1. Tapping Asian, queer, and indie forces
Profile: Nagi Oishi
Oishi developed an interest in working on movies when, in 1998, she first produced an independently-created film with friends. Following that experience, she continued to assist other directors in their independent projects - all the while continuing her day job as an office worker. She later made her directorial debut in 2004 with the film, "No Time, No Place". In 2007, she launched the 1st Asian Queer Film and Video Festival along with iri.
iri has been making films portraying the day-to-day lives of real-life lesbian characters since 1999. She has directed a total of 5 films to date. Her third film, "3-Second Melancholy", was shown in 25 cities across 15 countries, and her fourth film, "Hum and She's Dashing When She Walks", was shown in 25 cities across 18 countries around the world. Her most recent work, "Until the Moon Waxes”, was screened at this year's Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. In 2007, she launched the 1st Asian Queer Film and Video Festival with Oishi.
ASIAN QUEER FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL
ASIAN QUEER FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL in Fukuoka
The first ever Asian Queer Film and Video Festival (AQFF) was held in April this year at the Cinema Artone in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. Indie directors iri and Oishi were the festival promoters. They spoke with Tokyo Wrestling about their reasons for starting the AQFF in Tokyo, where the well-established Annual Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival will be making its 16th run this year. iri begins, "In 2000, we were deeply moved by the exceedingly warm atmosphere of one particular film festival that had shown our films in Korea. In part because of the tremendous scale of Tokyo's current film festival, it's difficult for independent filmmakers to have their work shown. That lead me to start thinking of offering a film festival where indie films could be shown and people could gain a sense, as in Korea, of what handmade productions are all about. Also, I felt that fewer opportunities exist for seeing queer Asian films than western ones, so I decided to try my hand at a film festival focusing on indie films as well as films from Asia. In 2005, I took part in the Asian Lesbian Film and Video Festival in Taiwan and met the lesbian director Yau Ching, who had worked as the festival's programmer. Both this film festival and Yau's encouragement influenced me greatly."
Whereas queer film festivals have been growing in number, even in smaller provinces across the country, the AQFF's uniqueness is best captured in its independent films. By way of the internet and personal communications with independent directors from countries throughout Asia, Oishi and iri present a cornucopia of works uncovered by a careful review of Asian films primarily dating from after 2000. Also, the combination of the themes Asia, Queer, and Indies - each element still itself in the process of evolving - has lent the festival itself a refreshing power stemming from these as-yet untapped forces.
Before organizing the film festival, iri and Oishi were both releasing independent lesbian films. iri began in 1999, with the reasoning that, "At the time, lesbians were still quite invisible. I took that to be embarrassing. Stereotypes of lesbians had us pegged as gloomy and dark personalities, with something pornographic also strongly underlying this image, so I just wanted to show something of our true form to send the message that we too live normal lives."
"No Time, No Place", shown at this year's AQFF, is Oishi's first film, though she had previous experience making a short film together with about 10 friends. Following that first experience, she involved herself in helping with iri's films and other queer film projects before embarking on her own directorial debut.
iri's film, "Until the Moon Waxes", shown at this year's Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was made based on her own experience entering the gay world of Shinjuku's Nichome. "Twelve years ago I was 20 years old and the lesbian singer Michiru Sasano had just come out. I was just beginning to see within myself that I was a lesbian and I felt a need to obtain more information. I then just so happened to find Michiru Sasano introducing the cover of the lesbian magazine "Phryne" in one of your everyday teen magazines. I immediately went out and bought "Phryne", and discovered that inside there was an ad calling for volunteers for the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Though my heart was pounding, I called the number. And I guess it all began after I attended my first meeting. After the meeting, some of the staff took me out to Nichome but, in the beginning, it was actually very frightening! In my newest film, I wanted to portray the acute sensation of anticipation and the bittersweet memories that defined that point in time in my life." Yet, this is not just a sweet and sour story of the heydays of youth, iri adds, for it also calls out to young women who have not yet garnered enough bravery to set foot in Nichome and other gay areas. "I didn't want to just paint this rose-colored picture of Nichome; I wanted to let people know that while it is a town of hope, it is seasoned with sorrow. However, by stepping into its space, connections are made and your world will broaden, which could effectively lead to a positive love," says iri of her work shown at this year's Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
"Until the Moon Waxes"
Oishi's work is a fantastic story that follows the mysterious transformation of her heroine's heretofore uninspired and routine life - changed forever after meeting a woman that shares the same name as her own recently disappeared cat.
Oishi describes her main inspiration behind this film set in Tokyo, and so poignantly portraying the day-to-day lives of lesbians. "To begin with, I've always felt a female spirit in cats. In fact, I had a close friend that shared a relationship with her cat as if they were almost perfectly lovers - I wanted to capture that marvelous and deep relationship on film. Her cat really did seem to understand when people spoke, and often it looked to me like the two would be having conversations. Later, when her cat died, I felt so bad that it was really hard for me to be there and see what she was going through." Oishi adds, "I've actually made myself the theme in my film rather than just 'lesbians' in general. That's what I've done in this last film, and it's what I will continue to do in future work as well. When I've gotten over that then I'm sure other themes will come out, but for the time being I plan to make personally reflective works."
Oishi, much like iri, explains that she bases her work on her own experiences.
"NO TIME NO PLACE"
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translated by rayna rusenko