Special Guests – Japan Cuts 2023

JAPAN CUTS’ welcomes luminaries from the Japanese cinema scene to NYC. We’re proud to provide rare and insightful interactions with major Japanese filmmakers at select JAPAN CUTS events.

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Yuya Yagira
Under the Turquoise Sky

Yuya Yagira is an actor acclaimed by audiences, critics and film festivals around the world for his work in both popular commercial films as well as in Auteur cinema. He will receive this year’s CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film for his lead role in our Centerpiece film, Under The Turquoise Sky from director KENTARO. Yagira brings a commanding presence and deep soul to the movie, which follows his personal journey across the vastness of the Mongolian countryside. In addition to his work in Under The Turquoise Sky, Yagira has starred in over 50 films and television series. He was the youngest-ever winner of the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his lead role in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows, and his recent projects include Asakusa Kid, The Fish Tale (also screening at JAPAN CUTS), Gift of Fire, Gintama and Hokusai. He may be most widely known for the role of Daigo Agawa in Gannibal, streaming in the U.S. on both Hulu and Disney+. When not acting, Yagira enjoys soccer, horseback riding and practicing martial arts. Yagira is appearing at JAPAN CUTS together with director KENTARO to introduce and participate in a Q&A following Under The Turquoise Sky on Friday, August 4 at 7:00 pm. Yagira will be presented with the CUT ABOVE Award after this screening. Yagira and KENTARO will also make special appearances at an Encore Screening of Under The Turquoise Sky on Saturday, August 5 at 3:30 pm.

Under the Turquoise Sky

KENTARO is a film director and producer. His unconventional approach to filmmaking, blending genres with improvised acting amidst carefully choreographed aesthetic shots, has resulted in the distinctive and audacious Under the Turquoise Sky. Orchestrating an international crew from diverse backgrounds, including Mongolian, Japanese, French, Australian and Chilean members, he creates a Pan-Asian Auteur road movie illustrating an unforgettable journey through unexplored territories in Mongolia filled with stunning visuals, touching humor and raw authenticity. His meticulous attention to detail, combined with his youthful enthusiasm, has driven him to utilize his previous directing ventures as laboratories to experiment with different styles and techniques, such as matching vintage analog lenses on 8K camera bodies and operating 70-year-old cranes in remote rural areas, underlining an element of nostalgic craftsmanship to his process. He continues to pursue his goals of global creative endeavors that transcend cultural boundaries. Under the Turquoise Sky has been recognized with the esteemed FIPRESCI International Film Critics Award. KENTARO is appearing at JAPAN CUTS together with actor Yuya Yagira to introduce and participate in a Q&A following Under The Turquoise Sky on Friday, August 4 at 7:00 pm. KENTARO and Yagira will also make special appearances at an Encore Screening of Under The Turquoise Sky on Saturday, August 5 at 3:30 pm.

Keishi Otomo
The Legend & Butterfly

Director and screenwriter Keishi Otomo is renowned in Japan for his deep storytelling, human portrayal and dynamic visual expression. From the historical Taiga drama series, Ryomaden (2010), to a poignant coming-of-age tale of an orphaned shogi (Japanese chess) master learning to connect with humanity, March Comes in Like a Lion (2017), and to the globally successful Rurouni Kenshin (2012-2021) action franchise, his works cross genres, time periods and complex social issues. Moreover, Otomo is one of the few directors to attain both critical and commercial success in adapting famous Japanese manga and novels to the big screen. Otomo is appearing at JAPAN CUTS to introduce and present a Q&A following The Legend & Butterfly, a sweeping three-hour historical romance revolving around Oda Nobunaga and his wife, Nohime. Sunday, July 30 at 5:30 pm.

Elizabeth Lennard
Tokyo Melody: A Film about Ryuichi Sakamoto

Elizabeth Lennard studied film and photography at SFAI, UCSC and UCLA. The Pompidou Center held her 1979 solo show of altered photographs, Painted New York and included her in several group shows. Lennard’s films include The Stein Family: The Making of Modern Art, Edith Wharton: The Sense of Harmony, and most recently Rosl’s Suitcase. Elizabeth Lennard is appearing at JAPAN CUTS to present a Q&A after Tokyo Melody: A Film about Ryuichi Sakamoto on Saturday, July 29 at 7 pm.

Akiko Yano
Tokyo Melody: A Film about Ryuichi Sakamoto

Akiko Yano was born in Tokyo and raised in Aomori, Japan. Since her debut album Japanese Girl (1976), Yano has collaborated with numerous renowned musicians, including Yellow Magic Orchestra, Pat Metheny, Thomas Dolby, The Chieftains, Toninho Horta, Marc Ribot, Sayuri Ishikawa, Hiromi Uehara, YUKI and more. Recently, the French record label Wewantsounds reissued Japanese Girl and other early works due to rising demand among audiences across the globe. Her latest album is Dragon Rises (2023) on which she collaborated with Soichi Noguchi, the sixth Japanese astronaut to fly in space. Yano is appearing at JAPAN CUTS to present opening comments before Tokyo Melody: A Film about Ryuichi Sakamoto on Saturday, July 29 at 7 pm.

