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

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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
 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Guest lecturing and Screening at Stanford

I was extremely honored to begin my week of screenings and lectures on Monday (April 22) at Stanford University Medical School’s Li Ka Shing Learning and Knowledge Center for a group of medical students. The first public screening was of the rough cut of my new documentary "Sending Off" the following day (April 23) INFO.



The event was sponsored by Stanford University's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC), the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), Medicine and the Muse, and Camera as Witness. Pictured below with Dr. Audrey Shafer (professor, medical doctor and director of Medicine and Muse), Dr. Matsumoto Yoshiko (professor of East Asian Languages, Cultures and Linguistics) and Jasmina Bojic (director of Camera as Witness and the United Nations Association Film Festival.

 
 

I was extremely honoured to be invited to lecture at classes on Wednesday and Thursday including “Japanese Through Film” with Professor Matsumoto Yasuko, “Growing Up and Older in Japan” with Professor Matsumoto Yoshiko, and “Medical Humanities and the Arts” with Dr. Audrey Shafer. On Thursday evening, the East Asian Studies Workshop held a screening of my film “A2-B-C” (2013).


A wonderful close to the week at Stanford, was a screening on Friday of my 2014 documentary “-1287” INFO.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have presented so many screenings and guest lectures this week and for the support of Stanford University‘s Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC), the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), Medicine and the Muse, and Camera as Witness. 


 
(adapted from the Facebook entries I posted during the week) 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Screenings and Lectures at Stanford University

It has been a while since I have posted to my blog.  Following a brief period of quiet reflection, I have been working away on preparations for several upcoming screenings (both in Japan and abroad) along with the World Premiers of two (!) new documentaries (more on those very soon).

And now, tonight I will be flying to California where I have the honour of having been invited to Standford University to present a week of screenings and lectures.  In addition two public screenings (details below) and two private departmental screenings, I will be giving guest lectures to several classes, including "Japanese Through Film", "Joys and Pains of Growing Up and Older in Japan", and "Medical Humanities and the Arts".  The focus of my lectures will be different for each class, but all will be based on my work documenting health and medical themes in Japan and include clips of my films.

I am extremely honoured for this opportunity to share my work at this prestigious institution and grateful for the support of several departments, including The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC), the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), Medicine and the Muse, and Camera as Witness.

The first public screening will be on Tuesday, April 23rd, at 16:30 and will feature a rough cut of my new feature documentary 「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」ahead of the World Premier next month (details of which I am extremely excited to publish once the press embargo is lifted in early May).  Details about the screening at Stanford are HERE, while more on the film (including a link to the trailer) is HERE.



The second public event will take place on Friday, April 26, at 15:30, and will be a screening of my film "-1287" (2015). More on that film, including the trailer, is on the website HERE, while details of the screening event at Standford are HERE.
There is much more news about upcoming screenings, premiers and announcements coming very soon!  Thank you all so much for your continued support and encouragement.

Peace,
Ian
Tokyo, Japan