Post by Larry Gleeson
By: Fran Katigbak
Call it timely coincidence.
The indie crime drama, “Ken and Kazu,” one of the highlights of the 2016 Eiga Sai, the annual Japanese film festival mounted by Japan Foundation Manila, brings to mind the spate of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers that followed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of war on drugs.
A story about drug dealers—that breed of people our chief executive is most allergic to—the film was screened Saturday night (Aug. 6) at a packed Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), during the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.
He echoed the concern of veteran director-screenwriter Masato Harada, this year’s Eiga Sai’s first guest filmmaker, about the dearth of original material that actually gets the green light for production.
A graduate of Tokyo Film Center School of Arts, the 30-year-old Shoji wrote, produced, directed and edited “Ken and Kazu,” based on the short film he made in 2011 of the same title. He has had 10 short films, some of which have attracted the attention of Japanese film fests/award-giving bodies.
At the 2015 Tokyo International Film Festival, the full-length version won the Japanese Cinema Splash division’s Best Picture Award, a prestigious honor that comes with a cash prize of one million yen bestowed on Japanese indie films.
Shoji landed a distributor in Japan afterward, allowing “Ken and Kazu” regular screenings in a Tokyo cinema. He and Honda, who also interprets for him, have been touring the festival circuit to gain exposure for the film outside their country. Critics have praised Shoji’s work for its gritty depiction of gun-less violence and brutality,as well as for strong character development and acting chemistry.