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Wednesday, May 08, 2019, 19:00 - 21:30

A lonely boy finds God, and then loses faith

Sneak Preview Screening: "Jesus (Boku wa Iesusama ga Kirai)"
followed by a Q&A with director Hiroshi Okuyama and
actors Chad Mullane and Hinako Saeki

Wednesday, May 8 at 7:00 pmjesus poster 356p

In Japanese with English subtitles
Japan, 2018 76 minutes

Directed by: Hiroshi Okuyama
Written by: Hiroshi Okuyama
Produced by: Tadashi Yoshino
Starring: Yura Sato, Riki Okuma, Chad Mullane, Yuko Kibiki,
Akko Tadano, Kouichi Nihei, Kenichi Akiyama, Ippei Osako,
Masayasu Kitayama, Mari Hatsumi and Hinako Saeki

Film courtesy of Showgate

Last fall, a headline in The Hollywood Reporter didn't mince words: "Japanese prodigy Hiroshi Okuyama's debut feature land[s] one of the biggest cash prizes in world cinema" at the venerable San Sebastian Film Festival. Declaring that "someone up there really likes the 22-year-old multihyphenate," the trade paper couldn't resist adding that the director's "thunderbolt arrival ... answers the prayers" of cinephiles anxiously awaiting the next generation of Japanese auteurs.

The religious similes are understandable, given the subject of "Jesus." So is the hyperventilating admiration, considering that it went on to garner further awards and acclaim at other international festivals. But the film itself is so gentle, so modest, the accolades may seem excessive at first (although an important dedication appears in the end credits that puts things into perspective).

Suffused with a nostalgic glow and told entirely through the eyes of its 11-year-old protagonist Yura (Sato), "Jesus" marks the debut of a unique new voice.

As the film opens, Yura and his parents are leaving Tokyo for a snowy town in Gunma following his grandfather's death. Moving in temporarily with his grandmother Fumi (Tadano), the introverted young boy attempts to fit into his new environment. Arriving at his new school, he is surprised when his classmates run off to "worship" after roll call. A helpful teacher loans him a bible and escorts him to the chapel, where a sermon is delivered, a prayer recited and hymns sung.

Completely unfamiliar with the Christian catechism, Yura proves to be a fast learner. One morning during the Lord's Prayer, Jesus himself appears before him - apparently invisible to everyone else - and silently communicates "Ask and you shall receive." So Yura begins to ask, and when his wishes are granted, to have faith in His power. By divine intervention, he even becomes best friends with the most popular boy in the school, Kazuma (Okuma), who has a gorgeous, giggly mom (Saeki).

Everything is wonderful until tragedy strikes, and Yura is faced with a full-blown crisis of faith.

"Jesus" is filled with delightful surprises and oddball moments that are best discovered while watching it, rather than reading about it. So be sure to join us for this sneak preview screening before the film opens in Japan on May 31.

For more (in Japanese):

Director HIROSHI OKUYAMA won the New Directors Award at the 2018 San Sebastian Film Festival with this, his debut feature. The youngest-ever recipient of the prize, he also wrote, shot and edited the film, while still a senior at Aoyama Gakuin University. Okuyama began his career while in high school. In 2018, his short "Tokyo 21st October" was selected for Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, the Busan International Film Festival and others.

CHAD MULLANE is an Australian-born comedian and actor who came to Japan as a student and never left. A member of the Chad Mullane comedy duo, he has appeared in a variety of Japanese TV shows and films, including "Nodame Cantabile," "Sideline" and "Kamen Rider Ghost: The Movie."

Actress HINAKO SAEKI came to prominence playing Sadako Yamamura in "Rasen," the 1998 sequel to the horror film "Ring." She has appeared in a handful of other popular Japanese horror films, including "Uzumaki" (2000) and "Eko Eko Azaraku: Misa the Dark Angel" (1998). Among other films, she also had a featured role in Mamoru Oshii's "Assault Girls" (2009).

Please make your reservations at the FCCJ Reception Desk (3211-3161) or register below. You may attend the Q&A session without attending the screening, but you will not have seating priority. All film screenings are private, noncommercial events primarily for FCCJ members and their guests.

- Karen Severns, Film Committee


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