Directed by Ken Ochiai
Best Film, 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival
Audience Award, 2014 New York Asian Film Festival
Uzumasa Studios: a “Hollywood East” home to beloved films and TV serials, and site of countless on-screen sword-fighting sequences. These were the stomping grounds of specialized extras known as kirareyaku, whose main purpose was to die on screen. During the golden age of samurai films, there was plenty of death-work to go around. But as the demand for historical Japanese films began to wane, the extras had to find work elsewhere.
In UZUMASA LIMELIGHT, we follow the journey of veteran extra Kamiyama, played by real-life kirareyaku Seizo Fukumoto who has reportedly died 50,000 times in a career that has spanned half a century. From the opening scenes, we’re introduced to an actor of honor and integrity, a rare professional in an industry increasingly inundated with pretty boys and pop stars. His work catches the eye of Satsuki (newcomer Chichiro Yamamoto), who requests that he mentor her into becoming as good a screen fighter as he.
From a story loosely adapted from Charles Chaplin’s Limelight, director Ken Ochiai captures the Japanese film industry in transition and makes it compelling by mixing fact and fiction in the spectacular body of Seizo Fukumoto in his first lead role. To see him die onscreen is a wonder. To see him breathe new life in younger co-stars is to become awestruck and rejuvenated by the magic of screen acting. –Eric Lallana
Cast: Seizo Fukumoto, Chichiro Yamamoto, Masashi Goda