Monday, September 30, 2019

"Sending Off" holds Dutch Premier

「おみおくり~Sending Off~」のオランダ初上映!! 
The Dutch Premier of “Sending Off” took place in Rotterdam’s CAMERA JAPAN Festival on September 28! INFO

Camera Japan (CJ) is the only festival to have screened four (and with "Sending Off, now five) of my films (list below, which includes "Boys for Sale" on which I served as Executive Producer).  I attended the festival for the first time in 2017 where I had a wonderful time (STORY).

  • "In the Grey Zone" (CJ 2012)
  • "A2-B-C" (CJ 2013)
  • "-1287" (CJ 2015)
  • "Boys for Sale" (dir: ITAKO) (CJ 2017)
  • "Sending Off" (2019)
It was wonderful to see old friend & CAMERA JAPAN Festival director Alex Oost!
with “Little Miss Period” director Shinada Shunsuke 「 生理ちゃん 」品田俊介監督
“A powerful and respectful documentary.” THANK YOU, CAMERA JAPAN Festival!
The post-screening Q&A was led by CAMERA JAPAN Festival’s Alex Oost.  I was thrilled that Leiden International Short Film Experience‘s Yara Yuri Safadi and Dianna Kasen were in attendance; they programmed my short documentary “The Father’s Love Begotten”「父なる愛生せば」and held the World Premier in April of this year (STORY). 

I am so grateful for all of the support and encouragement from so many festival programmers, staff and audience members. 

「おみおくり ~ Sending Off ~ 」will screen again in the Amsterdam edition of Camera Japan on Saturday, Oct 5 at 13:00 at KRITERION!  TICKETS
I am now off to Austria where「おみおくり ~ Sending Off ~ 」will screen on Wednesday, October 2, in Vienna's Japannual. TICKETS  

***** UPDATE Sept 30th *****

"Emotionally charged... makes us question our own attitude towards death and aging."
"Takes away the fear of death."

Following Saturday's Dutch Premier of "Sending Off" in CAMERA JAPAN Festival, Asian Movie Pulse has just published THIS review.

***** UPDATE October 7th *****
After counting all the votes in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Fly Me to the Saitama stays at the top of the rankings ahead of Sending Off, a powerful and respectful documentary about the end of life from director Ian Thomas ASH.

Honoured to be in second place in the audience poll behind the big budgt and extremely well-supported blockbuster "Fly me to the Saitama".  
(This blog is based on a series of social media posts from Sept 26-30, 2019.)

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Ashes

When I learned my new documentary “Sending Off” had been selected to screen in the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, I was excited: screening my film “A2-B-C” there in 2013 (STORY) was a wonderful experience, and I was honoured to hold the North American Premier of “Sending Off” there this year.

While making travel plans, I decided to try to plan a layover in the DC area to see family either before or after Newburyport, which is outside of Boston. I asked my sister, Amanda, if she would be around during those dates, but she said she would be away to attend a religious conference. Disappointed, I asked where she would be.

“Boston,” she replied, asking “Where is the festival?”

“Boston,” I said laughing.  

I then clarified that although I had said Boston, in fact, it was about 40 minutes outside Boston. Amanda said that the conference center where she was going was also about 40 minutes outside Boston, and asked in what town the film festival was taking place.  Imagining it might be 40 minutes outside Boston in the other direction, I replied "Newburyport".  My sister was traveling to Adelynrood, the retreat center for The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross in Byfield, Massachusetts, and she thought she had heard of Newburyport.  Pulling up a map on her phone, she started laughing.  Newburyport was just 6 miles from Byfield, where she would be at the exact time of the film festival.

"Are we going to bury mom?" I asked.

Our mother had been a member of the The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross for nearly 30 years until she died in 2008, and she had wanted half of her ashes to be buried at Adelynrood in the Pine Grove (the other half of her ashes I had interred in Wales in 2009, the year after she died).  Since 2008, my sister had kept the remaining half of her ashes in the teapot in which our mother had made tea every morning for decades, the delicate pattern on the handle worn from years of loving use but with a hairline crack that rendered it no longer suitable for making tea.

The reason we had not interred our mother's ashes for so long was because Adelynrood was far away (8 hours by car from my sister's home) and also perhaps because my sister had not yet been ready.  In the years since our mother died, Amanda had herself become a Companion, and this visit to the retreat center would be her first.  Things had come full circle and the timing seemed right, and so my sister began the process for arranging the internement.  The Companion in Charge decided it would be best to hold the burial on Thursday, September 12, and by coincidence, the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, where the North American Premier of my film "Sending Off"ー about death and dyingー would begin the next day (INFO).

