Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Year in Review

Thanks to the support and encouragement of so many family and friends, 2017 has been another year of humbling experiences for which I am extremely grateful.  In 2013, I began posting the year's highlights (HERE), a tradition I continued in 2014 (HERE), 2015 (HERE), and 2016 (HERE).  The highlights for 2017 are below.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.


PS  As I publish this on my 42 birthday, I remember one of the most poignant birthdays I have marked; it was 2013 and I was spending the day in Fukushima where no one knew it was my birthday (READ).

"Learning to Say Goodbye", the last column I would write for magazine "5" was published (READ). It was in this column that I came out again in 2015 (STORY).  I had the honour of serving as the MC of a press conference about the "Voluntary Evacuees" of Fukushima at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (INFO), and the broadcast of my documentary "Suturing Cultures" on NHK World was announced (STORY).
The second documentary-style PR video  I directed for the Imperial Hotel (about its bars and lounges) was released (WATCH).  The Director's interview for my film "Suturing Cultures" was published (WATCH).
Events marking the 6th anniversary of 3.11 were held.  I was honoured to serve as the MC for the press conference "Yoshiko Aoki, Fukushima storyteller" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, and I was honoured to screen my film "A2-B-C" and take part in the post-screening discussion via Skype at the event "The Politics of Uncertainty: Reassessing Japan After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster" arranged by the Japanese Cultural Association at Brown University (READ).  I was invited to travel to Canada to screen the work-in-progress of "Sezaruwoenai", the third film in my series about the Fukushima nuclear disaster (INFO) at "The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11" (INFO) which was held at the University of British Columbia with sponsorship from the Centre for Japanese Research (INFO); a second screening was held at the Prince Takamado Japan Centre, University of Alberta and the Centre for Japanese Research, University of British Columbia (INFO).
The third installment of the documentary-style series I directed for the Imperial Hotel Tokyo (about their tea ceremony room) was published (WATCH).  I marked one year since I live-Tweeted the reunion between a dying father and the son he had not seen in 30 years (Mr. Hata and T) by publishing the story in Japanese (INFO).

I attended the East Coast Premier of the award-winning short documentary "Acres of Diamonds", directed by Shawn Small, on which I served as one of the producers (STORY).  The World Premier of "Boys for Sale", directed by Itako and for which I served as the Executive Producer, was announced (READ).

The World Premier for "Boys for Sale" was held in front of a sold-out crown in Germany (STORY), The North American premier of the film in LA's OUTFEST was announced (INFO), and the first of several deleted scenes was published (WATCH).
The North American premier of "Boys for Sale" was held in LA (INFO) where it was also awarded at the closing ceremony (STORY).  Part one of the documentary-style PR videos featuring the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel was published (WATCH).
More screenings of "Boys for Sale" at festivals across the world were announced (INFO).
While even more screenings of "Boys for Sale" at festivals around the world were announced (INFO), I attended the Dutch premier of the film (STORY).
I attended the UK premier of "Boys for Sale" in London's Raindance (STORY).  My NHK World-commissioned documentary "Dying at Home" was re-broadcast (INFO).  Nine more screenings of "Boys for Sale" were announced (INFO) while the film received "Best Documentary" in South Africa (STORY).  The New York premier of "Boys for Sale" was held in NewFest (STORY).

More screenings of "Boys for Sale", including the Australian premier, were announced (INFO) as was the Japan premier (INFO).  "Boys for Sale" received TWO more awards for Best Documentary in Mexico (STORY) and in Ecuador (STORY).  The Japan Times published a full page article about "Boys for Sale" (READ), and the Japan Premier of the film was standing room only (STORY).
A four-page feature about my documentary work in Japan was published by the Metropolis magazine (READ).  Part two of the documentary-style PR videos featuring the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel was released along with a 40-second commercial (WATCH).  I screened my documentary “Suturing Cultures” at the 9th Asian Medical Education Association Symposium cum Frontiers in Medical and Health Sciences Education 2017: “Preparing Healthcare Learners for a Changing World"  at the University of Hong Kong (STORY).

Monday, December 18, 2017

"Suturing Cultures" in Hong Kong

It is always so humbling when my films can be used for education. It was an honour to be invited by Dr Harry Wu (Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, University of Hong Kong) to screen my documentary “Suturing Cultures” at the 9th Asian Medical Education Association Symposium cum Frontiers in Medical and Health Sciences Education 2017: “Preparing Healthcare Learners for a Changing World" last week. And it was an additional honour to join the post-screening discussion with a panel of experts including Professor Aronowitz (University of Pennsylvania), Professor Shafer (Stanford University), Dr Tinsley (University of Hong Kong) & Dr Wai (University of Hong Kong). Symposium information HERE.

