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Japan, 2002 (MIFF 2002, Regional Focus)

Director: Hiroshi Shizumi

"Hiroshi Shizumi is a Takeshi Kitano protégé, having worked as assistant director on several of his films, including Kids Return (MIFF 1997), Hana-Bi (MIFF 1998) and Brother (MIFF 2001). Shizumi's style in Chicken Heart (selected for Critics' Week at Cannes this year) echoes that of his master, particularly his shot-making and quirky, deadpan humour underscoring serious thematic concerns.

"The film's ostensible focus is Iwano, a former boxer who has been reduced to a nagurareya - a 'human punchbag' - who lets drunken businessmen takes swings at him for cash. He is assisted by Marus, a 36-year-old former teacher who serves as timekeeper, and Sada, a 53-year-old drifter who collects the money. All three want something better, they just don't know what it is.

"The story of how they find, or fail to find, new lives unfolds at a leisurely pace. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a concluding moral: everything changes, but the spirit, goofy or otherwise, endures. A tenet of Buddhism perhaps, but one that, in Shizumi's hands, translates into a border-crossing winner." - Screen International

Hiroshi Shizumi (born in Kyoto, Japan, 1964) worked as assistant director on six of Takeshi Kitano's films, including Kids Return (MIFF 1997), Hana-Bi (MIFF 1998) and Brother (MIFF 2001). His directorial debut, Ikanai (1998), won the Ecumenical prize at the Locarno Film Festival and the FIPRESCI prize in Pusan. Chicken Heart is his second film.

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