After arriving in Maryland, I asked Amanda if I could film our conversations about interring our mother's ashes and the preparations we were undertaking to do so.  I had filmed something with my father last year (READ), that while not exactly similar, I thought might be complimentary.  My sister and I had two days together to prepare everything, including answering an important question we both had had independently about our mother's ashes.  But I will wait to reveal what that was for the film...

We then packed up the car, including the teapot with our mother's ashes inside, and set off for Massachusetts.  Our last epic road trip with our mother had begun.

After arriving at Adelynrood, the retreat center for The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, we checked into our cottage, and my sister and I placed the teapot with our mother’s ashes inside on the fireplace mantel.


We attended chapel services three times a dayー Morning Prayer,  Noon Intercessions & Thanksgivings, and Evening Prayer.  The afternoon of the internment, Joy, from the chapel committee, came to the cottage to collect our mother’s ashes.

In the chapel, our mother’s ashes were transferred from the teapot where they have rested for the past eleven years into a lovely Shaker box. To my eyes, the box somehow looked somehow so Japanese.

As the service began, I carried my mother’s ashes in the Shaker box covered with a white cloth as we processed from the chapel to the Pine Grove where the attending Companions had gathered for the internment. During the service, I placed the ashes from the box directly into the ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

After the service, I filled the now empty teapot with water and poured it into a bed of purple flowers in the Garden of Forgiveness just outside the chapel, ensuring any ash remaining in the teapot was returned to the earth.

The day after the internment, my sister drove me the six miles to Newburyport to attend the film festival.  The timing was indeed poignant.

w/ Michele Noble (Reclamation: The Rise at Standing Rock), Harry Zernike (Thursday Fields) & Dianne Steimel (Peace Out)

I was humbled by the wonderful audience and amazing Q&A following the screening of “Sending Off” and so grateful that my sister could be in attendance with 15 of her Companion friends, many of whom had been at the internment several days earlier.

My sister, Amanda, with her Companion friends
After the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival ended, I spent one last night at Adelynrood with Amanda. We attended Morning Prayer and Noon Intercessions & Thanksgivings, and then packed up the car, including our mother’s now empty teapot, setting off on the 8-hour drive back to Maryland.
the chapel at Adelynrood
"Sending Off" will be screening next week in Holland (INFO) and Austria (INFO), so while I have just returned home to Japan from the US, this will be a quick turn around: I have just under two days to prepare before leaving for Europe.

And meanwhile, the Guam Premier of "Sending Off" in the Guam International Film Festival has also just been announced (INFO)! 

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement!

(This blog is expanding on THIS Twitter thread I posted last week). 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

"Sending Off" premiers in Japan

国立映画アーカイブで行われるぴあフィルムフェスティバルにて「おみおくり〜Sending Off〜」の日本初上映無事に終了。

患者様、そのご家族、今田先生とそのチームの方 にかんしゃしています 特に昨夜いらっしゃていただいたみなさま:
映画には登場していませんが、畑様のごしそく、とうご たから様

I am so grateful to have held the Japan Premier of “Sending Off” in front of a full house of 300 people on the opening day of the Pia Film Festival at the National Film Archive of Japan on Saturday afternoon!

And I am thrilled that during the post-screening Q&A the audience could hear directly from Dr. Kaoru Konta and Mr. and Mrs. Endo. 

The son of Mr. Hata, Takara Togo also joined me on stage to share another part of Mr. Hata’s powerful story: when I helped reunite them after 30 years just a few weeks before Mr. Hata’s death  (READ). As we talked about that powerful weekend, I shared excerpts from my photo documentary about their reunion on the screen behind us. 


The evening ended with 35 of us- documentary subjects, film crew and a few special supporters- sharing a meal and drinks together. I am just so very grateful to all of the families who allowed me to document their stories during some of the most difficult times in their lives and to all of those who came out to share in that story and support us.

I am now in the US where "Sending Off" will hold the North American Premier outside in the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival on Sunday, September 15 (INFO).

Meanwhile, the Guam Premier of "Sending Off" in the Guam International Film Festival has also just been announced! Taking place at the Guam Museum, the screening will be Saturday, October 12 at 7:30PM and will be followed by a full 60 minute Q&A (INFO)!  I also have been invited to take part in a Filmmaker Forum to discuss culture and media which will be recorded for broadcast on PBS Guam (KTGF Channel 12).

This is the second time I have had the honour of attending the 2013 edition of GIFF where I had the extreme honour of receiving the Grand Jury Award "Best of Festival" award for my documentary “A2-B-C” (STORY).

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