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After his brother is killed by yakuza for an unpaid loan taken on his behalf to finance films, Shinji takes a turn toward masochism to both assuage his guilt and save his own life. Literally and figuratively torturing himself by charging bar patrons and gangsters to land punches on his frail frame, he slowly works off his debt to his brother’s killers one hit at a time.

Iranian-born writer/director Amir Naderi mourns the immanent loss of his beloved cinema through this modern parable set in Japan. From Kenji Mizoguchi to Akira Kurosawa, he pays homage to the Japanese masters through style and form as well as character and story. Reflective long takes, graphic violence, stylized black and white, and unconcealed metaphor pervade this call-to-action of a film, imploring audiences and filmmakers to support the claim that “True cinema is not built on money; true cinema is made of flesh and bones.” It may be actors speaking in Japanese, but the words and voice you hear are distinctly Naderi’s. [Synopsis courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.]

The Wind Rises

In “The Wind Rises,” Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni. Nearsighted from a young age and unable to be a pilot, Jiro joins a major Japanese engineering company in 1927 and becomes one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished airplane designers, earning the respect of prominent industry greats, including Hattori and Kurokawa. The film chronicles much of Jiro’s life, depicting key historical events, including the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic and Japan’s plunge into war. Jiro meets and falls in love with Nahoko, and grows and cherishes his friendship with his colleague Honjo. Writer and director Hayao Miyazaki pays tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori in this epic tale of love, perseverance, and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world.