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TEN YEARS JAPAN (2018) review

March 13, 2019

tenyearsjapanposter.jpg

 

written by: Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura, Kei Ishikawa
produced by: Hirokazu Koreeda
directed by: Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura & Kei Ishikawa
rated: unrated
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: March 13, 2019 (Asian Pop-Up Film Festival, Chicago, IL)

 

What will life look like in ten years? Not life in general, but your life where you live. Now imagine that as a concept for a film or better yet, imagine such a conceit becoming something of a franchise, a series of omnibus films made by different nations that collect several shorts in which filmmakers envision what their country’s future will look like in a decade. That’s exactly what’s happened in certain Asian nations, starting in 2015 with the short film anthology from Hong Kong, “Ten Years” as the reunification with the province of China loomed. Three other nations followed the same format, releasing low-budget indies “Ten Years Thailand”, “Ten Years Taiwan” and “Ten Years Japan” last year made by immerging filmmakers.

Produced by acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”), “Ten Years Japan” is comprised of five shorts made by Yusuke Kinoshita (“Water Flower”), Akiyo Fujimura (“Ariko, Pretended”) and Kei Ishikawa (“Gukoroku – Traces of Sin”), Megumi Tsuno and Chie Hayakawa, with each director working off their own screenplay. While it’s no surprise that none of the shorts in “Ten Years Japan” depict a utopia, since that’s rarely how the future is envisioned, but there are definitely themes that revolve around certain anxieties such as: aging, nuclear power, pollution, conformity, digital footprints and military propaganda. Not all of the shorts offer stories that succeed, but each director delivers something to appreciate.

 

plan75

 

The compilation starts off with “Plan75”, which is a program the government has developed to deal with Japan’s rapidly aging population. Itami (Satoru Kawaguchi), an officer for the program is tasked with signing up elderly who are sick and poor for a death of their choosing, selling it as a service to the community and future generations. The reality of the implications of the program start to set in as Itami and his pregnant wife contend with her mother’s increasing Alzheimer’s illness.

Kinoshita’s “Mischievous Alliance” is one of the film’s most intriguing shorts, with its art house sci-fi approach. In this future, children are implanted with personalized education and government surveillance devices, discs attached to their temples which keep them appropriately in line, designed to help the state build the perfect workforce. Knowing the stubbornness, curiosity, and rebellious nature of children, imagine how well this plan will work. In one particular rural community, a troublemaking student plots a plan to release the elementary school’s aging horse to freedom, a metaphor perhaps for deep seeded resentment and wishes for the controls forced upon the youth. This short includes one well-known face, as we see veteran Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Audition” and “The Wailing”) portraying the school’s groundskeeper.

 

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Youth is also the focus of Tsuno’s thought-provoking “Data”, in which we follow 17-year-old Maika (Hana Sugisaki, “Blade of the Immortal”) a girl who lives with her father (Tetsushi Tanaka), yet remains curious about her mother, who died when she was young. To reconnect with her mother, Maika unlocks her mother’s digital inheritance (a resource which holds documents and video files) which allows her access to cloud memories, yet she is unprepared for certain hidden truths.

One of the shorts which probably has the most to say about the future of Japan’s environment is Fujimura’s “The Air We Can’t See”, which primarily takes place in the safety of the cavernous underground, free from the toxic air polluting the surface. It’s here where a 10-year-old Mizuki lives in a bunker searching for her friend Kaede who may have fled topside and finds herself dreaming of the unknowns of the outside world. Inspired by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, Fujimura’s short offers one of the more compelling character studies of the film.

 

Ten Years Japan Data

Ten Years Japan The Air We Can't See

 

Finally, Ishikawa offers “For Our Beautiful Country” which takes place in 2018, finding Japan reinstating the military draft with the government employing an ad agency to find the appropriate campaign to inspire the populace. One young ad executive is sent to tell a veteran artist that her poster design for conscription has been rejected. What unfolds is the film’s most absorbing conversations in which two surprisingly fascinating characters learn a few things about each other and the young executive learns an important lesson.

“Ten Years Japan” is an example of how an specific conceit can prove to be more interesting than the overall outcome. Many of the storylines here aren’t necessarily exclusive to Japan, with topics and themes concerning humanity’s future that have been touched upon in stories from other nations in the past. Even if all the shorts don’t feel unique to Japan, there’s not a point where our curiosity doesn’t anticipate the next short here. At best, the film is a compilation to be appreciated for providing up and coming filmmakers with an opportunity to share their vision of what the future holds for their home.

 

ourbeautifulcountry

RATING: ***

 

“Ten Years Japan” was part of the opening week of the 8th Season of Sophie’s Choice Asian Pop-Up Cinema at AMC River East in Chicago, Illinois and you can found out more about the festival here.

tenyearsjapancollage

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