Japanese indie director: Takemoto Yoshino

Takemoto Yoshino is a prolific indie weekend director. She has over 20 films in her library, including her recently completed, debut feature: Left of Chopin (Japanese title: にしきたショパン).

Takemoto began making films in 2007. She watched a lot of French films as a teenager and loves the originality of their style. One of her heroes is the prolific and successful director Agnieszka Holland, a Polish filmmaker whose film, Olivier Olivier (1992), left a big impression on Takemoto. “It is just too wonderful,” She exclaimed, “I want to make unforgettable films like that.”

Director Agnieszka Holland, whose work has had a big impact on Takemoto. Photo courtesy of Martin Kraft – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58366359

Takemoto describes herself as a rare kind of director. “While there are many directors who have a strong sense of what they want, and will do multiple takes, I tend to be the kind of director who keeps to the schedule. But at the same time I always focus on creating something with beauty, something cinematic and technical, like movies of old. I want to make something that clearly tells the story I want it to express.”

Most of Takemoto’s productions until now have been short films and many have been well-received within Japan and abroad. Her personal favourite from her oeuvre is 2010 film, Cloud and Sky (Japanese title: 雲と空). This film was screened at the prestigious PFF film in Japan. 

The story is about a new student, who can no longer see his father due to a due to divorce and his classmate who is haunted by the memory of his dead sister. They are drawn together thanks to special abilities and find a way to escape their traumas together. 

But Takemoto admits that she never set out to become a filmmaker. “If there was someone who would take my ideas and make them, I would have trusted them to do it.” She said during our recent interview, “However, because there wasn’t anyone who could transform my ideas into reality, I eventually became a director. But I’ve always wanted to show my ideas via film. It speaks more directly to an audience’s heart.”

Her film, Left of Chopin, began through a series of chance meetings and conversations while on a location filming her short film, Arcadia. The owner of the location had written a book, and had dreams of it being made into a film. In the end, the story changed quite a lot, with only the characters’ names, the piano as a main theme and the Great Kobe Earthquake as a major event remaining the same. 

Kentaro sits at the piano in Takemoto’s debut feature, Left of Chopin.

The story revolves around two students at a music school, Kentaro and Rinko, who are both very talented pianists and close friends.

Kentaro’s family is poor, and his only chance at attending university is to win a piano competition. When the Great Kobe earthquake injures him, it means the end of that dream. Rinko, meanwhile, takes out the competition and is offered a place at an overseas university. When she returns from her time abroad, Kentaro’s character has changed for the worst.

If she had a big enough budget, Takemoto would like to take on a science fiction film, in the style of James Cameron – with story, effects and action! But she is not positive about the future of the Japanese film industry, due to the rise of streaming giants like Netflix, and the general lack of interest from the Japanese public in visiting the cinema.

Takemoto gave some her personal recommendations of Japanese indie directors she enjoys.

Kuyuruhi (くゆるひ) by Miyahara Shuhei

Made in 2017, this 23 minute short film about an actor who is trained under a tyrannical teacher.

Edge of Love by Matsumoto Takuya

The synopsis from the Youtube trailer: Masako has never fallen in love. She has friends, but the world was narrow and dark. One day, a shocking encounter comes to Masako.

This is an award winning short film made by a director that Takemoto describes as “sharp”. In this film, that descriptor seems quite literal.

Check out more of Takemoto Yoshino’s work at her website and follow her Facebook page.

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