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KAOJIKARA
[Strength of Faces]

Genre: Metaphorical Exploration into Cultural Alienation

review in one breath

A young japanese woman's decision to live abroad takes a terrifying turn for the worse when she wakes up within a world filled with hostile people whose faces are transformed beyond recognition. Issues of cultural alienation and the simultaneous loss and preservation of identity are explored in this short international film. This is an small independent, almost underground production which nevertheless carries a very clear and effective visual message. You can see this film (legally!) in its entirety online, and I encourage you to do so.


intro

KAOJIKARA is a short (13 minute) independent film currently available only on French releases of the Nightmare Detective DVD and online at the KAOJIKARA website.

The film is the "mainstream" directorial debut of Eric Dinkian, editor in French television and film and regular journalistic contributor to Devildead.com (specializing in genre films) and Mad Asia Magazine (specializing in Asian cinema). Director Dinkian also brings to the table extensive directorial experience in French rock videos, a skill and intuition which plays a very effective forefront in KAOJIKARA.

The film's dialogue is entirely in Japanese and is told from the perspective of a young Japanese woman who has migrated to France. This lead role is played by Karin Shibata, a professional singer well-established in France and aspiring actress who has appeared in several other short films.

In KAOJIKARA, both Dinkian and Shibata clearly display the skill and potential to break out of the localized French audience and onto a wider audience. Their current obstacle is simply one of exposure, which they hope to breach by allowing international viewers to see their film in its entirety online (via the KAOJIKARA site)

plot

Despite her mother's warnings that she would "never fit in". a young Japanese woman pursues her dream of migrating to France to begin a new and adventurous life. After migrating, settling in and slowly establishing herself there, even to the point of finding a boyfriend, she wakes one morning to find her entire world horribly transformed.

The faces of those both close and anonymous to her are now terrifyingly repulsive and their behavior inexplicably changed toward violence. She fights, flees and remorsefully recollects her mother's initial warnings. But despite her efforts there is no respite from the deluge of monstrous intrusion.

verdict

I do not know to what degree or length director Dinkian has personally experienced/endured "time abroad" but this short film truly hits the nail on the head.

I confess I am partially tainted on this matter. I moved/migrated to Japan for two years. Prior to that move I studied, prepared and did everything I thought I could do. After about six months in Japan, the "honeymoon" expired and I truly started wrestling with my (existential) role in a world of souls who forever consider me an outsider simply due to my appearance. KAOJIKARA metaphorically explodes both visually and audially this rather fundamental experience of anyone living abroad for a prolonged period of time.

Just watch this. Its available at the KAOJIKARA site.

Version reviewed: Online version (with English subtitles)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Brief though it may be, here's a poignant metaphoric depiction of the implicit horrors of total cultural assimilation. Some minimal brain-bashing and extended life-or-death scenarios. Intermittent ecstatic grinding of a a faceless babe on top. This wholly and effectually captures, metaphorically, the rather universal east-west crises experienced by any/all modern immigrants.

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