Arts & Leisure

Director Ryota Nakano: Stories of life and death

Posted on July 25, 2017

SHE CLOSED her family’s bath house after her husband left her a year ago. She has to move on, and started to work in a bread store, coming home to very shy daughter. The doctor tells her she has a terminal illness and don’t have much time to live. He does not even recommend surgery, just palliative care. She brings her husband back, and encourages her daughter to come out of her shell and fight back. She also opens the bath house again.

In a nutshell, this is how Her Love Boils Bathwater unfolds. It was the opening film of The Japanese Film Festival EIGASAI 2017 -- which celebrated its 20th year -- at Shangri-La Plaza Mall two weeks ago.

This year, the audience had a chance to hear and interact with the film’s director and screenwriter, Ryota Nakano. The movie was Mr. Nakano’s first successful commercial film, according to a press release issued by the Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM).

The 125-minute film received awards from three major film festivals in 2016: the Tokyo International Film Festival (the Japan Now section), Busan International Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), and the Montreal Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema).

Mr. Nakano, 44, grew up in the temple and shrine filled city of Kyoto.

“You’d know it’s a shrine if it has an orange entrance. The most famous temple is Fushimi Inari Taisha which is at the back of my house,” said Mr. Nakano during an interview at the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in, Manila. He was accompanied by an interpreter, and representatives of JFM.

“Technically, I live in Kanagawa [suburbs] where there are a lot of Filipino OFWs. I see the lovely and attractive Filipinas,” said the director who is single.

“I was an active child. I played outside. Although I was shy, especially in junior high school, I was one of those behind the scenes, creating things. I was not a movie buff. I went to university first. I was already 24 when I went to film school [Japan Film College in Tokyo]. I was around 25 or 26 the first time I created something,” he told Business World.

His graduation project, As We Go Cheering Our Flaming Lives, in 2000 won the film school’s Inamura Award, and was recognized at the Tama New Wave Grand Prix.

After working as an assistant film director and TV director, he produced Rocket Punch in 2006, which received seven awards from the Hiroshima and Fukui Grand Prix Film Festivals. In 2008, he was selected by the Culture Centre’s Young Film Maker Project. His 35 mm film Sparkling Amber “received a high evaluation.”

“My films have consistent themes: life and death; the living and the dying. I (first) did three to four short films, but I really wanted to make commercial films. I was scriptwriter and director of my first full length film, Capturing Dad, which was [critically acclaimed],” he said. In the film, a mother instructs her two daughters to visit their estranged father before he dies.

He was the first Japanese director to win an award at the Skip City International D Cinema Film Festival, with his entry Capturing Dad. From then on, he was invited to film festivals the world over, starting with the Berlin International Film Festival. Capturing Dad has received 14 awards so far.

Among the directors Mr. Nakano admires are Hirokazu Koreeda and Swedish director Sven “Lasse” Hallstrom. Koreeda is a film director, producer, screenwriter and editor best known for Nobody Knows and Still Walking. Famous for his music videos for Abba, Hallstrom directed My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Cider House Rules.

The only Filipino films Mr. Nakano has een are those of of Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza which watched at film festivals abroad.

Her Love Boils Bathwater was screened twice during the Manila film festival. “I was worried Filipinos wouldn’t understand my movie,” he said. “Their reactions during the screenings however (laughing out loud at the funny scenes, and crying in the sad scenes) confirmws they understood my film. They got it! It confirms that what I made can be understood.

“I’d like to be able to continue creating commercial movies or films to reach the world, and communicate with [people of other languages],” he said.

Her Love Boils Bathwater will be screened as part of the Eiga Sai Film Festival on Aug. 5, 7 p.m., at Ayala Center Cebu Cinema in Cebu City; Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m., at SM City Baguio Cinema, Baguio City; Aug. 19, 7 p.m., at the UP Film Institute, UP Diliman, Quezon City; Aug. 26, 5:30 p.m., at the FDCP Cinematheque Iloilo in Iloilo City; and Aug. 26, 7 p.m., at SM City Bacolod Cinema in Bacolod City.

Hirobumi Watanabe, director of Poolsideman, will be giving a talk on Aug. 5 at the Ayala Center Cebu Cinema. His film won the Japanese Cinema Splash Award at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival.

In Poolsideman, a lifeguard spends days in solitude as he has no family, friends, or a girlfriend.

Eiga Sai was launched in the Philippines by the Japan foundation in 1997.

Visit the official Facebook page @eigasaiPH for updates and screening schedules.