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In late November, the two, along with producer Ko Mori, met with fans to promote their film’s upcoming screenings in Canadian cinemas. From December 5th to the 10th, the film will be showing at the Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas square and the crew hopes it’ll be a big success with moviegoers and Japanophiles alike.
The screening at the JCCC was one of many international showings for the film. One of the first Canadian screenings was held at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. There the film’s other star, the legendary Seizo Fukumoto, received the prize for best actor and the film won the Cheval Noir award for being the best film in the fest.
Now with news that Uzumasa Limelight is being considered for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Golden Globes, excitement over its public debut is building. At the gala night, Nikkei Voice had a chance to speak with director Ken Ochiai and actress Chihiro Yamamoto about the process of creating the film and the international attention. But fans also had a chance to hear from Seizo Fukumoto himself.
“I’m happy that Uzumasa Limelight is being screened in Toronto,” Seizo Fukumoto said in a video before the film screened. “This is a unique film, so I hope everyone watches it.”
Ochiai and Yamamoto described what it was like to work with the legendary Seizo Fukumoto, who couldn’t attend the screening due to health concerns. They described him as being gentle and humble.
“In this show business, all the recognition and fame can change people, but he is always, always remains humble and that’s something that I think makes him a role model for me as a filmmaker,” Mr. Ochiai said, expressing his respect for the actor.
“When I saw him in films or in anything else, he always has these scary eyes and menacing look,” Chihiro Yamamoto told Nikkei Voice. “I think you know the look, but he was quite the opposite when I met him.”
“He is kind and humble even during shooting and outside of the studio,” Yamamoto said. “I’m learning Tate once a month from him even now, and he really is a gentle man. He’s close to my grandfather’s age, so he always treats me like his own grandchild.”
At the night, Yamamoto and Ochiai were are also there to spread some love for Jidaigeki. The term which describes samurai period dramas both played on television and acted out on stage is one of the main reasons why the film takes on Charlie Chaplin’s film Limelight as a central theme.
Much like how Chaplin’s character the film saves a young actress from suicide and helps her win back her self-esteem, Fukumoto’s character is trying to save this lost art form by passing it onto the younger generation, portrayed by Chihiro Yamamoto in the film. The film’s cast and crew hope to revive Jidaigeki and point the recent success of films like Ruroni Kenshin as signs that it could make a comeback.
“Especially for teenagers, people might not know what Jidaigeki is,” Yamamoto said. “In fact, I was one of them before starting to shoot, but having this chance to star in Uzumasa Limelight, I learned a lot about Jidaigeki and Uzumasa.”
“I felt that Uzumasa Jidaigeki is the pride of Japan and should be spread out into the world again,” Yamamoto said. “I’m very interested in Jidaigeki now, but it didn’t interest me much when I was young. I hope the younger generations can help spread Jidaigeki.”
Yamamoto is also a world class martial artist and this is her debut film.
The venue at JCCC had approximately 400 people in attendance. They enjoyed the film and the post-screening Q&A session and sake and sushi reception.
In the Q&A session, Mr. Ochiai explained that Mr. Fukumoto has his wife and grandchildren unlike the lonely man portrayed in the film, so he has support at home as many worried about him being unable to attend due to his health.
Halina Terefenko, who is a dentist from Portland, Ont. drove over 2 and a half hours to watch the film. She loved the movie and said that Uzumasa Limelight made her empathize with Seizo Fukumoto’s character and the worries he has in life.
Luckily, you still have a chance to watch this fine film at the theatres. It will be on screen at Cineplex Cinemas at Yonge and Dundas from December 5th to the 10th. For more information, visit uzumasalimelight.com.
Edit: The film is currently being considered for a nomination.
Featured image: From left to right, Ken Ochiai, Chihiro Yamamoto, and Ko Mori on the red carpet at the screening.