SEVEN WEEKS – Review by Diane Carson

Seven Weeks documents a complicated memoriam. In Seven Weeks, the second film in Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s trilogy on war, he asserts that for every death, someone takes that person’s place. Honoring the importance of an individual’s passing, he proposes to “take a look at one tiny tale of a death” because with each “there is a story.”

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HANAGATAMI – Review by Diane Carson

Hanagatami, the third in Japanese director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s war trilogy, unfolds more like a stream of consciousness than a linear narrative. This makes it both refreshingly unconventional and formally striking. However, at just under three hours running time, it is also exhausting and frustrating as it circles back on itself several times.

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CASTING BLOSSOMS TO THE SKY – Review by Diane Carson

In Casting Blossoms to the Sky Japanese writer/director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi mounts a plea for peace, kindness, and compassion through a blizzard of images. Dedicated “To the children of the future from adults who lived the past,” the film layers memories of wartime tragedies and natural disasters, primarily WWII cluster bombs dropped on Nagaoka and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

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HOLD ME BACK (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Thirtysomething Mitsuko lives alone, but she is not alone. Accustomed to her solitary, single lifestyle (she prefers the more empowering term “solo”), Mitsuko is frequently kept company by a voice in her head who, at different stages, soothes, comforts, provokes and outright argues with her. The voice is that of a man known only as “A”, and whether he is a product of some kind of psychological delusion, a guardian angel of sorts, or just a wholesome, run-of-the-mill internal interlocutor with a gender twist, the film encourages us at different points to read him in multiple ways.

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GEORAMA BOY, PANORAMA GIRL (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Tokyo-born director/writer Natsuki Seta adds to her growing list of feature film credits that she has steadily helmed since 2011 with her latest, Georama Boy, Panorama Girl. The smell of teen spirit here is decidedly wholesome in this romantic coming-of-age tale that fluctuates between that of a love triangle and the story of (maybe) star-crossed lovers.

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THE WITCHES OF THE ORIENT – Review by Diane Carson

Ten years ago, French writer/director Julien Faraut saw sixteen-millimeter footage of Japan’s 1964 Olympic volleyball team. Faraut says that their grit and determination so impressed him, he knew he had to make the film that became The Witches of the Orient, an unfortunate nickname taken from Soviet press, a title that incorrectly identifies their astonishing, admirable elite athletic talent.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 29, 2021: TRUE MOTHERS

Motherhood — in all its complexity — is at the heart of Naomi Kawase’s drama True Mothers, which tells the intertwined stories of Hikari Katakura (Aju Makita) and Satoko Kurihara (Hiromi Nagasaku). Their circumstances are very different, but they both fiercely love the same little boy, and that love ultimately helps each better understand the other.

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TRUE MOTHERS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

As someone who was given up for adoption as an infant, True Mothers couldn’t help but touch my heart and souL. What most got to me about Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase’s touching drama about a well-off Tokyo couple with an adopted 5-year-old son were the two mothers at the center of the story. The message that matters? That maternal love can come in many forms.

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TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH – Review by Diane Carson

Seldom do films have as significant a catalyst as Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s beguiling To the Ends of the Earth. Commissioned to celebrate twenty-five years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Uzbekistan and the seventy year anniversary of the gorgeous Navoi Theater, the story takes place in and around Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, as a Japanese TV crew gathers footage.

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BRIGHT FUTURE – Review by Diane Carson

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a sly director, relating simple stories, part reality and part fantasy, with a straightforward approach, yet embedding astute social commentary in narrative details, He does this exceptionally well Bright Future set in present-day Tokyo by telling a meandering tale that reveals the many reasons for the central character’s aimlessness.

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