Close Up

12 - 14 November 2021: Urban, Natural, Human: Exploring Japan on Screen


Urban, Natural, Human is a touring programme curated by Day for Night, exploring art, architecture and design through the moving image. With its core themes of the built and natural environments in contemporary Japan, the programme will reflect on regeneration, recovery and creativity, not least in the year of the 10th anniversary of the Tohuku earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. The project also takes on a fresh relevance in light of the pandemic, as we adapt and rethink our relationship to space, collective gathering and the built environment around us, pointing to broader discourses concerning our place as humans in an ever-changing world. The programme is framed through historical, current and future contexts – the impact of war, post-war regeneration, natural and man-made catastrophes, reconstruction and renewal, urban and rural development, the urban experience and the future of cities, while exploring Japanese culture, history and society more broadly.


Nanako Hirose, 2019, 94 min
Japanese with English subtitles
Introduced by Sonali Joshi

In an ever-growing digital world, Nobuyoshi Kikuchi, who over the course of his career has painstakingly designed over 15,000 book covers by hand, represents an old-school world of artisan craft and design. Using traditional methods, his work reflects a fusion of minimalist aesthetics and meticulous design. Yet in this exploration into Nobuyoshi Kikuchi’s craft and artistry, the film also lays bare an existential crisis for the ‘physical’ book. Nanako Hirose, who previously worked as an assistant to acclaimed directors Hirokazu Kore-eda and Miwa Nishikawa, creates a portrait of a man, now in his 70s, whose daily life is shaped by small pleasures in life – freshly brewed coffee, an old gramophone, wandering through flea markets – as well as someone for whom perfection is an eternal pursuit.


Fiona Tan, 2016, 81 min
Japanese & English with English subtitles
Introduced by Sonali Joshi

Fragments of letters between a writer and her deceased partner, Hiroshi, recounting a journey up Mount Fuji, are interspersed with ruminations on war-time and post-war Japanese society and culture. Comprising 150 still images of Mount Fuji – from archival material to amateur photos – acclaimed artist, Fiona Tan, crafts an extraordinary portrait of Japan's most revered mountain. Balanced delicately between documentary and fiction, Ascent is at once an ode to Japan’s great icon, a reflection on the social history of 20th century Japan, a study of grief and a meditation on the nature of photography and film.


The Inland Sea
Lucille Carra, 1991, 56 min
Japanese & English with English subtitles
Introduced by Jasper Sharp

+ The Naoshima Plan 2019 “The Water”
Courtesy of Sambuichi Architects, 6 min
Introduced by Sonali Joshi

Inspired by author and film scholar Donald Richie’s memoir of journeys through the islands of Japan’s Inland Sea published in 1971, The Inland Sea is an eye-opening voyage based on a parallel trip undertaken by Lucille Carra twenty years later. Capturing images of hushed beauty and meeting people who still carried on the fading customs that Richie had observed, the film is infused with Richie’s own narration from his travelogue, together with a score by celebrated composer Toru Takemitsu.

Information on further screenings as part of this programme can be found at:

Screening as part of Japan 2020: Over 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network.