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Japanese directors Akio Fujimoto, Masaaki Kudo, Yurina Kaneko talk upcoming projects in Berlin (exclusive)

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Japanese directors Akio Fujimoto, Masaaki Kudo, Yurina Kaneko talk upcoming projects in Berlin (exclusive)

Source: Theo Wood

(l-r) Akio Fujimoto, Yurina Kaneko, Masaaki Kudo

Three rising Japanese directors have revealed details of fresh projects they pitched to potential partners at the EFM in Berlin.

Akio Fujimoto, Masaaki Kudo and Yurina Kaneko and were selected from more than 20 candidates to take part in New Directors from Japan, an initiative to promote upcoming talent on the world stage commissioned by the government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs that is now in its third year.

Fujimoto is known for family drama Passage Of Life, which won two awards at Tokyo International Film Festival in 2017, followed by Along The Sea, which premiered at San Sebastian in 2020 and went on to win numerous awards.

He is now working on Lost Land, in which two young Myanmar refugees make the treacherous journey from Bangladesh to Thailand and Malaysia to reunite with a relative who has gone overseas for work. Combining elements of fiction and documentary, the film will by led by non-professional actors and is set to shoot in Malaysia from June.

Director of photography is Yoshio Kitagawa, who worked on Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour and Evil Does Not Exist, which won five awards when it played in Competition at Venice last year including the Silver Lion grand jury prize. The upcoming feature reunites director Fujimoto with producer Kazutaka Watanabe from Tokyo-based production company ExNKK and co-producers are Shogo Yasukawa, Elise Shick for Malaysia’s Cinemata Productions and Angel De Lorme for France’s Panorama.

“This is the first project I planned to make around 10 years ago, before Passage Of Life,” Fujimoto told Screen. “Lost Land takes place outside of Japan but explores social issues that are relevant worldwide so it has been essential to promote this film globally in order to surpass the achievements of my previous projects.”

Social issues are also at the heart of Abduct, the upcoming feature of director Kudo, whose debut feature I’m Crazy won Best Asian Film at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in 2017. He is also known for Unprecedented, which played in competition at Tallinn Black Nights in 2021, and A Far Shore, which screened in competition at Karlovy Vary, going on to win the audience award Tokyo Filmex.

Abduct centres on a Japanese woman in France who flees to Japan with her young daughter when her French husband becomes abusive. She is then accused of parental child kidnapping by the International Department of Justice, and becomes the subject of a warrant for arrest. “I was inspired by an article I read in a French paper to write the story,” said Kudo. I’m sure that this happens in other countries, but nobody in Japan cares. This year, my goal is to find an European partner and secure funding in the hopes of going into production in the next year.”

Ghostly leaves

is also in development by Keneko. In this film, plants rise up to fight the human race in order to reclaim our planet. The story revolves around a college student, who throws away a large houseplant while moving to a new place. However, the plant mysteriously reappears in her apartment and seems to be watching her. It is one of a worldwide network of flora that are mobilizing against people.

The director is known for 2020 independent feature The Sleeping Insect and

People Who Talk To Plushies Are Kind, which screened at Osaka Asian Film Festival and Shanghai last year.Keneko told Screen that her upcoming project was at script development stage and based on personal experience. “I used live with large plants that were like my roommates, so when I moved and threw them away, it was killing my friend,” she said. “I’m still working on the script and have a potential partner in Shinji Ogawa but I am in Berlin looking for European co-production partners.”

New Directors from Japan is organised by Unijapan and is only open to filmmakers who have directed no more than 3 feature films, of which at least one title has screened at a recognised film festival. Over the past week in Berlin, they met with industry professionals and took part in workshops to learn how festivals and markets operate while further raising their already growing profiles.‘The Movie Emperor’, ‘Viva La Vida’ pulled from crowded CNY race in China

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