Modern Japanese society through film

Modern Japanese society through film

Before the screening of "I just didn't do it", Dimitri Vanoverbeke (professor of Japanese Law at the K.U.Leuven) and Luk van Haute (author of "The Japanese film revival") will provide the audience with a basic knowledge of Japanese film and the aspects of Japanese society seen in the three Japan Week films.

4 November, 20h: "I just didn't do it" (2007, trailer)

Masayuki Suo, writer-director of the world- renowned "Shall We Dance?" makes his return to feature film-making after an 11 year absence. In "Fancy Dance" (1989) he examined the little-known world of apprentice Buddhist monks. In "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't"(1992) he explored the intricacies of university sumo wrestling. In "Shall We Dance?" he gave the same treatment to the twilight world of Japanese ballroom dance. This time he brings his powerful yet entertaining analysis to bear on the closed world of Japan's legal system.

Teppei Kaneko is a young guy, typical of many of his generation; he works part-time, hangs out in Tokyo and tries to figure out what life has in store for him. He finds out the hard way. Finally getting his act together, he's on his way to his first job interview when he's accused of groping a young schoolgirl on the train. He desperately pleads his innocence but the police are only interested in coercing a quick confession and closing the books. Before he knows what's going on his denials plunge him into a Kafka-esque world of bureaucratie precedent.

Being held in custody is a frustrating, brutalizing and lonely experience for Teppei. The prosecutor ignores his explanations of innocence and he's summarily arraigned for trail. In Japan judges are promoted for the speed with which they deal with their caseloads, with a resulting 99.9% guilty rate.

Driven by the purity of his belief that innocence will save him, Teppei secures the services of veteran defense counsel, Mr. Arakawa and greenhorn assistant defense attorney, Ms. Sudo. Sudo doesn't have the slightest desire to defend a groper but when Arakawa tells her that false accusations of molestation go to the very heart of the problems with Japan's legal system, she grudgingly complies.

Meanwhile Teppei's mother and slacker best friend, Tatsu, form an unlikely alliance to organize on his behalf. As his circle of friends and supporters gathers round, so too the noose of "justice" tightens and the power of the state moves against one young man who is about to have to grow up very fast.
(Text from AsianMediaWiki)

5 November, 20h: "Give it all" (2004, trailer)

Directed by Itsumichi Isomura. Shikoku Island, the fourth largest island in the Japanese archipelago. Matsuyama, a historical, quiet town facing the serene inland sea. In 1976, after the turmoil of years of student demonstrations, there came a time of nihilism. The new generation was given the nickname "Age of Three Nothings": giving nothing, caring for nothing, and being moved by nothing.

Etsuko (15) lives with her reticent father and hard-working, fussy mother. They run a little dry-cleaning business. With them is Etsuko's grandmother who looks after the house and her 'brilliant' older sister who is leaving to attend a top college. Etsuko feels useless, with no role to play in the household. The irony is that even though she is far from being an excellent student, she still managed to get into the best local high school. The emptiness of this achievement only worsens her sense of futility.

One day she decides to run away from home. Her family don't flinch, assuming she just went out for a walk. Despondent and alone, even this gesture ignored, Etsuko stands on the sea shore and stares out across the waves. In the distance, she caches sight of something it's a rowing team gliding through the water. At that moment something sparks inside her. She can't get this image out of her mind and sets her heart on joining the rowing team at the new school. However she finds out that since it used to be a boys' school, traditional attitudes persist: there is no rowing team for girls. In a solution to all her recent frustrations with life, she decides to do something about this. She bullies four other girls into forming a team. With their hearts not really in it however, their season ends in a humiliating defeat. Further burdened by the appearance of her childhood sweetheart on the boy's team, she begins to flounder. An awkward relationship with their melancholic coach followed by an injury that bars her from sport, threaten to wreck Etsuko's self-confidence. Just when it seems she will have to give up all that she struggled for, she finds it in herself to continue."Rowing is everything for me", she says. By the second season, the girls have grown. With one voice they pull their oars through the water, heading for their first victory.
(Text from AsianMediaWiki)

6 November, 20h: "Swing Girls" (2004,trailer)

The award-winning 'Swing Girls'was one of the most succesful Japanese films of 2004. The film takes place in rural Yamataga prefecture, in northern Japan. Thirteen girls are stuck in summer school for a make-up math class when one girl, Tomoko, peers out the window and notices the brass band leaving on their bus to perform at a baseball game. Soon after a catering truck arrives, having missed his opportunity to deliver the band's bento boxes for the day. In a last-ditch effort to get out of class Tomoko pleads with their teacher Ozawa to let them deliver the lunches themselves. He reluctantly agrees and the girls take a train to the game. After gorging on one of the lunches they miss their stop and are forced to walk to get to the game on foot. Along the way they manage to drop the bento boxes in the mud while diving out of the way of a train and then decide to waste more time washing off at a nearby stream.

The girls eventually make it to the game where the cymbal player, Nakamura, makes them hand them out. Of course because they ate one on the train he's left without his. That works out in his favor, however, as all 42 members of the brass band come down with food poisoning and are sent to the hospital. Because Nakamura is the only one left healthy, he's tasked with finding replacement musicians for the time-being. Unfortunately the only people that show up to audition are two punk rock girls with an electric bass and guitar and a shy girl with a recorder. Out of complete desperation Nakamura confronts Tomoko and tells her that if she and her classmates join the band he won't tell anyone that they're the ones that contaminated the lunches. She reluctantly agrees, but only as a scam to get out of the make-up math class.

Because there are far too few girls for a classical brass band, and probably because he's intimidated by the two punk rock girls, Nakamura comes up with the idea to switch to a big band style. The girls agree and after practicing for a few days they secretly start to enjoy it. However, when the real brass band returns they're forced to give up their instruments. The girls pretend they don't care, claiming to be happy that they got out of math class, but as they leave the building they all start sobbing.

Prompted by Tomoko, and after much consternation, the girls eventually manage to get their own instruments and form a band. They dub themselves the Swing Girls (and a boy) and begin playing anywhere they can, culminating with an epic performance at the winter music festival.
(Text from Eiga Wiki)