Writer, director and producer Toru Tokikawa’s film is the story of how a Canadian craftsman and an American designer collaborate across the world to revive the ancient Japanese woodcut (Ukiyo-e) using pop-culture icons from video game characters and franchises like Super Mario and Pokémon, just to name two.
Canadian woodblock printmaker David Bull, sacrificed everything by moving with his family to Japan in the 1980s to learn the traditional art of Japanese woodcut, Ukiyo-e. Thirty years later, Bull is now one of the leading artists of this craft in Japan. Across the pond is Jed Henry, an American designer and illustrator. Henry contacted Daniel directly to aks if he’d like to collaborate on an idea he’d developed; the Ukiyo-e Heroes line. The duo was officially formed and the Ukiyo-e Heroes line went into production thanks to a successful KickStarter campaign in 2012.
From the film it is evident the prints are visually amazing; the artistry of both men and passion for the art comes across in the prints. The footage of Bull at work is a treat. Ukiyo-e Heroes, the film, remind us that these ancient yet beautiful art techniques are worth preserving. Whether you are a fan of video games, comics, or someone who appreciates real artistry, this film will not disappoint.
Screens: May 2nd and May 4th.
Koki Shigeno‘s film, part of Hot Docs’ Made In Japan series, follows Osamu Tomita, King of Ramen and a self-described “ramen head.”
Most of the film revolves around Tomita – Shigeno mixes interviews with Tomita, his apprentices, and family to give us a somewhat rounded picture of Tomita the Ramen King. It is clear ramen is always on Tomita’s mind — he even goes to other ramen restaurants on his days off. The restaurant draws people from all over Japan and abroad; the clientele is very loyal.
Shigeno then shifts the rhythm a bit by introducing us to the history of ramen in Japan. Through animations we learn the dish is an evolution of a noodle dish brought over from Japan. There is also a discussion about the different types of ramen: Shio, Shoyu, Miso, and Tonkotsu. This discussion about the evolution of ramen, although not necessary, fills some of the gaps in the film.
Ramen Heads introduces us to Osamu Tomita, who has all the makings for a very successful chef. He is keenly aware of how to work with rich ingredients to make a perfect bowl of ramen. It is an enjoyable film, but not on an empty stomach.
Screens: May 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.
*Part of this review also appeared in In The Seats.