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Kodokushi

Janus Victoria, Lorna Tee

Philippines, Japan

TFL Awards

TFL Audience Award 2014 (€ 30.000)

synopsis

Divorced and not getting any younger, Yoji resolves not to die a “lonely death”. His ex-wife has moved on, happily married. His life’s savings could sustain his simple, solitary existence in Tokyo for five more years, but no longer.
Two chance encounters prod him to change his life. Late one night, a Filipina bargirl taking a break outside her club piques his interest, appearing to sense his sadness. Then Yoji discovers the decomposing corpse of his neighbour, an old man whose name he does not know, and whose death is ruled a kodokushi or the lonely death. Unwilling to suffer the same fate, Yoji throws caution to the wind to seek out the bargirl Sarah, who has returned to the Philippines.
Yoji finds himself trawling the seedy underbelly of Metro Manila in search of Sarah, but feeling oddly alive for the first time in years. Metro Manila teems with stories like Yoji’s – men who come to the Philippines seeking something that they cannot find in the impersonal urban landscapes of Japan. For all its drawbacks and discomforts, the chaos of Manila offers the promise of life, human connection, an unpredictable destiny – anything but the dark, silent certainty of kodokushi.

intention

Kodokushi is the kind of death that falls upon someone who has lived an exceptionally isolated life in Japanese society; his passing only becomes known to others when his corpse begins to smell.
It is a social issue unique to Japan – and far removed from my own reality. I am a Filipina who has lived her entire life in the Philippines. Total isolation is rare in our way of life. Even if one lives alone in an apartment, it is normal for the neighbours to want to get to know you.
I first learned about it from a news magazine article I read years ago. I started to empathise with the sense of isolation it embodied when I realized that my grandmother is in her way, living in isolation – even though she lives with her extended family, myself included.
Her eyesight is poor and she only has one hearing ear. She has trouble remembering and we have a challenging time talking to her. To the aged, that is the inevitable isolation. It got me thinking about what living really is. Consequently, I became more afraid of that time – should I get to the age of my grandmother – when I would lose my faculties, my freedom; when I can no longer live my life.
It is easy to conclude that kodokushi afflicts the large old population in Japan. But in fact, many of those who died a kodokushi were middle-aged. Did they just give up on life and wait for death? I talked to Japanese photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama who recently exhibited eight-month worth of documentation of apartments left by kodokushi victims and he told me that many of the stains left by the corpses were pointed towards the door. Perhaps this was a last attempt to reach out to others, we reckoned. He also noted that in some cases there were no eulogies; no commemoration of the person’s life.
This film is my way of rewriting the life of someone who seems doomed to such an end. Yoji, a middle-aged Japanese salary-man will attempt to escape this fate by moving to the Philippines, where happiness is supposedly easy to find. Indeed, many Japanese men of Yoji’s generation do come to my country to look for a second chance in love and to have a family; many Filipinas settle for a marriage to a foreigner who may not be a love match, but could be a good provider. But what if the escape plan does not work out either? Through Yoji’s journey, I also want to understand and show why, despite living with trifling and stifling living conditions, many of my fellow Filipinos find the will and reason to live.

budget & financing

Paperheart is an independent film production company set up by producer Lorna Tee and writer/director Ho Yuhang, who have collaborated on numerous projects that have won awards in the international film festival circuit. The company strives to collaborate and support young and talented filmmakers in Asia. After receiving the Tokyo Talent Campus Award last year, the producing team came on board and worked on research and development of the film by participating in a number of labs and workshops. Realising that without a well-developed script, which is often the case with many film projects from Asia, the process will be helpful to develop a mature and solid script. We have also started working on initial casting of the leads from Japan and the Philippines that will be helpful in securing investment and distribution in those territories, where we aim to secure 40% of the total budget. We understand, since it is a first time feature director that the film will need to be supported with well-known leads from those two territories. We have started initial discussions with top Japanese film companies and distributors on the film to garner feedback and interest at this early stage. After the completion of the script, with the support of professional mentors from TFL, we will work towards securing co-producers, investors, sales agent and distribution for the film. The aim will be to profile the film further in other project markets to introduce the director and we feel that the subject matter will have a universal appeal as more and more people around the world are living alone and the fear of dying alone is not confined to the Japanese.

distribution & sales

Kodokushi touches a raw nerve with many in our contemporary society, especially in this age of disconnect that we live in. Though it is a Japanese phenomenon, dying alone kodokushi style, is not difficult to comprehend to many people aging alone, which is prevalent in most of the developed countries. And the desire to escape this fate to find a more fulfilling life and death will not be lost to non-Japanese. The subject may be a bleak one, but the film also features love, joy, optimism and hope to the audience in the quest to escape kodokushi. In recent years, there are a number of films that have been made with protagonists in their silver-haired years, which have proven to be appealing to the increasing number of audiences who find the majority of the films in the cinemas to cater just to the young people of this world. Hence, Kodokushi, with a message that is easily identifiable to many elderly audiences, with the optimism of finding love and happiness in later stages of your life as part of the film theme, will hopefully join the ranks of the films that have successfully crossed over to more mainstream audiences. The casting of the film will be a crucial factor to the distribution of the film in Japan, which remains to be the third largest country in terms of box office. We intend to secure a well-known actor in the lead role, which will greatly enhance the prospect of the film sales in not just Japan, but across Asia. Furthermore, with the strong ties of the team to many quality sales agents, distributors and film festivals, we hope to be able to secure distribution for the film in numerous territories after a premiere in a top film festival.

A middle-aged Japanese salary-man risks everything and moves to the Philippines to escape the fate of kodokushi, the lonely death.
761-janus-victoria
Janus Victoria

Scriptwriter, Film Director

707-lorna-tee
Lorna Tee

Film Festival, Production

production notes

directed by
Janus Victoria

produced byPaperheart
B-1- 2, Happy Mansion, Jalan 17/13
46400 , Selangor
Malaysia

total production budget
€ 585.000

current financial need
€ 570.000