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For an outcast in the rigidly hierarchical society of seventeenth-century Japan, the only possible road to redemption is to become a ninja, an unorthodox fighter skilled in the art of stealth. However, the ruthless world of ninjas causes some to desert in search of freedom. One such fugitive is Kamui, an invincible warrior who has decided to follow his heart and betray his despicable clan with its culture of abuse and injustice. Japan’s hottest talent, Kenichi Matsuyama, plays the rebel ninja, giving his most spectacular performance to date.

On the run, Kamui abandons secluded forests and dark mountains for the blinding light and beauty of the ocean. He crosses paths with Hanbei (Kaoru Kobayashi), an indomitable fisherman who is always on the lookout for the perfect bait, the one that will ensure abundant fish for his beloved family. When Kamui washes ashore nearly dead on a little island, Hanbei happily brings him home and nurses him back to life. However, Kamui’s arrival does not sit well with Oshika (Koyuki), Hanbei’s dear wife, who senses the danger the sea has unexpectedly brought them. Nevertheless, Hanbei and Kamui’s encounter is a fated one, destined to change both men’s lives for better or for worse. [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]