Japanese Film Festival: 'Survival Family' director shares inspiration for film

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Survival Family. (PHOTO: Japanese Film Festival (Singapore)/Facebook)

The idea of making a film about a family struggling to survive in a world cut off from electricity first came to Japanese film director Shinobu Yaguchi about 15 years ago.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Japanese Film Festival 2018 and the premiere of “Survival Family” on Friday (2 March), the 50-year-old said the film was inspired by his own frustrations and difficulties grappling with modern technology.

“(Fifteen years ago), that was around the time when the Internet and mobile devices started dominating our lives. Technology is not (my) cup of tea,” said Yaguchi, who has directed hit films such as “Swing Girls”, “Waterboys” and “Happy Flight”, via a translator.

The comedy-drama film follows a Japanese family’s escapades as they leave Tokyo, where electricity and other utilities have been mysteriously cut off, and the misadventures they face along the way. The family’s two teenagers – like most youngsters around the world – are tech-obsessed and constantly glued to their smartphones.

One of the messages of the film, said Yaguchi, is that the loss of the conveniences of modern technology can lead to the younger generation’s “discovery of something new”, such as face-to-face communication and interaction with one’s family members.

“Our mobile devices and technologies are so established that although (family members) are living under one roof, there’s no need to have verbal conversations (for the entire day),” he added. “It’s a scary thing.”

Notably, Yaguchi himself does not own a smartphone.

“I do have a computer at home but I use it as a word processor. I use the Internet for basic things, such as purchasing movie tickets online and people’s reviews about my movies. That’s about it,” he said.

He joked that if there were to be a part two of the film, it would be set in Singapore. “Singapore is such a glistening city with so much city lights. (I) would want to off all the lights,” said Yaguchi.

“Survival Family” will be one of the 16 films making its debut in Singapore during this year’s Japanese Film Festival.

Other highlights include contemporary films such as “Her Love Boils Bathwater”, “ReLIFE”, “Memoirs Of A Murderer” and digitally restored classics such as “The Ballad Of Narayama” and “The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice”.

Organised by the Japan Foundation and Japan Creative Centre, the annual film festival – now in its 21st edition – took a break from Singapore last year.

For the first time, the 2018 edition is part of a roving festival that made its first stop in Japan in October last year.

Held previously only in Singapore, the Japanese Film Festival now covers 13 other countries including Japan, Myanmar, Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia.

Moving forward, the new direction is part of a larger effort to expose domestic Japanese films to a broader audience, said Masafumi Konomi, who is senior project manager in the Japan Foundation’s film and broad media department.

“Japan is currently the third-largest film market in the world. Surprisingly, hardly any Japanese films are released overseas, especially in Asean,” said Konomi.

The Japanese Film Festival runs from 2 to 18 March at the Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore. Tickets are priced at $13 each. For more information, visit www.japanesefilmfest.org.

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