In 2015 Ten Years, a dystopian omnibus film by five young Hong Kong directors, became an indie hit. Envisioning the dire state of Hong Kong in ten years’ time, the film enraged Chinese authorities – and inspired Ten Years versions in Taiwan, Thailand and Japan.
Supervised by Kore-eda Hirokazu, director of Cannes Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, Ten Years Japan also features five young directors and five versions of Japan’s near future. Also, similar to its model, those versions are more chillingly possible than thrillingly fantastic. They also are all sharp and to the point, if different in style. Unusual for an omnibus film, the quality level is consistently high.
The first segment is Hayakawa Chie’s Plan 75, which begin with a young bureaucrat (Kawaguchi Satoru) patiently explains a government euthanasia program to its intended targets: low-income and disabled seniors aged 75 deemed disposable. Then his stressed pregnant wife (Yamada Kinuo) suggests her dementia-afflicted mother for “Plan 75.”
Though its ironies are obvious, the segment suggests a likely “Japanese way” of killing off the elderly, with kind gestures, soothing words – and subtle pressure to conform. The old folks march obediently to their ends.
In Kinoshita Yusuke’s Mischievous Alliance a pilot program inculcates approved moral values in kids by wiring their brains to an AI system that monitors their every word and action. But one rebellious boy, with the aid of two classmates, releases an ailing horse from his stable. When he trots into the nearby woods they give chase as an elderly caretaker (Kunimura Jun) cheers them on.
Told with touches of humor, this segment offers hope that kids will keep being kids, even with a “moral advisor” implanted in their heads. But as we reminded, defective systems can always be upgraded.
In Tsuno Megumi’s Data a teenaged girl (Sugisaki Hana) living with her kindly widowed father (Tanaka Tetsushi) accesses a “digital inheritance” program – and learns of a disturbing episode in her dead mother’s past. More a sensitive, perceptive family drama than a doom-laden sci-fi, it nonetheless reaffirms a truth that, a decade on, can only become truer: In our brave new digital world, your past is both omnipresent and permanent.
In Fujimura Akiyo’s The Air We Can’t See humanity has driven underground by nuclear disaster. A young girl, Mizuki, falls under the spell of her friend Kaede, who speaks enticingly of the “world above” where the sun shines and skies are blue – both wonders Mizuki has never seen. Despite the cautions of her worried mother (Ikewaki Chizuru) she goes exploring. Told entirely from Mizuki’s viewpoint, this segment expresses her childish fears, desires and wonder with lyricism and power.
Last is Ishikawa Kei’s For Our Beautiful Country, in which a young ad agency flack (Taiga) is sent to tell a distinguished artist (Kino Hana) that her design for a new Defense Ministry recruiting poster has been scrapped. Set in a Japan that again drafts its youth to fight in foreign wars, this segment is the most overtly political – and blackly comic. Kino is charming as an unconventional type who likes VR shooting games – and poignant as the daughter of a dead war veteran.
But ten years from now, how many here will still know or care about that war, especially if a Plan 75 erases the national memory in the name of the common good?