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Departures is a masterpiece by Yôjirô Takita (Onmyogi), transcending Japanese culture and breaking into the very essence of humanity. The story follows Daigo, a cellist who returns to his home town after the disbanding of his city orchestra and the crashing sound of his dream to become a professional musician. From the age of 6, his cello was his source of inspiration and channel for emotional turmoil as a result of his father’s abandonment. Now after purchasing an expensive cello, his destiny points him elsewhere… to a casketing agency, where he will truly discover himself.
Departures is an emotional journey that coerces its audience with a heavy douse of comedy, before nestling into the sombre shadows of respect, dignity, honour, sentimentality and above all, death. The themes may be inherently Japanese in terms of culture and values, but the film is translated into a series of emotions that everyone can relate to.
The loss of a loved one, the anger resulting from an untimely passing, the guilt aroused from unspoken words and the tragedy associated with passing into the afterlife all imbue a deep sense of grief. Departures doesn’t dwell on these aspects, but embraces them like a kind stranger comforting a mourner.
On paper, it’s difficult to imagine the film being commercially viable with its obscure themes and narrow appeal. It’s strictly art house alright, but its secret is that it’s so much more than just a film. It breaks the fourth wall to reach out to its audience for the sake of a cathartic, cleansing and restorative experience. Empathy gives us a chance to connect with the characters as they’re able to draw closure on their loved ones through the ritualistic encoffinment ceremony.
The casketing agency arrives to prepare the bodies for their coffins on behalf of the undertakers. The family is seated as the professionals cleanse and prepare the bodies for cremation. The concept may seem morbid, but the ceremony is conducted with such deep respect and dignity that it enables the family to say their final goodbyes with a sense of relief rather than remorse. This Japanese tradition is intriguing, not purely as a morbid fascination, but as a final parting farewell and honour to the dearly departed.
The performances are excellent, most evident in the teacher-student relationship between Daigo and Ikuei, played by Masahiro Motoki (Shiko funjatta, Sôseiji) and Tsutomu Yamazaki (Ososhiki, Go). The cinematography is largely invisible, but also carries the same grace and humility associated with the film’s content. At first, Departures could easily be mistaken for a comedy with a series of incredibly funny situational comedy sequences involving Daigo.
However, these moments simply break the ice for the audience like a speaker’s opening joke to create a familiarity and relaxed rapport. From this point, the director skillfully integrates the audience into the role of curious onlooker, moving more steadily towards being Daigo’s companion as we see his story unfold from over his shoulder.
Depatures is a beautiful art film that carries such emotional depth that it will be difficult for even the most jaded of audience’s not to resonate. It’s not contrived, manipulated or even close to being a tearjerker. Departures is a film that earns your trust, your respect and your tears. It’s been so lovingly created that you can’t help but appreciate every moment. The sounds of the fine linen being so carefully adorned, the solemn expressions of the encoffiners at work, the ancient Japanese tradition… it’s a cultural, soulful exploration that seeks to disarm deep-seated strongholds.
After reading this review, some people may feel that they’d make themselves too vulnerable if they saw it in a cinema, but there’s something powerful about experiencing this film in a room full of people with the luscious orchestral score. Its deep, humanistic outpouring is extraordinarily rare for a film, comparable to As It Is In Heaven. Like a swan, it carries such beauty and grace in its sadness that it would be a mistake to wait for it to become available as a rental or not to see it at all. To see Departures is to experience something that society seems to have lost… a soulful human connectedness that transcends race, language, religion and culture.
The bottom line: Cathartic.
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ScreenPlay with Spling
Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
Papergirl is an art initiative project founded in Berlin, Germany in the summer of 2006 by Aisha Ronniger. In the style of American paperboys, rolled art pieces are distributed by bicycle to random passers-by on the streets of the city. The project consists of an exhibition, the distribution of the art and a party to end off the project.
Since its debut in Berlin, the project has grown and spread rapidly, reaching major cities all around the globe. A group of Cape Town creatives have now teamed up to bring Papergirl to South Africa. The project is already in the works and will be happening, for the first time in Cape Town, this summer!
The idea of the project is to bring art to members of the society in an innovative and exciting way. Papergirl SA invites artists, creative mavericks, skilful doodlers and visionaries to submit their work. We want Papergirl to be a platform that allows you to give something to the community in the form of art. We believe art should be shared and given freely, and everyone should be allowed to view it and own it.
Anyone and everyone can get involved, by either submitting art or volunteering to ride around our beautiful city, with the Papergirl team to hand out art rolls on the day of distribution.
We are now open for submissions. What you decide to submit is entirely up to you. There are no guidelines in terms of subject matter, theme, format or quantity. Whether you decide to submit one portrait painting or 40 Polaroid photographs, it will all be rolled up in the same way and randomly distributed to people walking the streets of the city.
If you want to be the recipient of a Papergirl art roll, you can only hope that, on the day, you are in the right place, at the right time. You cannot subscribe to Papergirl and no submitted art will be sold. Remember, Papergirl is, in short, non-commercial, participatory and impulsive!
SAVE THE DATES
Deadline for submissions: 12 February 2010 (TBC)
Visit www.papergirl-sa.com for more information on the project and updates on the upcoming Papergirl exhibition.
You are invited to a spectacular night of art, music and loads of fun for a great cause!
Don’t miss 1000 Drawings, Cape Town
When: 18h00 Thursday, 5th November 2009 (this week)
Where: The Woodstock Industrial Centre, 66 Albert Rd, Woodstock (There’s plenty of safe parking)
1000 Drawings is a one night art exhibition of epic proportions! More than 1000 drawings (& photographs) have been donated by everybuddy from professional artists, photographers and designers to everyone else who was inspired to get creative. This Thursday, these works of art will be sold to the public for charity at only R100 each. And there’ll be fabulous jazz fusion music performed by Rus Nerwich and the Collective Imagination, Inge Beckman, Toby2shoes, and PH Phat to name a few, to keep you entertained while you browse for your favourite piece of art. All proceeds go to four charity organisations: Paballo Ya Batho (an inner city Jozi homeless care organization), Princess Alice Adoption Home (which, since 1930, has been a place of safety for babies from birth to 15 months), Write on Africa (creative activism making love visible for social change, urban rejuvenation and inspiration) and Lucca Leadership (helping develop young people who want to make a difference). There will be a R10 entrance fee which will go towards the 1000 drawings 2010 event.
See you this Thursday!
Get yourself a beautiful work of art for a really good cause.
If you have more doodles to donate, drop them off at Word Of Art Studios (66 Albert Rd) no later than Thursday 5 November at 11am.
021 448 7889 / 083 509 5106
Lorenzo Nassimbeni, Tessa Wethli, Heidi Liebenberg and Rebecca Blundell are featured in the November Issue of SA PROMO Magazine.
The Magazine is specifically written for South Africans living abroad. You can read the full version here: www.sapromo.com
Jason van Niekerk of RGB and Alpha and Chrisel Mouton took second place in the TV commercial category at the Times BFI London International Film Festival. The pair were the only South Africans to make it to the top 3. The 90 Second TV commerical was produced with no budget and limited equipment.
Keep an eye out for their next project which will be a 5 minute live action short film.
Blog posted by RGB and Alpha