Naoki Prize nominee Gukoroku, the film adaptation of the novel, brings Japanese cinema box office pulls such as Satoshi Tsumabuki and Hikari Mitsushima together. Kei Ishikawa sits at the helm of Gukoroku, his first full feature, and it’s a big step from his degree in physics and the shorts he made at The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television, and Theatre in Łódź, Poland.
“My parents enjoyed movies, and they would often leave me at home to watch movies like The Tin Drum. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be on the other side of the camera. I also had an interest in physics, which I studied at university. However, film was my first love, so I moved to Europe to attend film school and surround myself with motivated filmmakers.”
The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television, and Theater is alma mater to some greats, including Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda who passed away in 2016. Ishikawa credits Wajda for his counsel and with creating the right environment to learn production.
Ishikawa’s short films kindled his aspirations to realize every film maker’s raison d’être, the full feature. Producer Makoto Kakurai, enchanted with Ishikawa’s talent, took on the project, stating that the novel “depicts contemporary Japan in microcosmic form.” Ishikawa’s film school friend, Piotr Niemyjski, flew in from Poland to work as his director of photography, and together they shot interviews of people who knew familicide victims, taking the viewer to some unexpected places.
“I wanted to create metaphorical images that encompass what one can’t see, and not shoot Japan from the perspective of a native. Familiar neighborhoods should look like parallel worlds, and Japan’s caste society should somehow float to the surface. It’s a dry, tearless story that shows that we’ve challenged ourselves to create and lets the theatergoers judge our success.”
When filming multiple-genre shorts, Ishikawa had fears of not being talented. He now directs with aplomb.
“Everything until now has been a culmination of experiences for this new start. This new film expresses everything I can’t express in words—my habits and peculiar preferences. From now, I hope to bring a new level of insight and care to my films. I want to leave masterpieces in my wake.”
Words: Mika Hosoya
- Kei Ishikawa
- Film director
Born in 1977 in Aichi prefecture. After completing his degree in physics from Tohoku University he studied film at The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television, and Theatre in Łódź, Poland. Ishikawa has won numerous awards for his short films at events such as the international film festival held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. His feature length debut film, Gukoroku, nominated him for the Horizons Prize at the Venice Film Festival.