Japan's indie movies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am

Amini-film festival will showcase some of the best movies by young directors from Osaka, a key stronghold of Japan's independent cinema industry.

Osaka Weird Sonata, which will be held later this month, is organised by local film organisation InD Blue.

'Osaka isn't a small city, but it's not a metropolis either,' says InD Blue's Jonathan Hung Ping-man, a long-time programmer for local independent film festivals.

'The place is like Hong Kong. You may be walking in a crowded area but around the corner it's a different world - a quiet, peaceful one.

'Many people there spend their money on making independent films. Some of these movie buffs have become famous. They look for interesting topics from their daily lives and their filmmaking techniques are very solid.

'The quality of the debut movies of Osaka's independent filmmakers is often much higher than that of their Hong Kong counterparts.'

Among the highlights of Osaka Weird Sonata is NN-891102, an offbeat tale about a man who is obsessed with the sound of exploding atomic bombs. He had recorded such an explosion by chance as a child hiding in an air-raid shelter in 1945.

Director Go Shibata collaborated with Osaka's many up-and-coming talents on the movie.

'It's a very interesting film - very experimental in terms of style and content,' says Hung.

'If the subject is handled by a traditional director, the results could be very different. As an independent film, it's wild and weird.'

Directed by Masaki Karatsu, Red Restraint is another high-intensity movie. It's a simple love story involving a young couple, with a stranger falling for the girl who is tired of taking care of her mentally ill husband.

'I was shocked when I first saw the movie because some of the camerawork is amazing,' says Hung.

'This is a quality shared by many independent films from Osaka. No matter whether the scenes are outdoor or indoor, the camera movement is always meticulous and powerful.

'When you consider the fact that these are only independent films [with limited production time and budget], the results are even more amazing.'

Hate Hallelujah revolves around a man who grows up with his uncle after his parents died in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. One day, his grandma - suffering from dementia - tells him that he has a little sister, Saki.

He soon comes across a mysterious little girl named Saki, who may or may not be his lost sister.

'The director [Yoshiyuki Itakura] enjoys composing music in his spare time. In the film, he tries to combine music and images to tell a story,' says Hung.

The Side of Paradise, directed by Kazuto Kodama, is another standout. The black comedy is a modern version of a legendary fisherman, Urashima Taro, who is rewarded with a visit to the Palace of the Dragon for rescuing a turtle.

The story takes place in a now-deserted seaside tourist destination. Things turn upside down when a young man, who looks like a wanted criminal, arrives in town.

Hung says aspiring filmmakers who lack the financial resources can learn a lot from these movies.

Osaka filmmakers succeed because of their team spirit and passion for movies, he explains.

'In Japan and South Korea, many people who work on independent films - be they actors or directors - are volunteers,' says Hung.

'On the contrary, many Hong Kong independent filmmakers just sit and wait for funding ... and if there's no funding they just stop creating. Independent filmmakers in Japan, or other parts of Asia, are not like that,' says Hung.

Osaka Weird Sonata will run from January 18-26 at Hong Kong Arts Centre. Tickets cost HK$50 each. For details, check out www.indpanda.com/osaka.html