December 3, 2022

Blue
Director:  Keisuke Yoshida
2021, 107min. In Japanese with English subtitles
Starring Kenichi Matsuyama, Fumino Kimura, Tokio Emoto, Masahiro Higashide

A Balance
Director: Yujiro Harumoto
2020, 152 min. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Starring Kumi Takiuchi, Ken Mitsuishi, Masahiro Umeda, Yuumi Kawai

NEW YORK — The Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) of the Government of Japan announces its third ACA Cinema Project series: “New Films from Japan.”
The series is organized as part of a “Japan Film Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project,” in collaboration with the IFC Center and Visual Industry Promotion Organization, with theatrical engagements of Yujiro Harumoto’s “A Balance,” (2020, 152 minutes. Japanese with English subtitles), and Keisuke Yoshida’s “Blue,” (2021, 107 minutes Japanese with English subtitles) from March 11-17, 2022 at the IFC Center in New York City. Visit the IFC website for more information.
The ACA Cinema Project introduced U.S. audiences to the best of recent Japanese cinema including “Blue,” a gripping boxing drama starring Kenichi Matsuyama, Masahiro Higashide and Fumino Kimura, appearing on-screen together for the first time since “Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow.” Yoshida was honored for the film with a special Director in Focus program and bestowed the title of Master of Psychological Drama at 2021’s Tokyo International Film Festival.
Winner of the New Current Award at the Busan International Film Festival and an official selection at Berlinale, Harumoto’s second feature film, “A Balance,” stars Kumi Takiuchi as a documentary director reporting on the true-life scandal of student-teacher relationship with fraught societal consequences.
Inspired by his real-life decades long boxing background, director Yoshida also pens the script depicting the uncertainty behind an athlete’s often-unrewarded dedication, tears and sweat. Competition rises between Urita (Kenichi Matsuyama) who loves boxing more than anyone and his younger rival, Ogawa (Masahiro Higashide), whose outstanding talent and style have brought him on the verge of becoming Japan’s national champion.
Urita’s first love Chika (Fumino Kimura) is now engaged to Ogawa further straining interpersonal relationships caught between ideals and reality. A highlight of the film is the interactions between the three, who are appearing on-screen together for the first time since “Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow.”
 
“Blue” is an idyllic love letter to the world of combative sports. A wonderfully crafted drama with strong performances.” -Asian Movie Pulse
 
(A Balance) “A boxing movie that dispenses with many of the conventions typical to the genre, not least the idea that life’s problems can be solved in the ring.” –Japan Times
 
Keisuke Yoshida’s Profile: Keisuke Yoshida (born in 1975) graduated from the Tokyo Visual Arts film school and worked as a lighting engineer on films by director Shinya Tsukamoto. In 2006 he made his directorial debut with the youth drama Raw Summer,and was awarded with the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival Grand Prix. He then published a novel and later filmed it as the quirky father-daughter comedy Café Isobe (2008). His other films include Tsukue no nakami (2007), Sankaku (2010), The Workhorse & the Bigmouth (2013), My Little Sweet Pea (2013), Silver Spoon (2014), Himeanole (2016), Thicker Than Water (2018), Come on Irene (2018), Blue (2021) and Intolerance (2021). 
Documentary director Yuko (Kumi Takiuchi) doesn’t doubt the reality of the world she sees through her camera’s lens, but when her father commits a grave error of judgment, she is forced to switch sides and abandon her role as an observer to become a participant in a morally challenging story. The boundaries between work and family, reality and ideals, beliefs and truths become blurred, and the world Yuko knew begins to veer in unexpected directions.
As a filmmaker who has prided herself on maintaining a healthy distance while faithfully documenting what she sees and hears, what irreversible choices will Yuko ultimately make?
 
Winner Busan International Film Festival, New Currents Award
Official Selection Berlinale 2021
 
“Revealing… a bracingly unsentimental picture which asks knotty questions about the relationship between the media and the subjects at which it points its cameras.”
– Screen International
 
“Yujiro Harumoto directs a film that works on a number of levels, all of which are analyzed thoroughly and artfully, and eventually interconnect in the most impressive way, through a truly shocking story” –Asian Movie Pulse
 
Yujiro Harumoto’s Profile: Born in Kōbe, Japan in 1978, he studied at the Nihon University College of Art. He gained his first experience in the directing department at Shochiku Kyoto Studio under the aegis of filmmakers such as Akira Inoue and Shigeru Ishihara. He also worked on several historical films and series. His debut feature film, Going the Distance, which he also produced, wrote and edited, screened at festivals including the Tokyo International Film Festival, Camera Japan in the Netherlands and the Seoul International Agape Film Festival and won several awards. “A Balance” is his second film.
 
The ACA Cinema Project is a new initiative organized as part of the “Japan Film Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project,” an ongoing project founded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (ACA) to create opportunities for the increased exposure, development and appreciation of Japanese cinema overseas through screenings, symposiums and other events held throughout the year. The ACA Cinema Project introduces a wide range of Japanese films in the United States, a major center of international film culture, together with the local partners such as the IFC Center and the Japan Society.

Kumi Takiuchi in “A Balance.”

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