@2022 "Yoko" Film Partners.jpeg

@2022 "Ripples" Film Partners

@2022 "Tea Friends" Film Partners



Los Angeles, August 24, 2023: The Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (ACA) is sponsoring the seventh ACA Cinema Project — Emerging Japanese Films — as the cornerstone of its Japan Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project. Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO) serves as the steward for the encore of this distinguished screening series. Three recently released, prestigious theatrical titles headline the event, which runs from Tuesday, September 26, through Thursday, September 28, at the Linwood Dunn Theater, Hollywood. Festivities are free of charge for accredited entertainment industry professionals. 

Launching the ACA Cinema Project on September 26 at 7:00 p.m. is the stateside debut of Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s quirky, character-driven, road trip drama Yoko (2022; TRT: 113 minutes). Yoko represents the longtime professional reunion of director Kumakiri and Oscar®-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi (Tokyo Vice, Babel). Yoko marks the 20-year follow-up to their initial collaboration, 2001 Rotterdam International Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize winner Hole in the Sky. 

ACA Cinema Project offers two additional new films for Los Angeles cinephiles. Set for September 27 is Ripples (2023; TRT: 120 minutes), a dark comedy from director Naoko Ogigami, a USC film school graduate, 2007 Sundance Film Fest nominee (Gasses, Megane), and director of the quietly intense critical favorite Riverside Mukolitta (2022). In Ripples, Ogigami spins a yarn about a repressed matriarch and unfortunately over-the-top circumstances ― a disquieting earthquake, crushing debt, a dying ex-husband, a raging co-worker, and her son’s girlfriend ― that take her to the brink. 

Wrapping ACA Cinema Project on September 28 is Tea Friends (2023; TRT: 135 minutes) from director Bunji Sotoyama. An original story inspired by true events, Tea Friends, in famous Sotoyama fashion, offers a somewhat out-of-the-box take on intimate entanglements of the elderly. The latest title from ENBU Seminar, producers of the surprise smash hit zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead (2017), Tea Friends revolves around the youthful staff of a call girl club that caters to the elderly, said club’s mature female escorts, and the ladies’ lonely male retiree clients. 

Each day’s film starts at 7:00 p.m. The schedule for in-person and virtual filmmaker discussions after film exhibitions will be announced in September. 

For more information, please visit To request an invitation for industry and press, click here.
Press Contact: T. 818-760-8995 

Venue Information: 

Pickford Center for Motion Picture Center Linwood Dunn Theater
1313 Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90028 


YOKO (TRT: 113 minutes) US Premiere
Screening Tuesday, September 26 (Opening Night reception to follow)
Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (Attending Series in Person; Q & A on Tuesday, September 26) Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Pistol Takehara, Asuka Kurosawa, Ai Mikami, Joe Odagiri
US Distribution: Rights Available 

Resigned to an unfulfilled life, Yoko, 42, isolates herself and works as an online customer service clerk from her tiny studio apartment. When she receives news of her estranged father’s death, she reluctantly joins her cousin and his family on a road trip to the funeral in her hometown; this is to be her first visit there in 20 years. However, Yoko’s family abandons her at a highway rest stop, and then, sans cell phone or money, Yoko faces the prospect of hitchhiking to her father’s service. 

About the Director: Born in 1974 in Hokkaido, Japan, young Kazuyoshi Kumakiri won second place at the 20th PIA Film Festival with his thesis film Kichiku and received invitations to more than ten international festivals, including Berlinale. Some of his additional works include Antenna (2003), Freesia: Bullet Over Tears (2006), and My Man (2014), winner of Best Feature at the 36th Moscow International Film Festival. 

