Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

Imagine cramming 128 million people onto an island the size of Montana.. you would be pretty close to replicating the density of Japan. Not surprisingly, space is at a premium and ergonomic design is right up there next to godliness. Yet, even in Tokyo, the pinnacle of this figurative ‘can of sardines,’ people of all ages still make room for a little bit of wilderness. It is only fitting that they have become captivated by nature’s most efficient invention in space, design and function — insects.

Sold live in vending machines and department stores, plastic replicas included as prizes in the equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal and the subject of the No. 1 videogame, MushiKing, from the smallest backyard to the top of Mt. Fuji, insects inspire an enthusiasm in Japan seen nowhere else in this world. ‘Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo’ discovers why Japan developed this rich and enriching social relationship with insects.

Like a detective story, the film untangles the web of influences behind Japan’s captivation with insects. It opens in modern-day Tokyo where a single beetle recently sold for $90,000 then slips back to the early 1800s, to the first cricket-selling business and the development of haiku and other forms of insect literature and art. Through history and adventure, “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo” travels all the way back in time to stories of the fabled first emperor who named Japan the ‘Isle of the Dragonflies.’

Along the way the film takes side trips to Zen temples and Buddhist Shrines, nature preserves and art museums in its quest for the inspirations that moved Japan into this fascination while other cultures hurtled off towards an almost universal and profound fear of insects.
Interspersed with the philosophies of one of Japan’s best-selling authors and anatomists, Dr. Takeshi Yoro, and laced with poetry and art from Japan’s history, this film becomes about much more than insects. “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo” is set to the rhythm of traditional Japanese values in its attention to detail, harmony, and the appreciation of the seemingly mundane. It quietly challenges the viewer to observe the world from an uncommon perspective that will shift the familiar to the fantastic and just might change not only the way we think about bugs, but the way we think about life.

[Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys

In the forests of Finnish Lapland, brothers Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki carry on the generations-old tradition of reindeer herding. These modern cowboys maintain an intricate bond with the environment that has allowed them to preserve their lifestyle in one of the harshest climates imaginable. Jessica Oreck’s intimate, gorgeously lensed documentary follows the brothers for a year, sharing in the hard work, daily rituals and small joys that make up life above the Arctic Circle.