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Japanese Film Festival in India Yuna Taira

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The Japanese Film Festival India was held in the Indian capital of New Delhi on 10 November 2017. Lead actress from the festival’s opening film ReLIFE, Yuna Taira, and producer Yuka Asano attended an event as special guests. After the movie was screened, the two took part in a talk show and enjoyed interacting with the many fans who had joined the event. After the event, we spoke to Yuna Taira about her impressions of the film festival event and what ReLIFE means to her.

It made me so happy to hear the audience laughing out loud.


――How did you enjoy this year’s Japan Film Festival India?

It was the first time I had the chance to participate in a film festival like this outside Japan. I joined the audience to watch the screening of ReLIFE, and I noticed the Indian viewers had quite unique reactions to the film. They would laugh out loud, and it made me so happy to be able to watch the film with them. There were so many smiling faces greeting me at the event as well, which helped calm my nerves. It was a really enjoyable night.

――Your character Chizuru Hishiro has a peculiar way of smiling, and that generated a lot of laughs.

I was talking about that with Yuka Asano, the producer who came to the film festival with me, and we were saying that the audience laughed right at the point where the film’s director Takeshi Furusawa wanted them to. That made us really happy. Japanese audiences tend not to express their emotions so freely when watching a movie, so we really appreciate it when viewers laugh out loud.

――Did it feel different being onstage in front of a non-Japanese audience, compared to how you feel at events in Japan?

I felt like I could speak with a more open heart than I do when I’m in Japan! The questions I received were different than what I get asked back home – the Indian guests asked about things they’re interested in related to Japan. I wasn’t expecting that. I took some photos with people from the audience and some of them could speak Japanese. They were all very kind and I felt happy with them.

Even with language barriers and cultural differences, you can still convey the same thing.


――It’s been about six months since the film was released in Japan. How was it watching the movie again?

Looking back on it now, I feel like this film is full of aspects of my youth. Working together on this movie created a bond between all the cast and staff members. We filmed it in November 2016 when it was very cold, and we all worked so hard on it. Remembering that made me realise once again what a fantastic film it is. The film festival was also a great opportunity to show me that even if you don’t speak the same language or have the same culture, people can still feel the same way about something, and convey the same thing to each other. Also, I never expected to watch the film with English subtitles, so it was really interesting to see how the lines had been translated.

――You’ve starred in a lot of different films. Is there anything special you do to get into character?

When I’m in the movie I’m playing a part, but to the audience it should seem like they are watching the everyday life of the people in the film. So I try not to think about the cameras, and before we film a scene I try to forget about my lines for a moment and just let the words come out of my mouth as naturally as possible. You have to let yourself be in character at all times, no matter where you are. I usually smile a lot, but while I was playing Hishiro people told me my smile looked different!

――The manga which ReLIFE is based on was ranked number 1 on manga app ‘Comico’, and has been made into an animated film. Is there greater pressure on you playing a role in a live action film that is based on an original work?

I did feel pressured, because the most important thing is how the audience responds to the film. The original manga has such a huge fan base, and I wanted to portray Hishiro as closely to the original as possible. I compared the script to the manga as I read it. In the anime, Hishiro speaks with quite a low voice, but my natural voice is pretty high. So I tried to make my voice deeper. She also has quite a dry way of speaking, so I tried to make sure I followed this. If I let my own emotions show in my voice, it changes the intonation.

――Even having done all that, were there any original aspects that you added to the character yourself?

Did you know that as Hishiro opens her heart to others, her fringe spreads apart to reveal more of her forehead? And when she shuts herself off, her fringe ‘closes’ again. The film has a lot of foreshadowing, and you can have fun watching it from different perspectives, over and over again.

I’d like for us to share aspects of our culture with each other.


――A major theme of the film is “starting over in life”. Was there anything in your life that you felt was a turning point?

I’ve been acting since I was in year six in primary school, so I think my life changed a lot once I entered the industry. One day I was just a normal kid, then I auditioned for a movie and got the part, and that’s where my career began. I always thought I’d like to be an actress like my older sister (Airi Taira), but I didn’t expect to start from such a young age.

――Lastly, can you tell us how you would like to involve yourself with countries outside Japan in the future?

When my work takes me overseas in the future, I hope I can tell local people about Japanese culture, and learn about theirs. I’d like for us to share aspects of our culture with each other.

◆Yuna Taira profile

Born on 12 November 1998 in Hyogo Prefecture. Has starred as an actress in many films and TV series.

Hobbies: word play (making puns), kimono, cooking, piano, hair styling, visiting temples and shrines to collect their seal stamps
Talents: Ryukyu dancing, classical ballet, trumpet, dancing
Filmography highlights: Mumon, The Land of Stealth, Sagrada Reset, Ankoku Joshi, Kyo no Kira-kun, etc.
Upcoming films:
・Saturday 18 November 2017: Shashin Koshien, 0.5 Byo no Natsu (playing Arisu)
・Saturday 23 December 2017: That is Not a Child but a Minor (playing Karin Oriyama)
・Saturday 31 March 2018: honey (playing Nao Kogure)

◆Film information

Title: ReLIFE
Director: Takeshi Furusawa
Original author: So Yayoi
Script: Kumiko Aso
Starring: Taishi Nakagawa, Yuna Taira, Mahiro Takasugi, Elaiza Ikeda, Sae Okazaki, Yudai Chiba, etc.

Arata Kaizaki (Taishi Nakagawa) is working in a casual job, having resigned from the company that hired him. One day, he meets a man named Ryo Yoake (Yudai Chiba), who says he belongs to the “Relife Laboratory”. Yoake offers Kaizaki the chance to start his life over. Kaizaki takes a pill which makes him appear younger, and he goes back to high school to try and do things differently.

◆Japanese Film Festival India Outline

【Name】Japanese Film Festival in India
【Presented by】The Japan Foundation New Delhi, Cultural Affairs Department
【Cities】New Delhi, Mumbai (two venues in two cities)
【Held from】From Friday 10 November 2017, in sequence *New Delhi: 10-15 November, Mumbai: scheduled to be held in January 2018
【Films shown】15