HIFF Notes #1 — Movies to watch at the Film Festival

What to see at the Hawaii Int'l Film Festival -- Part 1

What exactly is Jun's agenda?
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Editor’s note: This is the first installment of an ongoing blog on films I enjoyed at HIFF–The Hawai’i International Film Festival


This was my inaugural film for this year’s HIFF and it’s a doozy. It’s entitled, Noise but it may well be “What is the price of truth?”


Noise is a Japanese production set on a remote island. It’s tight knit, rural community – a peaceful, idyllic place, at least at the very outset of the film. The tranquility belies a dark underbelly. As Carl Jung would say, there’s always the shadow that we must contend with. This film explores this facet of society and human nature.

The story line goes like this…Keita (Tatsuya Fujiwara, BATTLE ROYALE) supports his family with the assistance of his childhood friend, Jun (Ken’ichi Matsuyama, NORWEGIAN WOOD) farming black figs. The figs are huge, beautiful and sweet. Keita passes them around like candy and operates a little roadside stand.

We learn the very future of this island is riding on his unpretentious fig farm. The powers that be are counting on a big grant from the Japanese government based on Keita’s agricultural prowess. The island needs this infusion, many of the young people have left the community and growing figs are the key to revitalizing its economy.

The creepy stranger, Omisaka, meets his fate in Noise.

When a rather creepy stranger, Mutsuo Omisaka, shows up on the island, all kinds of bad things happen. As we learn, it’s not all the fault of the Omisaka, although we know he’s no saint. He’s the trip wire that sets off a chain of events.

When Keita’s daughter goes missing from the family home, he confronts Omisaka, believing that the stranger is responsible for her disappearance. Keita, Jun and their friend Shin, a local cop confront the stranger and in a tussle Keita accidentally kills him.

Jun and Keita try to cover things up, but to no avail. Events continue to spin out of control and before too long other members of the community fall like dominoes.

As the bodies stack up, a couple of detectives from the mainland show up. The cops mean business and are relentless in getting to the bottom of things. The once idyllic community begins to unravel.

You might say that the theme of the film, or at least one of the messages is that no good deed (or bad deed for that matter) goes unpunished. The local folks are determined to hide the crimes from the police for the sake of the community but this is not a formula for success. No matter how “good” the intention, the cover up gets even more convoluted and suddenly unravels.

Officer Shinichiro Moriya, aka Shin, the rookie cop, faces a moral dilemma.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s cleverly written–as all manner of things happen that are least expected. That’s what you want in a movie.

There are some good laughs as well.

The screenwriter, Sho Kataoka, has a wry sense of humor, but this is no comedy. It’s more of a Greek tragedy.

In addition to the protagonists, there are some wonderful secondary characters–the cynical detective from the mainland (Nagase Masatoshi), the bossy, bitchy mayor lady and her unctuous second in command, the grumpy old doc and others.

I’m not going to give the ending away of course but suffice it to say, it’s not a storybook conclusion.

You may think you know whodunnit but it’s not that simple. Nothing in life, or this movie, is.


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