Opening 30 Aug 2007
Writing credits: Moyoco Anno, Yuki Tanada
Principal actors: Anna Tsuchiya, Kippei Shiina, Yoshino Kimura, Hiroki Narimiya, Miho Kanno
Sakuran is a colorful first-time feature film endeavor sporting five of Japan’s most talented artists: Moyoco Anno (manga artist), Yuki Tanada (screenwriter), Mika Ninagawa (professional photographer/director), Tingo Shena (musician) and Anna Tsuchiya (rockstar/actress). The narrative is an adaptation based on the manga Sakuran from Moyoco Anno. A manga is the Japanese word for animation or comic, and it pertains to a certain style of art direction that is recognizable in many Asian cartoons. These daring women have made a pact to produce a product “their” way to avoid the trappings associated with Asian traditional filmmaking. Ironically, this is the attitude of survival of the film’s main character, Kiyoha/Higurashi (Anna Tscuchiya), after being sold into a life of prostitution.
In the 1720s, on an isolated, sixteen-acre piece of land was one brothel after another, altogether known as the Yoshiwara Edo, or the “Great Gate” of Edo. It attracted a wide range of male and female travelers due to the variety of entertainment. It was a modern red-light district because the existing Shogunate government respected the sport similar to that of a licensed gambling casino. The pleasure quarter functioned like an isolated city, therefore, making it easy for human trafficking to occur, as well as purchasing of exotic material goods. Children were often sold into prostitution at the Edo but, ironically, given a proper upbringing and schooled in many normal tasks. At the age of eight, they learned other trades just in case a rich man should buy them their freedom. The term Orian described the highest category of courtesans in the Yoshiwara Edos.
To achieve this honor, the Orian could not count on her beauty alone but she needed to be accomplished in dance, music, chess, flower arranging and tea ceremonies. The Orian was both admired and envied by the inhabitants of Edo. There was a great deal of power connected with her placement. The position was also the only open door through which Kiyoha, a unique, nameless girl of the night, could visualize a change in her destiny. (Karen Pecota)