International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021
Shinji Higuchi, Moeka Hoshi, Non, Takumi Saito, So Takei
Rockwell Eyes Inc.
Like so many actors, Sato (Takumi Saitoh, playing a version of himself) is out of work due to COVID-19. He sits at home, and wonders what to do. Until tokusatsu director and kaiju expert Shinji Higuchi (of ATTACK ON TITAN and SHIN GODZILLA) suggest he buy capsule monsters online – to defeat the virus! Thus begins a bizarre series of videos in which the unemployed actor raises little play-putty monsters, which take on increasingly familiar, yet alien names. He is not alone: Youtube stardom forms around the phenomenon and soon his colleague Non (JELLYFISH PRINCESS, this year’s HOLD ME BACK) even starts fostering an alien! But as isolation blues kicks in in earnest and popular fictions blend with reality, one rightfully asks: What is going here?
As film productions shut down across Japan due to the outbreak of COVID-19, filmmakers such as Shunji Iwai (the maestro behind such films as ALL ABOUT LILLY CHOU-CHOU, SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY and A BRIDE FOR RIP VAN WINKLE) turned to the online lingua franca of these pandemic time for innovative solutions. Inspired by Higuchi’s viral video titled “Kaiju defeats COVID”, Iwai takes the idea and expands it through his usual melancholic lens and pointed outlook on online subcultures and communication. Positing a world where the events of Japanese tokusatsu (ULTRAMAN, GODZILLA) are a lived history now supplanted by no-stranger viruses, 12 DAY TALE embraces the limitations of shooting on Zoom to craft an ambitious slice of pandemic life – where fact and fiction bend and inner worlds become reality. – Ariel Esteban Cayer