Daisuke Miyazaki

Daisuke Miyazaki was born in 1980 in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. He graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics of Waseda University. He worked as a freelance assistant director, starting with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata in 2007. In 2011 he directed his first feature film, End of the Night, which was shown at various international film festivals, winning the Special Mention Prize at the Toronto Shinsedai Cinema Festival. In 2013, he was selected by the Raindance Film Festival in the UK as one of the “7 Japanese Independent Film Directors You Must Check Out.” His second feature film, Yamato (California), shot in 2015, was screened at nearly 20 international film festivals, and received rave reviews in the New York Times and Hollywood Reporter. His third feature is Videophobia, a black-and-white thriller set in Osaka.

Yuho Ishibashi
When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty

In 2015, Ishibashi’s short film Bokura no Saigo was selected in the Competition section of the Tanabe-Benkei Film Festival. Since then, her work has been featured at festivals including the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival, Fukuoka Independent Film Festival, Odawara Film Festival and New Director Film Festival. In 2019, her first feature film, Sayonara, was selected for the Indy Forum section of the Osaka Asian Film Festival. Her When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty was winner of the JAPAN CUTS Award at the 2023 Osaka Asian Film Festival. Ishibashi is appearing a JAPAN CUTS to present When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty on Thursday, August 3 at 6 pm.


Next Generation Jury

This sole competitive section of the festival features a hand-picked selection of independently produced narrative feature films by emerging directors who offer a glimpse into the future of Japanese cinema. One film within the section—determined as the most accomplished by a jury of film industry professionals—will receive the “Obayashi Prize” in honor of the late filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi (1938-2020).

Pearl Chan

Pearl Chan is a film and community worker based in Hong Kong. She runs the film sales agency Good Move Media and North American boutique distributor Kani Releasing, which specializes in new and restored Asian cinema. In 2020, she co-produced Atsushi Sakahara’s Me and the Cult Leader. As a researcher and translator, she has been working to reintroduce Hong Kong films through Kani, and with companies such as Vinegar Syndrome, 88 Films and more.

Moeko Fujii

Moeko Fujii is an essayist and critic, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Film Comment, Aperture and elsewhere. She is a doctoral candidate in English at Princeton University, and is the film columnist for Orion Magazine.

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan is a Programmer for Film at Lincoln Center. At FLC he has organized or co-organized retrospectives of Raúl Ruiz, David Lynch, Jacques Rivette, Germaine Dulac, Pedro Costa, Jonas Mekas, Hong Sangsoo, Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg, among others, and various film series including Going Steadi: 40 Years of Steadicam (2017), Heathcliff, It’s Me: Adapting Wuthering Heights (2017), Make My Day: American Movies in the Age of Reagan”(2019, with J. Hoberman) and New York, 1962-64: Underground and Experimental Cinema (2022, with Thomas Beard). He is currently a member of the New Directors/New Films selection committee and a Revivals programmer for the New York Film Festival.

Main Image: © 2023 THE LEGEND & BUTTERFLY Production Committee.

JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film is generously supported by Shiseido Americas.

Film programs are generously supported by ORIX Corporation USA, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and Yen Press. Endowment support is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, David Toberisky, and Friends of Film.

Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the official Japanese airline sponsor of Japan Society Film. Housing assistance is provided by the Kitano Hotel, the hotel sponsor of Japan Society Film.

Special Thanks to Emi Ueyama (ARTicle Films); Yasuyuki Nagano (ColorBird Inc); Yuko Takagi (FreeStone Productions); Moeko Fujii; Keiko Yoshida (Gaga Corp.); Saori Takenaka (Geidai); Chance Huskey (GKIDS); Pearl Chan (Good Move Media); Eugene Harng; Toshiyuki Hasegawa; Miki Zeze (Kadokawa Corp.); KENTARO (KTRFILMS); Akiko Uchida (King Records); Maki Shimizu (Kino Films); Elizabeth Lennard; Ayako Ito (Nagoya); Mami Furukawa and Umi Yamamoto (Nikkatsu); Gerald Abraham (Okamoto Kitchen); Shinji Sakoda; Dan Sullivan; Adam Torel (Third Window Films); Shiori Takata (Toei Co. Ltd); Sam van der Meer; Makoto Kawamura (Voice); Kousuke Ono (Wa Entertainment, Inc.); Akiko Yano.