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A small town in Aomori prefecture, in the north of Japan. The birthplace of tsugaru-shamisen, the most recognized genre of shamisen music and the traditional instrument itself. It is also the birthplace of Ito, an introverted local girl who speaks with a heavy local accent. Ito’s life – just like many other women in the town – is inextricably connected with music. Both her mother and grandmother were nationally famous for their musical virtuosity. But Ito doesn’t share their passion for the shamisen. She knows how to play, sure, but she never made the shamisen play the sound of her own soul, never established her own, unique relationship with music. She is scared of performing, her shyness and heavy accent hinder her communication with the audience. Instead of following the path set out for her by her family, Ito decides to work in a maid café in Aomori city where she meets an array of people even more eccentric than herself and equally anxious in the face of life’s most important choices.
Satoko Yokohama depicts her own birthplace with both ironic distance and empathy for those who are different, showing a place of many contradictions. On the one hand, it is the birthplace of tradition and a kaleidoscope of local color, but on the other, it is also a small town which young people flee as soon as they can. Yokohama paints a portrait of Ito as an explorer, guiding us in the discovery of the less obvious aspects of Japanese culture. She shatters the stereotype of maid cafés – places where a predominantly male clientele is served by young girls cosplaying cute characters in Lolita-type fashion. She crafts a complex depiction of a protagonist navigating between two extremes – the matriarchal world of her musical duties and the patriarchal culture of the maid café – and fighting to chart her own path and find her own voice between them.
Born in 1978 in Aomori prefecture. Japanese director and screenwriter. Worked in an office before moving on to study at the Film School of Tokyo. Author of several shorts, features and television programmes. In 2021, Ito was awarded the Grand Prix and the Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival, and this year, the festival featured Satoko Yokohama as their Director in Focus. At the industry events accompanying the Cannes Film Festival, she was one of the promoted new talents from Japan. In Ito, Yokohama depicts Aomori prefecture, where she was born. The movie is based on the bestselling novel Itomichi by Osamu Koshigaya, also set in Aomori.
2007 German + Rain / Jāman to Ame
2009 Bare Essence of Life / Urutora mirakuru rabu sutôrî
2015 The Actor / Haiyū Kameoka Takuji
2021 Ito / Itomichi