Junya Sakino left his homeland of Japan in 2000 and moved to the U.S. to pursue his directing career. Those dreams were realized in his directorial debut in “The Jazz Addict,” which was an official selection for Crested Butte Film Festival, and now with his first feature film, “Sake Bomb.” Junya attended California State University Long Beach’s film program where he went on to direct “Vanity Mirror,” “The Spiral Ring” and “Orizuru.” “Vanity Mirror” won the Grand Prize for UTB Picture Battle competition. Orizuru hit the worldwide film festival circuit in 2006 and received a generous handful of awards including the Hollywood International Film Festival award for Best Period Drama, the Best Screenplay award at the Media Arts Festival, Best Film at No Nuke Festival. The film was eventually aired on PBS.
What it’s about: A sarcastic and self-deprecating Asian-American must take his naive Japanese cousin on a road trip along the California coast to find his ex-girlfriend.
What he wants audiences to walk away with: “Since the context of the film deals with race, social media, and sexuality etc, people might speculate that there are many underlying themes the film is trying to convey, but first and foremost I simply wanted to entertain the audience. I was trying to make a kind of film where people just laugh at the sarcastic humor and characters. I mean, SAKE-BOMB, the title suggests a lot right? In the end, it’s really up to the audience how they feel about the film or the themes. If the film incites laughs and makes them think something about life, that’s awesome. If they had no idea what the film was about but enjoyed the comedy anyway, that’s still great.”
On unexpected challenges on set: “The most eye-opening experience was working with a hybrid production crew of Asians and non-Asians. Fiction met reality head on. It became the norm on set as I witnessed the day-to-day challenges of cultural diversity in action. Being in the middle of everything, watching the different crew members of varying ethnic backgrounds and how subtle/non-subtle differences were playing out on set mirrored some of the film’s content. The strengths of different work ethics and different people’s approaches to the nuances of the subject matter proved to be more challenging than expected. “Lost in translation” was a bit of an understatement.
What’s next: “I have two narrative features that I’m developing. One is called “Orizuru” which is the adaption of my short film about an American war journalist and Japanese translator’s love story that involves Hiroshima Atomic bombing during WWII. Another one is called “Transience” which I’m writing again with SAKE-BOMB writer Jeff Mizushima. It’s a spiritual story of women whose lives are shared with one indentical spirit living in the same space and time at various stages of life. The idea comes from philosophy of Buddhism. I also am developing a documentary called “Finding Okunoshima” with co-director Rock Baijnauth. It’s about children who were forced to make chemical weapons on an island that was erased from maps during WWII.”
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.