Midnight Swan wins from Japan wins Golden Mulberry at Far East Film Festival 23

By Moira Jean Sullivan

Midnight Swan took home the top prize from Japan the Golden Mulberry, at the Far East Film Festival (FEFF) now in its 23 year , that ended on July 2 a beautifully made, excellently crafted film written and directed by Eiji Uchida. Nagisa from Hiroshima (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and former SMAP boyband musician) moves to Tokyo to work in the Shinjuku district as a nightclub entertainer with other MTF transgenders. When asked to take care of her niece Ichiko (14 year old ballet dancer Misaki Hattori) whose mother Saori (Asami Misukawa) has a substance abuse problem, she agrees to take her in and enrolls her in a Tokyo middle school. Through a classmate, Rin (Rinka Ueno), Ichiko tries out for lessons at a ballet studio. At first she is cautious of her "aunt" Nagisa but eventually their bond grows strong and Ichiko's ballet talents develop and deepen with meticulous skill. Rin and Ichiko secretly work for studio photographers to pay for Ichiko's ballet lessons and are caught. Nagisa is so impressed by Ichiko that she takes a job at a packing firm and discards her female clothing to fit in with macho male workers to pay for the lessons. Ichiko wants to dance a piece from the Swan Lake opera. Director Eiji Uchida said there are not many transgender actors in Japan and hopes that the film will open awareness for actors and films on this subject.

Taiwanese director Chen Yu-hsun's romance fantasy My Missing Valentine won the Crystal Mulberry. A 2020 Taipei Golden Horse multiple winner, the colorful well-crafted films is about Yang Hsiao-chi (Patty Pei-Y Lee), a young woman out of synch with time who loses her Valentine and a day making for an interesting non-inear narrative.

The 2021 Golden Mulberry Award for Lifetime Achievment went to Bologna’s film restoration laboratory for work on the Internal Affairs trilogy with Andy Lau and Alan Mak (latest film shown at the festival closing night) and six masterpieces by Wong Kar Wai.

A really fun film featured at this year’s FEFF festival was Office Royale(Japan 2021) by director Kazuaki Seki with screenplay by Bakarhythm. Office Lady (OL) yankÄ« , which are a subculture of rival working class women gangs with Toshiro Mifune dialects challenge each other especially Ran Hojos (Alice Hirose). The seemingly innoncent Naoko Tanaka (Mei Nagano) grew up with relatives in rural gangs and carried the strongest genes of the family. As a young girl, she reads manga like Crows, Shabako and Bebob and keeps her talents hidden. The film involves duels between rival gangs composed of transgender and cis-female warriors including the reigning fighter Reina Manimura (Eiko Koike).

The festival is noted for seminars and reports on filmmaking conditions in the countries represented at the festival. Mark Shilling is the film expert for Japan and I interviewed him at a recent festival.

Next week a final report from Udine.

© 2021 - Your Name - Air Date: 07/07/2021
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