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January 10 - February 25, 2005  

The Films of Hirokazu Koreeda

In a short period of time, Hirozaku Koreeda has gained a solid reputation as one of the most significant figures of contemporary Japanese cinema. His oeuvre is currently comprised of eight films including his television documentary work with TV Man Union, Inc. and his narrative films (After Life, Maborosi) which reflect the contemplative style and pacing of such luminaries as Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. He has become a cinematographic tightrope walker who almost unnoticeably switches between fictitious and real territories, between narration and invention, the private and the public.

Program notes adapted from the Vienna International Film Festival.

This program is co-presented with the Japan Society of Boston. Special thanks to the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard, IFC Films, and TV Man Union.


January 10 (Monday) 7 pm

Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 2003, color, 141 min.
With Yagira Yuya, Kitaura Ayu, Kimura Hiei
Japanese with English subtitles

Abandoned by their mother, four children try to forge a life within the confines of a small Tokyo apartment. Devising their own set of rules, the children find a way to sustain themselves until they must face the harsh reality of the outside world. Koreeda’s slow pacing and limited setting allow a sensitive reading of the children’s perspective without overtly sentimentalizing their plight. His choice of nonfiction film techniques successfully captures the intimacies and nuances of the children’s world.

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February 4 (Friday) 7 pm
February 5 (Saturday) 9 pm

After Life (Wandafuru raifu)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1998, color, 118 min.
With Arata, Oda Erika, Terajima Susumu
Japanese with English subtitles

Limbo becomes a place of psychological breakthrough in After Life, the film that introduced Koreeda to art-house audiences worldwide. As people die and journey to this other world, they are stopped at a sort of postmodern rest area, where they are greeted by counselors. The counselors ask the deceased to select one memory from life to take with them to the great beyond. Memories, which range from moments of first love to a trip to Disneyland, are recreated by the counselors and filmed so the departed may have a permanent record of their former lives. Despite his focus on the supernatural, Koreeda reveals a humanist sentiment on par with his fellow countryman, Yasujiro Ozu.

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February 4 (Friday) 9:15 pm
February 5 (Saturday) 7 pm

Maborosi (Maboroshi no hikari)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1995, color, 110 min.
With Esumi Makiko, Naito Takashi, Asano Tadanobu
Japanese with English subtitles

A young woman is deeply troubled by the notion that she brings death to people, falsely blaming herself for the passing of her beloved grandmother and the unexplained suicide of her first husband. Although remarried and living in a village on Japan’s Inland Sea, she maintains a painfully guarded facade. Showing the influence of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Koreeda avoids close-ups in favor of slowly paced, exquisitely composed wide-angle shots. This technique denies his audience an easy process of identification with his characters but allows a more contemplative reflection on the healing process.

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February 12 (Saturday) 9 pm

Without Memory (Kioku ga ushinawareta toki)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1996, color, 84 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

A father loses his short-term memory as the result of a botched medical procedure which causes him to develop Wernicke's Encephalopathy. Koreeda chronicles his family’s fight to receive proper treatment and benefits from this devastating malpractice. Without Memory is an unabashed protest against the government and its disregard for health care. However, the film is also rich with thematic concerns, namely memory and loss, which infuse his later fiction films.

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February 16 (Wednesday) 9 pm
February 18 (Friday) 7 pm

Distance

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 2001, color, 132 min.
With Arata, Iseya Yusuke, Terajima Susumu
Japanese with English subtitles

On the third anniversary of a mass slaughter carried out by an apocalyptic religious sect called “Ark of Truth,” four people who lost loved ones in the sect travel to the scene of the tragedy. This pilgrimage takes them deep into the forest where the slaughter took place, and compels the travelers to reflect on the distant relationships with their deceased family members. Eventually, they encounter a former member of the sect and an unexpected turn of events provides the opportunity for resolution of past regrets.

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February 25 (Friday) 7 pm

August Without Him (Kare No Inai Hachigatsu Ga)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1994, color, 78 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

Hirata Yukata became the first man in Japan to publicly acknowledge that he had contracted HIV through homosexual sex. Koreeda’s film is designed as a lament for Yukata, who had a profound impact on the filmmaker. His dying years are not presented as a time of physical deterioration, but rather an evolution of a relationship between two men, one of whom emerged from the process with a markedly changed perspective on the goal of objectivity in nonfiction film.

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February 25 (Friday) 9 pm

Lessons from a Calf

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1991, color, 47 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

Lessons from a Calf documents the studies of pupils at an elementary school as they raise a dairy cow named Lola. The camera follows the children and captures their lively expressions, inspired by the cow-based curriculum. A news report on the schoolchildren inspired Koreeda to make this modest project, which in turn helped him rediscover what he loved most about the filmmaking process: the spontaneous representation of life.

However…

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan, 1991, color, 47 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

However… examines the life and impact of Yamanouchi Yoyomori. As the head of the national Social Welfare Bureau in Japan, Yoyomori was responsible for compensating victims of Minamata Disease, a neurological disorder caused by methyl mercury poisoning. As the wheels of the bureaucracy slowed, Koreeda’s subject became a sort of martyr for the cause, having grown increasingly frustrated with his department’s unwillingness to support the victims despite his overwhelming commitment to them.

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