‘The Asadas,’ Shows How A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

‘The Asadas,’ Shows How A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

©2020 “Asadas” Production Committee

The ACA Cinema Project Japan dedicates a spotlight to director Ryōta Nakano, who has spent his career keenly capturing the intricate feelings of families who are facing adversity. His latest picture, The Asadas, centres on the power of love within a household and is presented along with his two previous works, A Long Goodbye and Her Love Boils Bathwater

The Asadas is inspired by real-life photographer Masashi Asada, and director Ryōta manages to instill both drama and comedy in his cinematic storytelling. Masashi (Kazunari Ninomiya) is an energetic dreamer who discovers photography quite soon in his life. His father Akira (Mitsuru Hirata), mother Junko (Jun Fubuki) and older brother Yukihiro (Satoshi Tsumabuki ) have always been there to support his calling and professional path. His work initially revolves around taking staged photos of his family, depicting an ideal world where they have different experiences: from hospital patients to firefighters, from gangsters to car racers, from competitive eaters to superheroes. One could almost see it as the whimsical, Nipponic version of Cindy Sherman’s photography.

©2020 “Asadas” Production Committee

This playful photo-album leads Masashi to publish the book called ‘The Asadas’. All those who love him are cheering for him. Even his longtime girlfriend Wakana (Haru Kuroki), will be crucial for the fledgeling photographer when he tries to establish himself in Tokyo. Gradually Masashi starts getting requests from average families for him to take photos of them, such as ‘The Takaharas,’ ‘The Sakuras,’ ‘The Yoshidas,’ ‘The Matsumotos.’ But it is during the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake that Masashi’s photographic skills find a different objective. He embarks on a mission with a new friend — Yōsuke Ono (Masaki Suda) — with whom Masashi finds a socially relevant purpose to his photography.

The Asadas was completed in 2020, and it claimed that the real life Photo Recovery Group was still at work. In 2019 alone it recovered eight thousand photos and returned sixty thousand to its owners. Eventually the project also published the book-album no chikara.

©2020 “Asadas” Production Committee

The filmic narrative unfolds almost like a video album, where we first encounter The Asadas when Masashi is 10 years old. We follow their adventures through the photographer’s life journey, all the way to his twenties. The Asadas are a tight knit family and it is particularly emblematic what Yukihiro tells his younger sibling: “Parents share the joys and sadness of their sons.

The film shakes up familial archetypes, and it comes across as even more effective considering Japan has a very traditional culture. Mrs. Asada is the breadwinner, who relentlessly works as a nurse, while Mr. Asada is the stay-at-home dad who cooks for everyone and acts as caregiver. Even Wakana, Masashi’s girlfriend, shows great empowerment, since for years she will be the financial and psychological support of Masashi in the Japanese capital.

The Asadas was part of the official selection for the Warsaw Film Festival (where it won the Nippon Rising Star Award) and the 26th Busan International Film Festival. The moral of the motion picture by Ryōta Nakano is condensed in its conclusive reflection: “Only memories can fill the gap of what we have lost. And photography can make those memories tangible. Sometimes photos also give us the strength to live on.

Final Grade: B+

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