|21-year-old Scion Sasaki the subject of "Monk by Blood" directed by Ema Ryan Yamazaki|
New York Japan CineFest is an annual two day mini-festival that highlights short films by emerging, talented Japanese and Japanese American filmmakers. This year's iteration concludes this evening at Asia Society with a program of four short films by female directors. Program 2 will be followed by a Q&A with directors Ema Ryan Yamazaki (Monk by Blood) and Hazuki Aikawa (Reflection).
Last night I attended Program 1. Each of the four films were very good. I was especially taken with Confession Ranking of Girlfriend, directed by Shinichiro Ueda and by A Warm Spell, which was directed by Toshimichi Saito.
Ueda''s film is a hilarious comedy about a young woman making 17 confessions to the man who has proposed marriage and vowed that he would love her no matter what. It ends with a revelation even wilder than some of the bizarre confessions that have been made.
A Warm Spell is about the death of the mother of two sons. The elder brother, a doctor, cared for her during her final illness and has brought her back to her home village, where the younger son previously had come to be with her. At times, the film is quite comical, at others, it is very touching. I understand that the 40 minute film, developed from director Toshimichi Saito’s NYU thesis short film, is currently being expanded by him to a full length feature. Quite frankly, my feeling is that as a feature, A Warm Spell has the possibility of becoming another Departures, Yôjirô Takita's 2008 film that went on to represent Japan at the 2009 Oscar's and win the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year award.
Of the films being shown tonight, I have only had the time to watch Monk by Blood in advance. It's a very interesting documentary about 21-year-old Scion Sasaki, who as the eldest son, is expected to take over his family’s Buddhist temple in Kyoto, a temple that is 800 years old and has been managed by 23 generations of his family. The film follows Scion, who was born in California and is currently a college student in Vancouver, as he returns for a brief visit to Japan. His duty to his family and the temple's congregation is juxtaposed against his personal interests in becoming a cook and working as a DJ in clubs.
Program 2: Friday, June 5, 2015, 6:30 pm
Tickets: $8 members; $10 students/seniors; $12 nonmembers.
Monk By Blood
Dir. Ema Ryan Yamazaki. 2013. Japan. 25 min.
Dir. Hazuki Aikawa. 2014. Japan. 23 min.
Dir. Mitsuyo Miyazaki. 2011. Japan. 25 min.
Dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi. 2014. Japan. 21 min.
Note: the films may not necessarily be shown in the above order.
Click here for more information and to buy tickets.