My documentary "Suturing Cultures" is about 2nd year medical student at Juntendo Medical University in Tokyo learning about how to care for patients from other countries.  The documentary program was my second commission from NHK World and originally aired on February 6, 2017, with a re-broadcast on May 29 (program information HERE).

While I was in Hong Kong for several days, I had only one day where I could go out and actually see a bit of the island...and that was only because I played hooky and skipped part of the conference. ;)  It was wonderful to visit Tai O fishing village and walk around and see a bit of downtown.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Imperial Hospitality: The Wright Imperial (Part 2)

With all that has been going on recently including Boys for Sale receiving multiple awards (STORY) and being featured in the Japan Times (HERE), as well as a feature about my all of my Japanese-language documentaries in Japan being published in the Metropolis magazine (HERE), one piece of news somehow escaped my attention:  Part 2 of the piece I was commissioned to direct about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's connection to the Imperial Hotel Tokyo was published in October (!).

The episode opens with Meiji-mura Museum researcher and archivist Nakano Yuko explaining the features of the Wright Imperial lobby which has been painstakingly preserved and reconstructed in Aichi Prefecture.  

Ms. Koike and Mr. Ishihara, both of whom worked in the building designed by Wright and who have a combined 107 years of experience working at the Imperial (!), make another appearance in Part 2.  A link to the column for Part 2 with embedded video is HERE, while a direct link to the video is below:

A link to the column for Part 1 with embedded video is HERE, while a direct link to the video is below:

As part of this project, I also directed a 40-second commercial which was first released in the summer and which now has over a half-million views!

As always, I would like to give a special shout out to our amazing team, including our photography/ lighting department led by DOP Matsudaira Naoyuki with Seki Masafumi and our coordinator/ producer Tanaka Sakae.  And while I composed the main theme music used throughout the entire campaign, it was brought alive by the talented musicians who arranged and played it.  The Main track, Jazz version and Wright version were led by arranger and pianist extraordinaire Onuki Yuichiro, with Tani Motoaki on bass, Adachi Hiroshi on drums and Aki Yoshihisa on violin.  The Japanese and big band versions were arranged and played by the awesome Komitetsu.
Links to the previous episodes I directed for the Imperial can be found below:

Imperial Hospitality (Part 1): Stories from The Imperial Floor (Nov 2016)

Imperial Hospitality (Part 2): Stories from The Imperial’s Bars and Lounge (Feb 2017)

Imperial Hospitality (Part 3): Story from The Imperial’s “Toko-an” Tea Ceremony Room (April 2017)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Gentle simmer

On Friday, Metropolis magazine published the online version of an article about my documentary career in Japan called "Filmmaking in the Grey Zone: An interview with Ian Thomas Ash" by journalist Andrew Deck (READ HERE).

I was surprised by some of the quotes, particularly the ones at the end where I discuss the nationality of my films and my sense of belonging here.  When I read what I had said during the interview, I thought "did I really open myself up that much to a journalist?!" I own that I said those things and it was certainly how I felt at the time.  But it also comes with some a certain sense of sadness that I can not deny that I at least sometimes feel that way.  I just hope that those quotes are understood by readers within the context of the story I was relating about being stopped by four police officers and searched rather aggressively.

Yesterday, I was honoured to be invited to speak about my work at a lecture entitled "Disaster, Trauma and Hope" at Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU). Arranged by AGU professors Marc Menish and Mariko Hori, it was wonderful to present my work alongside filmmaker Keiko Courdy, Butoh dancer Minami Azu, soprano Junko Menish and poet Kageyama Yuri.

After the lecture, I had a meeting at Las Chicas House, a blast from the past when I used to come down to Tokyo on the weekends when I was still living in Tochigi 17 years ago (!).  As I walked through the lobby, an array of magazines was on display- including the December issue of Metropolis which I had yet to see.
Sitting in a place which held so many memories from when I had first come to Japan and with Christmas music tinged with a nostalgia from what seems like another lifetime wafting through the air, I realized the feelings that had boiled up inside me of during the interview had not yet cooled; they are simply gentlly simmering away on the back burner.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Boys for Sale" receives Best Feature Doc in Ecuador!

As the executive producer of the film, I am extremely honoured to announce that "Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE) has received the award for Best Feature Documentary at the 2017 EL LUGAR SIN LIMITES Film Festival in Quito, Ecuador!

