Dozens of young filmmakers, musicians, and guests filled the Moosic Lab Closing Party 2019 venue in central Tokyo on the evening of December 23 as they impatiently awaited the announcement of this year’s best works produced for Moosic Lab, one of Japan’s most acclaimed film competition for young filmmakers.
“This year, it was incredibly difficult (for us judges),” organizer of the competition and movie producer Takatoshi Naoi told the audience as he opened the event along with fellow MC, movie critique Naoto Mori. The two revealed that there were 18 titles this year, all of which were of an exceptionally high quality. Among the 18 were eight long feature movies and ten short films. The best works, this year, were selected by 23 judges — the highest number of participating judges since the launch of Moosic Lab in 2012 — including experts from the film and music industry and cinema managers from across Japan.
Known as Japan’s gateway to the film industry for young directors, actors, and musicians, Moosic Lab is an annual competition which supports movies created by emerging directors that feature an originally produced soundtrack created by young musicians. In other words, it’s a competition that gives young talents in Japan’s cinema and music scene a platform to display their work to a professional and general audience. Movie titles produced exclusively for Moosic Lab are then featured in regional and nationwide film festivals, through which they are evaluated by professional judges and regular viewers, as well. And at the end of each year, divided into ten main categories, Moosic Lab presents its awards for best acting, music, and cinematography. A chance to win this competition is a chance to become Japan’s next big name in the film or music industry.
The undefiable winner in the Short Film Category for 2019 was Masaru Tsuume’s Katatsumuri (Snail), which stole four awards: the Grand Prix, the Best Musician Award (Door Knob Rock), the Actress Award for Hinata Kohinata, and the Best Actor Award for Shuri Suwa. The 19-minute-long film, which discusses difficult themes of sexuality, identity, love, and fear of denial through the eyes of junior high school sweethearts Chiho and Shinpei, was screened at the venue much to the delight of the audience. Kohinata, playing Chiho, also performed the film’s lead song “Himitsu no Fiction” together with her band members Door Knob Rock live for the guests, winning them once again with her powerful voice and performance.
The Best Actress Award in short film for the year went to Ruka Ishikawa for her outstanding role in Miki Tomita’s love (and music) affair film Beat Par Mizu. Ishikawa accepted the award, which according to her acceptance speech, was her first, saying she was “delighted” and that she had a great time filming the movie.
The Actor Award in the Short Film Category went to one actor and two actor-musicians: Yoshiki Ooneda from Umibe no Tochu (Midway to the shore), and Teruyuki Oshima and Kazuaki Koyama for their roles in Masaki Soejima’s Soul Music — a music-inspired ghost-chasing story. Soul Music also grabbed the Grand Prix Runner Up Award.
The second part of the event, the Long Feature Film Awards, came with a few surprises. The mega-hit of the night was undeniably All About Chiaki Mayumura (Provisional), a self-directed autobiographical documentary about Chiaki Mayumura, a 23-year-old Japanese idol, singer, songwriter, and most recently, a filmmaker. The movie won four awards — the Judge Special Award, the Audience Award, the Best Musician Award, and the Actress Award (which was co-shared with Chie Tsuji from Otoko no Yasashisa wa Zenbu Shitagokoro Nandesute (The Gentleness of A Man Is All About Having Secret Intentions). Mayumura, unable to attend the event in person, joined the audience through a video conference from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, in which she said she was surprised to receive the awards and that she was grateful for the support her staff gave her throughout the filming process.
The second favorite title of the night was Director Kohei Inoue’s Dong Teng Town, which won the Actor Award for the performance of Sho Kasamatsu, and was the runner up for the year’s Grand Prix. Inoue, who was the winner of three Moosic Lab awards in the Short Film category in 2018, including the Grand Prix for his film Dokishi, impressed the judges this year as well with his first ever work on a long featured movie. Dong Teng Town is a rite of passage tale set in Japan’s danchi (public housing complexes). Inoue’s award-winning short film Dokishi will be streamed here on Japanese Film Festival Magazine’s website this year — stay tuned.
The Best Actress Award for a long featured film went to Nanami Kawakami from Tokyo no Koibito (Tokyo Lovers), while the Best Actor was awarded to popular Tokyo-based rapper DEG for his role in Oikaze (Tailwind), who also stole one of the two Musician Awards for the night. DEG made an astonishing live performance of the movie’s lead song, Oikaze.
After a series of repeated movie titles throughout the night, the expectation that Dong Teng Town, All About Chiaki Mayumura (Provisional) or Tokyo no Koibito would win the Grand Prix for the night ran through more than one minds in the audience. To their surprise, however, the Grand Prix for a long feature of 2019 went in the hands of Director Yurina Kaneko for her movie Nemuru Mushi (Sleeping Insect), a story about death, its voices, and our coming to terms with it. Kaneko celebrated her award by performing live for the audience via a pre-recorded video message.
After all awards for the night were given out, Moosic Lab 2019 ended the year with loud applause from the audience and much expectation on what’s coming next year. As far as we at the Japanese Film Festival are concerned, we can’t wait to launch our live streaming collaboration with Moosic Lab and share the excitement with you, our readers. Meanwhile, we hope that with this list of awards, you have a few new titles to put on your Japan-must-watch list for next year.
Congratulations to all winners of 2019!
Text: Japanese Film Festival Editorial Team