Sakura Ando (100 Yen Love, Asleep)
Recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film
Sakura Ando appeared on the independent film scene in the late 2000s, rapidly establishing a reputation as a brave and unpredictable performer across comedy and drama with her debut in Eiji Okuda’s Out of the Wind and breakout supporting roles in Sion Sono’s Love Exposure, Yuki Tanada’s Ain’t No Tomorrows, Yu Irie’s 8000 Miles 2: Girls Rapper, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Penance. With physically and emotionally demanding performances she has distinguished herself in increasing lead roles such as in Yong-hi Yang’s Our Homeland and is recognized as one of the most highly respected actresses in the industry, recently ranked as the 8th Best Japanese Actress of all time by Kinema Junpo. She was nominated for Best Actress at the studio-driven 38th Japanese Academy Awards for her role in the independent 0.5mm, and awarded the 88th Kinema Junpo Award for 100 Yen Love and 0.5mm.
Haruhiko Arai (This Country’s Sky, Undulant Fever)
Haruhiko Arai is a venerable force in Japanese independent cinema as prolific screenwriter and publisher and editor of the influential Eiga Geijutsu magazine. His writing credits include collaborations with some of the greatest directors in Japanese cinema from the 1970s to today: Koji Wakamatsu’s Hika, Tatsumi Kumashiro’s A Woman with Red Hair, Rokuro Mochizuki’s Minazuki, Ryuichi Hiroki’s Vibrator and It’s Only Talk, Junji Sakamoto’s KT, as well as further numerous collaborations with luminaries such as Chusei Sone. He joins this year to present the World Premiere of This Country’s Sky, his first film as director since the acclaimed 1997 Body and Soul, and Hiroshi Ando’s Undulant Fever as screenwriter.
Bishop Blay (Out of My Hand)
Bishop Blay first acted in improvised "street-dramas" in a Ghanian refugee camp, where he lived in exile following the outbreak of the Liberian Civil War. After the war, he brought his craft back to Liberia, where he acted in numerous local West African film and theater productions. Most recently, he made his international feature debut in Takeshi Fukunaga's Out of My Hand, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and later won the top prize U.S Fiction Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Blay's performance brought a "soulfulness that suggests depths to the character we only later on understand more clearly” (Indiewire). He is presently based in New York City.
Takeshi Fukunaga (Out of My Hand)
Takeshi Fukunaga is a Japanese filmmaker based in New York. He's received support from IFP, Berlinale Talents, and National Board of Review. His directorial debut film, Out of My Hand had its world premiere in the Panorama section at Berlin International Film Festival and won the top prize U.S. Fiction Award at Los Angeles Film Festival.
Yu Irie (HIBI ROCK: Puke Afro and the Pop Star, JOKER GAME)
After several successful short films and work in V-Cinema, Yu Irie’s 2009 cult hit 8000 Miles – SR: Saitama no Rapper won the Grand Prize in the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival’s Off-Theatre competition. He immediately followed this up with 8000 Miles 2: Girls Rapper, flipping the central characters’ gender at the same time as managing a larger budget. Since then, he’s continued to tackle projects of increasing scale and complexity. While he wears his cinephilia and enthusiasm for hip hop and rock on his sleeve, as Tom Mes of Midnight Eye notes, “Irie's style is all his own,” leading exciting independent and big-budget projects while working in whole new genres.
Youki Kudoh (This Country’s Sky)
Youki Kudoh’s border-crossing career took off receiving Best Newcomer Award at the 1985 Yokohama Film Festival for her role in Gakuryu (Sogo) Ishii’s The Crazy Family, soon followed by Shinji Somai’s Typhoon Club (1985). She broke onto the international scene in Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train (1989) alongside Masatoshi Nagase as a couple on a Blues pilgrimage in Memphis. With further breakout roles in Picture Bride (1995) and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), Kudoh continues to distinguish herself as a fantastic talent in Blood: The Last Vampire (2000), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and The Limits of Control (2009).
Beginning her career as a writer and editor at several popular magazines, in 1979 Hisako Matsui established an actors' agency, and a decade later founded her own production company, Essen Communications. There, she produced numerous TV dramas and documentaries, making her feature directorial debut in 1998 with the award-winning Yukie. She presented her film Leonie at JAPAN CUTS 2012, based on the life of Leonie Gilmour, mother of sculptor Isamu Noguchi, which was shot on location all across Japan and the U.S.
After studying video production at Image Forum in Tokyo, Kitakyushu native Yuki Tanada wrote, directed, and starred in Moru, which won the grand prize at the Pia Film Festival in 2001. She followed this with a documentary on folk singer Wataru Takada in 2003, before her 2004 erotic gender-reversing comic drama Moon and Cherry launched her popularity abroad at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Her many recent features reaffirm her masterful direction of actors and subtle visual style, demonstrating a range of penetrating observations into contemporary life from One Million Yen Girl (2008), which was honored with the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award, to Ain’t No Tomorrows (2008), The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky (2012), and the recent Mourning Recipe (2013)
Yamamoto first debuted Carnival in the Night (1983) at the Berlin Film Festival and later gained attention for Robinson’s Garden (1987). His 1999 Junk Food was screened in the United States during a research fellowship in New York City, and he has since broadened his Japanese and Western audiences. Yamamoto was last at JAPAN CUTS with Three☆Points in 2011.
Born in Osaka and university educated in Kyoto, Juichiro Yamasaki is engaged in tomato farming in his father’s hometown of Maniwa, Okayama, the setting of Sanchu Uprising: Voices at Dawn. His 2011 debut feature The Sound of Light premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival, the Bright Future section of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and won the Nippon Visions Award at Nippon Connection in Frankfurt. Yamasaki's film screening and production group [cine/maniwa] won the Grand Prix of the Okayama Prefectural Art-Cultural Prize as well as the Fukutake Cultural Encouragement Prize.
Experimental Spotlight Guests
Steve Cossman (Relay) is founder and director of Mono No Aware, a non-profit cinema arts organization. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn as a director, curator, visual artist, educator and activist.
Akiko Maruyama (Koropokkuru) is a filmmaker and educator who uses 8mm film, 16mm film, handmade film, stop-motion animation and HD video. Originally from Fukuoka, Japan, she holds a BFA in Film/Video from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Tomonari Nishikawa (sound of a million insects, light of a thousand stars) is a filmmaker, curator and educator from Nagoya, Japan whose work has screened at many international film festivals since 2003. He currently teaches in the Cinema Department at Binghamton University.
Joel Schlemowitz (Louis Armstrong Obon) is an experimental filmmaker based in Brooklyn who works in 16mm film, shadowplay and stereographic media. He teaches experimental filmmaking at The New School and is Resident Film Programmer and Arcane Media Specialist at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Ted Wiggin (Stella Nova) makes short films and software for animation. His films attempt to show rational systems that transcend their own logic. He lives in New York and works at Hornet Inc.