7 Japanese Independent Film Directors You Must Check Out - Part 2 - Raindance

You can find Part 1 of this article here.

Tukuha Niwanoj1


 Born in 1991, Tokyo, Japan. She is now living in Paris, France.

At the age of 8, she moved to Monaco with her family, and while she was a 6th grader at elementary school, she lived in Japan for a year before moving to Paris. She is currently learning film as student at University of Paris.

Her debut short film Mon pays, ma vie was selected for Short Film Corner at 66th Cannes Film Festival.


Mon pays, ma vie (2013)

Director: Tukuha Niwano

Screenplay: Tukuha Niwano

Genre: Youth, Dramaj2

Running time: 23 minutes

Production: Geneden Film

Mon pays, ma vie is the debut short film by the director, Tsukuha Niwano. The story is inspired by a real incident involving the earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear accidents which struck Japan in March, 2011.

 One of the interesting points of the film is the characters. Mon pays, la vie is the first film I’ve seen about the conflict surrounding the identity of a mixed-race character. It is told from the point of view of a person who is half-French and half-Japanese as they struggle to find their own identity through the March 11th incident.

Mika, who is the main character, is half-French and half-Japanese. She says to her boyfriend Takumi, “I can only get married to a Japanese person. This is why I love Japanese,” because of the incident, Mika’s has feelings about going to Japan rather than staying in France.

This film is new type of coming of age film which involves the conflict in one’s own identity. This type of story must be future co-production film.
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGt_HniNVSo

Facebook: Mon Pays, la vie (in Japanese, English and French)

Sho Miyake j3


Born in 1984, Sapporo, Hokkaido. He graduated at Faculty of social science, Hitotsubashi University in 2009.

Sho Miyake’s first feature film Good for Nothing (Yakutatazu) in 2010 was invited at 4th Toronto Shinsedai Cinema Festival in Canada which focuses on rarely seen Japanese independent films. Miyake’s second feature-length film, Playback in 2012, was invited to the 65th Locarno International Film Festival.


 Playback (2012)

 Director: Sho Miyake

 Screenplay: Sho Miyake

 Genre: Dramaj4

 Running time: 113 minutes

 Production: Decade, Pigdom

 In the opening scene, Haji (Jun Murakami), a film actor about to hit the age of 40, goes back to his hometown with friends by car. After falling asleep he wakes up to find he has suddenly gone back in time to an age when he was in high school with the same friends. He finds that he can go back and forth between past and present and reexamine things.

 Playback is not a sentimental film. Shot in black and white, there is a more complicated story that lacks sentimental triggers, but i feel this is a great film.

 I am completely lost for words. Every scene is like it was really happening and not something intend by a script.

The director, Sho Miyake, is challenging the ambiguity of modern times, and as a filmmaker he is one of the most intriguing from around the world.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ_X3uUhSig

Ryohei Watanabe


 Born in 1987, Ehime, graduated at faculty of economic, Ritsumeikan University. He makes commercials and music videos as part of a grope called “the Directors Farm”.

 His first feature film Shady (2012) won prize of best entertainment film at Pia Film Festival, which is the biggest independent film festival in Japan.


Shady (Kashikoi inu wa Hoezuni Warau)

Director: Ryohei Watanabe

Screenplay: Ryohei Watanabe

Genre: Youth, Lesbian , Crime

Running time: 94 minutes

Production: Ryohei Watanabe


 A high school girl is running outside with a broken umbrella on rainy day. She calls to her friend who is also her classmate, “come on”, while the film’s soundtrack plays engaging music.

From these few scenes, the director, Ryohei Watanabe first feature film Shady seems to homage to the director, Shunji Iwai who is master piece of coming of age films in Japan as best exemplified in Hana and Alice.

On the one hand, Shunji Iwai shot with hand-held camera to catch the heart of high school girls, while on the other hand, Ryohei’s camera is not always with hand-held.

 In the last 30 minutes, I almost didn’t move in my seat. This film dramatically changes into something wholly different as the story becomes more dangerous.

The director, Ryohei Watanabe is great screenwriter.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wX50tOaNR4

Yuichiro Sakashita j5


Born in 1986, Hiroshima. He graduated from Osaka University of the Arts and is studying filmmaking at graduate school of film and new media at Tokyo University of the Arts.

 Short film Beatles (2011) won Hokkaido Governor Award at Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival.

 Feature film Kanagawa University of Fine Arts, Office of Film Research (2013) is a graduate production film at Tokyo University of the Arts.


Beatles (2011)

 Director: Yuichiro Sakashita

 Screenplay: Eriko Shimizu

 Genre: Comedy, Drama

 Running time: 24 minutes

 Production: Graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts.

The director, Yuichiro Sakashita is not challenging new things through film. Instead he seems to be one of the Japanese directors constantly making entertaining films (Goraku Eiga in Japaense). Like Takashi Miike, except that Miike is making various genre films, while Yuichiro sticks to comedy films.

Beatles looks like classic Japanese films especially since it is shot in black and white. The story is set in the 1960’s and it follows a boy who goes to Tokyo to see the Beatles live despite not having a ticket. He plans to get the tickets on a road.

One of the greatest aspects of Beatles is that it is full of homages to classic Japanese films – we sense in some subtle scenes where a man and a woman are standing opposite each other, a scene of the director, Yasujiro Ozu or Mikio Naruse’s films. Furthermore, two men are sitting down along side of the river reminds one of Keisuke Kinosita’s films.

 It will be hard to find other directors who are full of more respect for classic Japanese films than Yuichiro Sakashita.

Kanagawa University of Fine Arts, Office of Film Research (2012).

Director: Yuichiro Sakashita


Writer: Yuichiro Sakashita

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Running time: 70minutes

Production: Graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts.

Apparently, he is growing up and looking for original direction. At first glance one would think it would be a television drama, but this film is beyond the rapid television editing. Using close-ups, his approach of shooting a scene is to give us the theatrical rhythms. The story is easy to understand for everyone.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfPSt8NWkJg