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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nara International Film Festival 2012, I muse about Nara and "Yuanfen"

On the morning of the 15th September, I left Sapporo for Nara, taking the local Japanese budget airline, Peach Airlines, for the very first time.

It's actually pretty cool, especially with the baggage collecting system.

So, I reached Nara for the 2nd edition of the Nara International Film Festival. This biannual film festival was the brainchild of the director Naomi Kawase and I have heard about it ever since its first edition in 2010.

I seem to share some "yuanfen 缘分" with Kawase-san based on the number of times and type of circumstances that we have crossed paths in the past few years since I became a filmmaker. (I also have a MOURNING FOREST flyer pasted right next to my bed) The Buddhist concept of "yuan" is somewhat similar to the concept of synchronicity, the coincidences are unbelievable.

I first met Kawase in the Dubai International Film Festival 2008, which was my very first film fest as a director when my debut short "CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY" was selected for competition (and she served as jury). A year later, she was the jury president of CON-CAN Film Festival 2009 which awarded the Grand Prix to my second short film, FLEETING IMAGES. She wasn't at the award ceremony, but she recorded a video message regarding her thoughts on the award-winning films, like mine.

I finally met her again last December at Tallinn, Estonia, when we were both among the 60 directors around the world participating in the "60 SECONDS OF SOLITUDE IN YEAR ZERO" omnibus project.

So, I think that it is "yuan", again, that I have two short films screening at the Nara International Film Festival. One that I directed, LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, the other that I produced, TINY PUPIL by Teng Fei.

When I arrived at Nara.

It rained.

On my first night at the Nara International Film Festival, I got to stay in the wondrous Matsumae Ryokan (Matsumae Inn), a traditional Japanese inn owned by Naomi Yanai. Her hospitality had been absolutely wonderful. Many of the inn's beautiful calligraphy and wooden Buddhist statues were done by her late husband, the former innkeeper. (This place is highly recommended.)

Matsumae Ryokan at Nara

Nara actually has a special place in my heart. I was here 4 years ago for a pilgrimage. It was my very first New Year in Japan, most of my Japanese friends had gone back to their hometowns. I was alone, and driven by loneliness, I decided to hop onto a train and go all the way to the Kansai Region, perhaps having a New Year Countdown of my own... I ended up doing it in Nara. That was where I was in December 31st, 2008 and January 1st, 2009.

I still have the video. It was rather epic.

It was a pivotal point of my life, I think. I wouldn't be who I am today, or achieve what I have achieved if I hadn't taken that soul-searching trip to the Kansai region back then.

I think I share too, some "yuanfen" with Nara, the place.

Anyway, immediately after I checked in, I headed back to the screening venues for the Tiny Pupil and Last Fragments of Winter screenings. I'll post the videos in my next post.