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Birthright

Canadian Premiere

  • Drama
  • /
  • Japan
  • /
  • 2010
  • /
  • 108 min
  • /
  • 35mm
  • /
  • Japanese with English subtitles
Birthright Birthright Birthright Birthright

Official Selection, Tokyo International Film Festival 2010
Official Selection, Goteborg International Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, Philadelphia Danger After Dark Film Festival 2011

Screening Times

Credits

Director: Naoki Hashimoto
Screenplay: Naoki Hashimoto, Kiyotaka Inagaki
Cast: Sayoko Oho, Miyu Yagyu, Ryoko Takizawa
Producers: Naoki Hashimoto
Print Source: Eleven Arts

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Description

In a small coastal town in Japan, a young woman, Mika, drifts through the streets with no apparent aim. She spies on people’s homes, furtively observing their goings-on, until she comes across one with a normal family that seems to interest her a bit more than the other normal families. It’s actually Naoko, the mother in the family, that attracts her attention. Mika watches her without bothering to hide, and Naoko returns her regard impassively. One morning, her daughter Ayano leaves the house to make her way to school, but Mika is waiting and lures the girl into her car on the pretext that there is a boy who wants to meet her. Ayano agrees because after all, a girl not much older than herself couldn’t be much of a threat. A mistake. Ayano finds herself bound and handcuffed in the backseat of the vehicle, headed for a disused warehouse where Mika will make her pay for everything she herself never had. Mika intends to demolish Ayano, breaking into the most secret corners of her psyche and shattering her soul. The true target of this vengeful plan isn’t Ayano, though, but Naoko.

An unusual and bewitching film of feminine vengeance and a potent, heart-stopping drama, BIRTHRIGHT is a subtle reflection on the moral gamble of revenge, recalling Podz’s LES SEPT JOURS DU TALION, a parallel accentuated by the type of interactions that transpire between the villain and the victim. That said, the comparisons end there, because BIRTHRIGHT depends not on the brutality and torture typical of the revenge sub-genre but on an emotional violence of abandonment and silence, the essence of the catalytic resentment. It’s a daring approach for director/co-writer/producer Naoki Hashimoto who, with this first feature film, shows no fear of upending conventions and confounding expectations. Having worked as a producer with respected filmmakers like Shunji Iwai, on ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU, and Jun Ichikawa, on TONY TAKITANI, Hashimoto displays here a dramatic talent for quickly establishing an oppressive, hypnotic atmosphere, the film’s tremendous treatment of sound and image leading inexorably to the devastating conclusion. Bolstered by excellent nuanced acting — notably that of Sayoko Oho, whose performance evokes both vulnerability and latent rage — as well as splendid and inventive camerawork delivering wisely composed images that are among the best-looking seen this year, BIRTHRIGHT is a cinematic pearl at once troubling and terrific, one that must be seen on the big screen.

—Nicolas Archambault (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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