Sushi, Samurai, Radiation And Rice!
One of my most memorable experiences last fall was attending the inaugural edition of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival, which also marked my first trip to Australia (I’m an American). The festival was a blast, the audiences warm and friendly, and the city a pleasure to spend some time in. I attended with Japanese filmmaker Yoshihiro Nishimura, creator of TOKYO GORE POLICE and a special effects makeup artist for many other films. We were there with his Sushi Typhoon film HELLDRIVER, which the audience enjoyed, laughing and cheering throughout.
This year, it’s sad that I won’t be able to attend the festival again—newly-transformed into the bigger, and more international, Monster Fest—but when organizers asked me to contribute a few words about some of the films screening this year, I couldn’t resist, especially because two of the films have my personal involvement in them in some way.
The first is DEAD SUSHI the latest splatter-action-comedy from director Noboru Iguchi, whose ZOMBIE ASS grossed out Melbourne audiences last year at FAFF. Iguchi is also the mad genius behind such films as THE MACHINE GIRL, KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR, TOMIE: UNLIMITED, and many others.
Iguchi made DEAD SUSHI last fall, at exactly the same time Nishimura and I were in Melbourne, in fact, at a remote ryokan (Japanese inn) far outside of Tokyo. It marked his second collaboration with karate whiz kid Rina Takeda (HIGH KICK GIRL), who had appeared in his five-girl monster hunter TV series DOGOON V. Takeda’s spunky charm and Iguchi’s twisted imagination seemed like a winning combination, and when the film was finished this year and had its World Premiere in July at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, we weren’t disappointed. The sold-out crowd laughed, cheered and applauded like wild, and embraced a non-human character named Eggy that Melbourne audiences will get a chance to meet in a few weeks. The film has subsequently screened in Korea, the US, France, England and elsewhere, and everybody associated with it is really pleased and grateful that audiences are enjoying it so much. When Melbourne audiences finally see it in a few weeks, we hope you’ll not only be entertained, but also learn something about proper sushi-eating, as well as everything you ever wanted to know about a special kind of kiss only the Japanese do. Wait and see!
Also making its Australian premiere at Monsterfest is the 26-director omnibus film THE ABCs of DEATH. I’m one of the film’s Associate Producers, thanks to the kindness of main producers Tim League, the director of Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, and Ant Timpson, a Kiwi who does everything from film collecting to distribution to festival programming. My job was to bring three Japanese directors into the project and assist them with the conception, shooting and post-production of their short films. We chose Iguchi, of course, and also Nishimura and YAKUZA WEAPON co-director Yudai Yamaguchi. One challenge was to come up with ideas for their “letters” that felt uniquely Japanese but also sufficiently international, since ABCs was actually the debut for each of the filmmakers in working on an international production.
We shot two of the shorts in October, and the final one in December. First up was Iguchi’s, using the same crew as DEAD SUSHI—we shot his tale of a special kind of lesbian love in about 18 hours on one day, near another ryokan outside Tokyo. Next up was Yudai Yamaguchi’s, which is a period samurai tale…of sorts.
That was another mostly outdoor shoot, done on the west side of Tokyo at a temple and indoors on a green screen set for f/x shots, done in about 17 hours. Finally, it was time for Nishimura’s, which is an epic story about radiation, rice, mutants, Armageddon and, of course, lots and lots of blood. Much of the story was actually conceived and written while we were in Melbourne, so you can count some Australian inspiration in there, as well! We shot his film entirely indoors, in a cold, cold basement and factory, over the course of a long 26-hour day. When it was over, Nishimura got directly on a plane for a meeting in northern Japan, still covered in stage blood. The man is nothing if not a trouper.
To reveal anything more about either DEAD SUSHI or the ABCs of DEATH shorts would spoil them too much, so let’s end the story there and tantalize you a bit with the unexplained details. In a future column, I’ll talk more about the specifics and also about some of the other films screening at Monster Fest this year, more from the perspective of a programmer and fan, instead of that of a filmmaker. Enjoy, and keep counting the days til Halloween!