「売買ボーイズ」がエクアドルで行われたEL LUGAR SIN LIMITES映画祭の長編ドキュメンタリー部門でグランプリを受賞しました!本当に光栄に思っております。

This is the fourth award the film has had the honour of receiving after the prize for Best Documentary in both the 2017 Durban Gay & Lesbian FF (South Africa) (STORY) and the 2017 Playa del Carmen Queer FF (Mexico) (STORY), as well as the Fox Inclusion Award at the 2017 OUTFEST FF (Los Angeles), a prize sponsored Fox Inclusion, a division of 20th Century Fox (STORY).

お陰様で今回の受賞が4つ目となります。南アフリカにて行われたDurban Gay & Lesbian映画祭とメキシコにて行われたPlaya del Carmen Queer映画祭で ドキュメンタリー部門グランプリ、そしてロスアンゼルスにて行われたOUTFEST映画祭(20世紀フォックス社の一部門であるフォックスインクルージョンによる)Fox Inclusion Awardを受賞しました。これまで応援して下さった皆様に感謝しております。
Since the World Premier in the 2017 Nippon Connection FF (Germany) in May (STORY), "Boys for Sale" is so for set to screen in 28 film festivals in 17 countries across the world (info on Screenings page HERE).  On November 26, the documentary screened for the first time in Japan during the Tokyo AIDS Week event, but so many people showed up that the venue filled up and many had to be turned away (STORY).  We are working to secure some form of distribution for the film so that people in Tokyo and beyond can finally see the film. Thank you so much for your continued support!!!

今年の5月に開催されたドイツのニッポン・コネクション映画祭初上映から17国、28映画祭で上映される予定です。日本でも11月26日にTokyoAIDSWeeks のイベントの一企画として初上映されました。その際沢山の方ご来場下さいましたが、座席の関係で多数の方々が入場出来ませんでした。皆様に見て頂けるように東京やいろんな場所で上映出来るように頑張ります!これからも皆様の応援をよろしくお願いします!

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Boys" in the FULL house

「売買ボーイズ」日本初上映は昨日でした。Tokyo AIDS Week のイベントの一企画として参加できることがとても嬉しいです。詳しくはこちら
Yesterday's screening of "Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE), the first public showing in Japan, was amazing.  Taking place in Nakano during the Tokyo AIDS Week event (INFO), 30 minutes before the screening, the queue was already out the door of the venue with more than 200 people waiting in line.  The problem was that only 150 people would be allowed in...

Even after the seats were filled, dozens of people were admitted into the venue to watch standing from the sides and back of the room, so we were clearly well over capacity.  Still, more than 60 people unfortunately had to be turned away.  Apologizing to them in the lobby of the venue, I promised that we are working to secure additional screenings in Tokyo, including a theatrical release.  
Following the screening, I was honoured to take part in the panel as the executive producer of the film in a discussion led by Community Center akta's Iwahashi-san (WEBSITE), who also appears in the documentary, along with protagonist Ko, a former urisen (male sex worker).

From Twitter user @HINARINAchan (LINK)
From Twitter user @HINARINAchan (LINK)
After the panel discussion, it was wonderful to greet some of the guests who had attended the screening, including a couple of friends with whom I went graduate school in the UK 14 years ago (!) and who surprised me by coming.  

There were also several groups of sex workers from other parts of Asia who were in Tokyo to attend the Tokyo AIDS Week events.  Two guests from Korea approached me to say how much the film had meant to them and asked if they could screen it at a film festival they are organizing to help raise awareness of issues affecting sex workers.  Making connections like this and knowing that the films we make can be used for awareness and education provides such a sense of purpose and serves as motivation to keep making films that may not be commercially successful but for which we receive the humbling knowledge they have the potential to touch people around the world.

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement.

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Boys" in the news

Ahead of the first public screening in Japan of "Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE) this coming Sunday (26th), two articles were published about the documentary today.

The first was a FULL PAGE feature about the film and the world it documents in The Japan Times.  Read the online version of the article HERE:

The Tokyo Reporter also published an article about "Boys for Sale" today with an in-depth look at the documentary.  Read the article HERE.

The screening in Tokyo will take place on Sunday, November 26 at 15:30 during the Tokyo AIDS Week event.  The film will screen with English subtitles, while the post-screening discussion will be in Japanese.  Full event details (in Japanese) can be found HERE.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Boys for Sale" awarded in Mexico!

On behalf of the entire "Boys for Sale" team and as the Executive Producer of the film, it is my great honour to announce the film has received the award for Best Feature Documentary at the 2017 Queer International Film Festival Playa del Carmen (VIDEO) in Mexico.  This is the third award "Boys for Sale" has been honoured to receive, including at Los Angeles' Outfest (STORY) and South Africa's DGLFF (STORY).

