imperial Hospitality: The Wright Imperial (Part 2)

With all that has been going on recently including Boys for Sale receiving multiple awards (STORY) and being featured in the Japan Times (HERE), as well as a feature about my all of my Japanese-language documentaries in Japan being published in the Metropolis magazine (HERE), one piece of news somehow escaped my attention:  Part 2 of the piece I was commissioned to direct about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's connection to the Imperial Hotel Tokyo was published in October (!).

The episode opens with Meiji-mura Museum researcher and archivist Nakano Yuko explaining the features of the Wright Imperial lobby which has been painstakingly preserved and reconstructed in Aichi Prefecture.  

Ms. Koike and Mr. Ishihara, both of whom worked in the building designed by Wright and who have a combined 107 years of experience working at the Imperial (!), make another appearance in Part 2.  A link to the column for Part 2 with embedded video is HERE, while a direct link to the video is below:

A link to the column for Part 1 with embedded video is HERE, while a direct link to the video is below:

As part of this project, I also directed a 40-second commercial which was first released in the summer and which now has over a half-million views!

As always, I would like to give a special shout out to our amazing team, including our photography/ lighting department led by DOP Matsudaira Naoyuki with Seki Masafumi and our coordinator/ producer Tanaka Sakae.  And while I composed the main theme music used throughout the entire campaign, it was brought alive by the talented musicians who arranged and played it.  The Main track, Jazz version and Wright version were led by arranger and pianist extraordinaire Onuki Yuichiro, with Tani Motoaki on bass, Adachi Hiroshi on drums and Aki Yoshihisa on violin.  The Japanese and big band versions were arranged and played by the awesome Komitetsu.
Links to the previous episodes I directed for the Imperial can be found below:

Imperial Hospitality (Part 1): Stories from The Imperial Floor (Nov 2016)

Imperial Hospitality (Part 2): Stories from The Imperial’s Bars and Lounge (Feb 2017)

Imperial Hospitality (Part 3): Story from The Imperial’s “Toko-an” Tea Ceremony Room (April 2017)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Gentle simmer

On Friday, Metropolis magazine published the online version of an article about my documentary career in Japan called "Filmmaking in the Grey Zone: An interview with Ian Thomas Ash" by journalist Andrew Deck (READ HERE).

I was surprised by some of the quotes, particularly the ones at the end where I discuss the nationality of my films and my sense of belonging here.  When I read what I had said during the interview, I thought "did I really open myself up that much to a journalist?!" I own that I said those things and it was certainly how I felt at the time.  But it also comes with some a certain sense of sadness that I can not deny that I at least sometimes feel that way.  I just hope that those quotes are understood by readers within the context of the story I was relating about being stopped by four police officers and searched rather aggressively.

Yesterday, I was honoured to be invited to speak about my work at a lecture entitled "Disaster, Trauma and Hope" at Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU). Arranged by AGU professors Marc Menish and Mariko Hori, it was wonderful to present my work alongside filmmaker Keiko Courdy, Butoh dancer Minami Azu, soprano Junko Menish and poet Kageyama Yuri.

After the lecture, I had a meeting at Las Chicas House, a blast from the past when I used to come down to Tokyo on the weekends when I was still living in Tochigi 17 years ago (!).  As I walked through the lobby, an array of magazines was on display- including the December issue of Metropolis which I had yet to see.
Sitting in a place which held so many memories from when I had first come to Japan and with Christmas music tinged with a nostalgia from what seems like another lifetime wafting through the air, I realized the feelings that had boiled up inside me of during the interview had not yet cooled; they are simply gentlly simmering away on the back burner.