First Samurai in New York is the latest film from Justin Ambrosino. His wonderful The 8th Samurai, a black-and-white 28 minute short, was shown at the 2012 New York Japan CineFest.
First Samurai in New York had its New York premiere screening at the New York International Shorts Festival on Saturday June 2nd. It will also be shown as part of this year's New York Japan CineFest: Program 1 on Wednesday, June 6th.
The movie takes place in 1883, approximately fifteen years after the Meiji Restoration, which restored practical rule to the emperor and led to the end of the shogunate and the samurai class. The location is Staten Island, where the family of a former samurai, and later a firefighter - has completed their long and arduous journey to America.
Izumi Naito (Kyo Kasumi), the mother, leaves for a few days to find a better and permanent place to live in Manhattan. Eldest daughter Chiyo Naito (Maho Honda) is a young woman who is left in charge of her two younger siblings: Ken, a boy and the middle child; and Fuji, the second daughter and youngest child.
When a violent situation concerning a male neighbor arises, the titular character comes to the rescue.
There's a delightful twist on the expectations one might have from the movie's title, and though it becomes evident fairly on, I don't want to say more and spoil this little treat.
Suffice it to say that, as in The 8th Samurai (which he also wrote and directed) Ambrosino demonstrates a deft hand and a marvelous flair for storytelling. An incredible amount of drama, action and heart are contained in this outstanding short. All of the performances are highly commendable, with Maho Honda's particularly so.
Wednesday night's program of this year's New York Japan CineFest runs from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, NYC. (Click here for map and directions.) I haven't seen any of the other five films in the program, but past offerings have all been worth seeing.
I highly recommend catching First Samurai in New York tomorrow night, even if you were at Saturday night's New York premiere. It's a terrific film and further evidence of Ambrosino's considerable talents.
AsianCineFest Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; most highly recommended.
[P.S. - New York Japan CineFest 2018: Program 2 will take place at Asia Society on Thursday, June 7th, again from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.]