08 November 2011

Heaven’s Island (青春マンダラー, 2010)

In 2009, the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2010 and the Japan Tourism Agency sponsored a competition called “Let’s Travel Project” which encouraged filmmakers to submit short films that show off the rich and diverse cultural attractions that Japan has to offer tourists. The 14 minute film Heaven’s Island (青春マンダラー/Seishun Mandala, 2010) directed by Naoko Shimada was one of 13 films selected from 71 entries.  The film features Taketomi Island in Okinawa.

Cousins Satoshi (Shuji Kashiwabara) and Miki (Rina Chinen) are heading back to Taketomi Island for the Mandala celebration in honour of their grandmother’s 97th birthday.  Upon their arrival, they learn that their grandmother has died suddenly, throwing the plans for the Mandala festival into chaos.  At the memorial service, a recording of the late woman is played in which she embarrasses Satoshi and Miki by reacing out from beyond the grave to  play interfering matchmaker with the two of them.

After the funeral, Miki discovers her grandmother’s diary and reading it is shocked to learn that the elderly woman was carrying on an affair with someone who had left the island and was due to return to for the Mandala celebration.  Miki and Satoshi are determined to find out the man's identity.  They narrow down their search to three possible candidates: Mr. Shigemori, Mr. Tomori, and Mr. Kinjo.  Once the detective work begins, hilarity ensues.

Heaven’s Island is a rip-roaring romantic comedy with a dash of detective story thrown in for good measure.  Naoko Shimada is a very able director who sets a fast tempo for the comedy through her editing and use of engaging, and often amusing, camera angles.  The film does successfully show off Taketomi as an appealing destination for travel, and does so without seeming like a commercial.  The characters are endearing and the story amusing - the premise would be equally suitable material for a feature-length film.  Check out the trailer here.

This film screened at Japan Week, Frankfurt am Main on November 5, 2011.
The event was sponsored by Nippon Connection: