Saudade! The Inner City Blues

A truck driver spending his weekends & holidays to direct films, while attempting to create new ways to produce & distribute indie films in Japan. That’s Katsuya Tomita, a promising independent director. And this is his latest film (to date).

Saudade is about construction workers, hip-hop and immigrants. Set in Kofu City, a small town, the film tells the story of Takeshi, working on construction sites where he becomes friends with two (immigrant) laborers. He’s also part of a hip-hop group, and must deal with his parents, who’ve lost their business & have become addicted to gambling.

On paper, this looks like an ambitious project, showing how Japan has been affected by the recession, with people losing their jobs as well as their hopes, creating tensions between communities. And it’s also about people trying to get heard, using music to denounce this situation. It’s rare these days to see a japanese (indie) filmmaker taking a stand on social issues like these ones, it’s more risky, original & interesting than filming apathetic people looking at the blue sky.

Intriguing for the least, Saudade is a 167-min long film produced from donations (budget estimated at $200,000 according to IMDb). By the way, the title can be loosely translated from Portuguese as “Longing, yearning, a dream one will never claim…”.

It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2011, and it seems the film will be released in Japan on October 22, 2011.

Sources: Official website, Locarno, Interview (in french), @saudade_movie
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4 thoughts on “Saudade! The Inner City Blues”

  1. Thanks for posting this. Can’t wait to see it. I live in Kofu. I wouldn’t exactly call a city of 200,000 people a “small town” though.

  2. Well yeah. Sort of. It’s nothing new or unusual. Around the world, the emptying out of city centers and a move to the suburbs is a big problem.

    Here in Kofu, for example, essentially all the movie theaters near the center of the city are now closed. If you want to go to the movies you have to go to the huge mall they built in the suburbs (or the Japanese equivalent).

    Another example. They just built a brand new shopping center right smack downtown. From Day 1 — opening day, it’s a huge bust and it’s completely empty. All the merchant spaces are occupied by 2nd and 3rd tier businesses — the kinds of shops you’d expect to see in a 1970s era strip mall. Really sad.

    Another huge problem these days is that this year, the local yakuza family split from the main group out of Tokyo… As a result, the city has been on high alert for months now. Every evening there are cops posted on every corner downtown with barricades. Tell me, if you were a business owner — would YOU open a shop there? Knowing that at any moment there might be some kind of violent clash?

    It’s a complex problem, for sure. But from the trailer it looks very accurately portrayed, including the relationships with non-Japanese, e.g. Brazilian workers. Kofu has a large Brazilian population, and they seem to lead a very confused existence, being forced to “be Japanese” and at the same time, having to be themselves.

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