RIPPLES (TRT: 120 minutes) US Premiere

Screening Wednesday, September 27 (Virtual Q & A on Wednesday, September 27) 

Director: Naoko Ogigami

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Ken Mitsuishi, Hayato Isomura, Akira Emoto, Hana Kino, Midoriko Kimura 

US Distribution: Rights Available 

Yoriko has reached middle age and is at an unenviable crossroads in life. A devotee of the cultish Green Life Water Society (Ryokumei-kai), she spends her days in intense spiritual observance. Unexpectedly, her long-estranged, cancer-riddled ex-husband re-enters her world, and tells her he is dying, upending her prayerful routine. This disruption causes motion sickness-inducing ripple effects, such as financial pressure for his life-saving medical treatments. Additional work and familial demands escalate and carry Yoriko within steps of her personal breaking point — akin to a tsunami and resulting, catastrophic flood. 

About the Director: Following her studies at Chiba University, Naoko Ogigami concentrated on film in graduate school at the University of Southern California (USC). During this period, she worked as an assistant on TV commercials, promos and movies, and also created shorts of her own. Ogigami returned to Japan in January 2000. Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004) is her feature-length film debut. In 2017, she won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival for Close-Knit (2017). Kamome Diner (2006) and Rent-a-Cat (2012) round out her filmography. 

TEA FRIENDS (TRT: 135 minutes) US Premiere
Screening Thursday, September 28 (Virtual Q & A on Thursday, September 28) 

Director: Bunji Sotoyama
Starring: Rei Okamoto, Maki Isonishi, Miu Kainuma, Hiroki Sano, Takeru Suzuki, Kyuichiro Nakayama, Tetsu Watanabe
US Distribution: Rights Available 

Inspired by real events, 20-something Mana leads a group of young adults who open Tea Friends, a groundbreaking escort service for the elderly. The steamy start-up runs classified ads that innocently seek “friends for tea.” Mana then dispatches her mature tea girls to male respondents. Mana eventually recruits an aged shoplifter, the disillusioned Matsuko, who blossoms into one of the most popular sex workers. However, just as the whole enterprise thrives, an incident attracts police attention. The bonds of this non-biological, chosen family of Tea Friends soon prove to be brittle at best. 

About the Director: Born in Fukuoka, Bunji Sotoyama has made a career of highlighting geriatric emotional and physical struggles. His short titled On This Side (2010), a heart- wrenching tale about an old man caring for his disabled wife, won five honors including Best Short Film at Monaco International Film Festival. Sotoyama’s screenplay for his first commercial theatrical release, A Sparkle of Life (2013), garnered the Grand Prize and the Skip City Prize at the 6th Cinema Plot Competition. In 2020, he released his second feature, Soirée, which was a major Japanese hit and Window on Asian Cinema selection of the 25th Busan International Film Festival. 

About the ACA Cinema Project 

The ACA Cinema Project is a new initiative organized as part of the “Japan Film Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project,” an ongoing project founded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (ACA) to create opportunities for the increased exposure, development and appreciation of Japanese cinema overseas through screenings, symposiums and other ongoing events. This year’s ACA Cinema Project introduces a range of Japanese films in the United States, a major center of international film culture, together with local partners, such as the Linwood Dunn Theater and the Japan Society, NY.

Past Events:
1st edition
: 21st Century Japan: Films from 2001 – 2020

2nd edition: Flash Forward: Debut Works and Recent Films by Notable Japanese Directors

3rd edition: New Films from Japan

4th edition: Emerging Japanese Films

5th edition: The Female Gaze: Women Filmmakers from Japan Cuts and Beyond

6th edition: New Films from Japan

 About VIPO/Visual Industry Promotion Organization (

VIPO is a non-profit organization established in 2004 to promote the international competitiveness of the Japanese content industry, including film, broadcasting, animation, manga, games, music, characters, and publishing, and to contribute to the revitalization of the Japanese economy. VIPO organically combines the cooperation of member companies and organizations with the policies and measures of the government, while simultaneously focusing on support for human resource development and overseas expansion and market development. VIPO also provides information and protection of cultural and artistic works, as well as projects in conjunction with overseas partners. 

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