Close to midnight, we received a text from the festival letting us know about the award and asking us to provide a statement for the ceremony that would be held in a few hours.  We quickly wrote one out and sent it to Carlos Fuentes (our translator in Spain who made the Spanish subtitles for the film) to translate.  

Prior to the opening, the festival had requested that we send them a video greeting to use for promotion of our screening.  As our team is spread out over Japan (with some even based or traveling in other countries), we had members send us in short videos of themselves that we edited together.  This was a lot of fun to make and can be viewed HERE.

Screenings of "Boys for Sale" are continuing throughout the world this week, including Slovenia, Ecuador, Spain and Romania (INFO), and we are especially excited for our first public screening in Japan on the 26th (INFO).  More information about upcoming screenings, including our Austrian and Australian Premiers, can be found on the screening page of the film (HERE).

Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"Boys for Sale" in Japan

「売買ボーイズ」日本初上映は11月26日です。Tokyo AIDS Week のイベントの一企画として参加できることがとても嬉しいです。詳しくはこちら。
"Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE), which premiered in Germany earlier this year (STORY) and which received awards in LA (STORY) and South Africa (STORY) will FINALLY screen in Japan!  During the annual Tokyo AIDS Week event, "Boys for Sale" will screen followed by a panel discussion with Ko, one of the participants in the documentary, Iwahashi Kouta, head of akta (a community group devoted to HIV/ AIDS awareness and education), and me in my role as executive producer of the film.  The screening will take place in Tokyo on November 26.  Event details HERE.

On behalf of Itako, the director of the film and Adrian "Uchujin" Storey, the DOP/ producer, we are so grateful for this opportunity to screen for an audience in Japan at an event which is free, open to the public and dedicated to a topic so important that it was one of the original inspirations for us to make the film.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Boys" are going South, East and Down Under

This week, "Boys for Sale" will be screening in Mexico (in Tijuana AND Playa del Carmen), Ecuador and Romania!  Details are on the website for the film (HERE).

And this week, the Australian premier of "Boys for Sale", which will take place in February 2018, was also announced (screening information HERE).

Friday, October 27, 2017

"Boys for Sale" called "one of the standout documentaries of the year"

Following our North American Premier in Outfest in Los Angeles in July where the film was awarded (STORY), it was a huge honour to represent "Boys for Sale" at the East Coast Premier in  Outfest's sister festival, NewFest in NYC (INFO).

The screening was well-attended and as we were in the last screening block of the night, there was a lot of time for the post-screening Q&A during which the audience asked many great questions.

Ahead of the screening, it was awesome to be included in Time Out New York's "The best LGBT things to do in New York this week" and in Film Journal International's screening blog (READ).

Following the screening, two great reviews were published as well. The Diva Review called Boys for Sale "one of the standout documentaries of the year" (READ) while James Wegg Review said "First-time director-editor Itako has done the world a huge favour by thoughtfully and unabashedly chronicling the lives of the 'urisen'" and gave the film 4.5 stars (READ).

This week, "Boys for Sale" will be screening in Edmonton's Rainbow Visions Film Festival (Nov 4), Taichung's TIQFF 台灣國際酷兒影展 (Nov 4), Buenos Aires's Asterisco Festival Internacional de Cine LGBTIQ (Nov 5) and Kansas City's Kansas International Film Festival!  More information can be found on the SCREENINGS page of the film:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Boys for Sale" awarded Best Documentary at African Premier!

As the executive producer of "Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE), I am so honoured the film received the award for Best Documentary at the African Premier in the 2017 Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival!

This month we have screenings in Atlanta, Taipei, Berlin and NYC (where I will be present at the screening on the 22nd) INFO.  I am so proud of our team, and I think this is a really awesome film!  But don't take my word for it- here's what they're saying about us:

Friday, October 13, 2017

9 more screenings annouced for "Boys for Sale"!

"Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE), the documentary I produced that premiered earlier this year in Germany (STORY) just announced another NINE screenings (!) in festivals around the world from Canada to Romania, including 4 festivals that will be screening the Spanish-subtitled version of the film. 

A full list of upcoming festivals can be found on the SCREENINGS page of the film's website (HERE).

This brings the total number of screenings in international film festivals so far to 22!

I am honoured to help represent the film in the upcoming East Coast Premier in NYC's NewFest (screening info HERE) on October 22.  Thank you for your support and hope to see some of you there!