Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019 country focus strand, New/Japan, supported by Daiwa Foundation and Sasakawa Foundation showcases a new wave of stories and images from Japanese filmmakers, from the intimate and familial lens to the abstract and subversive. In artist-filmmaker Makino Takashi’s practice the abstract is drawn out of the real through the layering of images, flickers of light and the perpetual movement of dots and grains, as shown in Memento Stella (UK premiere), whichcombines up to 200 layers at any one time, redefining screen space and feels deeper the closer audiences focus their eyes. Shot by Kazuhiro Soda, Markus Nornes and Terri Sarris against the backdrop of the 2016 election and the rise of Donald Trump, The Big House (UK premiere) presents a microcosm of America at this Michigan stadium, by showing everything but the game. In Norie (UK premiere) artist-filmmaker Yuki Kawamura embarks on a road-trip with his father to talk to the people who knew his late mother. Science fiction and desire collide when an American researcher meets a Japanese translator in A Tiny Place Is Hard to Touch (UK premiere) directed by artist-filmmaker Shelly Silver.

Still from “Norie”

Other shorts in New/Japan are: Chiemi Shimada’s Chiyo (World premiere), warm and sensuous 16mm portrait of her grandmother, Chiyo, sharing dreams and reality from her home in the Japanese suburbs; Rei Hayama’s The Pearl of Tailorbird (World premiere), originally a multi sound and visual installation, these short-form videos are anchored by a haunting soundscape in which Hayama imitates the speech of various local birds in her own voice; Mountain Plain Mountain (UK premiere), a behind-the-scenes observation of Ban’ei, a rare kind of draft horse race that takes place only in Obihiro, Japan, directed by Yu Araki and Daniel Jacoby.

You can find additional information about the program here.

Ever since I watched Takeshi Kitano's "Hana-Bi" for the first time (and many times after that) I have been a cinephile. While much can be said about the technical aspects of film, coming from a small town in Germany, I cherish the notion of art showing its audience something which one does normally avoid, neglect or is unable to see for many different reasons. Often the stories told in films have helped me understand, discover and connect to something new which is a concept I would like to convey in the way I talk and write about films. Thus, I try to include some info on the background of each film as well as a short analysis (without spoilers, of course), an approach which should reflect the context of a work of art no matter what genre, director or cast. In the end, I hope to pass on my joy of watching film and talking about it.