Fifteen years ago, tragedy struck a small town when a young elementary school girl Emili (Hazuki Kimura) was abducted and killed by a stranger. Four girls who had been playing with Emili at the time were the first to discover her body. The abductor is never found and the crime goes unsolved. Crazed with grief, Emili’s mother Asako (Kyoko Koizumi) condemns the four girls, none of whom can remember the abductor’s face. She tells them, “Do whatever you have to find the killer. Otherwise, you can pay a penance that I approve.” Deeply affected by Asako’s condemnation, the four girls become adults burdened with the curse of “penance,” which eventually triggers a chain of tragic events. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

Unforgiven (2013)

The story takes place at the dawn of the Meiji Era in 1880, set in Ezo (now Hokkaido), the northernmost island of Japan. The Tokugawa Shogunate has just collapsed, and the Ainu aborigines strive to settle the land alongside the newly established government. Jubei Kamata, is a relic of the Tokugawa Shogunate. During the Shogunate, his name alone terrorized Kyoto as he slew countless loyalists in the name of the Shogun. After the fall of the Shogunate, he fought in a series of battles, then vanished from sight following the fierce War of Goryokaku. More than ten years have passed. Jubei has fathered children with an Ainu woman and lives in a secluded hamlet, barely eking out a living. Poverty leads Jubei to abandon his resolve to bury his sword. Once again, he finds himself ensnared in a life of violence. With his former comrade-in-arms, he confronts hypocrites who profess to represent justice. Again, in this new era, a vicious circle of violence begins. [Synopsis courtesy of Venice Film Festival]