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Rikiya Imaizumi and Ryutaro Ninomiya: closer to real emotions in substantial films



Most narrative films are fictionalized stories derived from the director’s creative imagination. On the other hand, some films are created from directors’ own experiences, which are more substantial and appreciate mundane life.

Fukushima-born director Rikiya Imaizumi and Kanagawa-native director Ryutaro Ninomiya are probably the latter. Celebrating the release of Ninomiya’s latest film, “DREAMING IN BETWEEN,” one of the official selection films of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival’s ACID program, Nimomiya had a chat with Imaizumi on their decade-long relationship and their mutual creative method to stay close to real emotions within only a few meters in daily life.

Ninomiya’s observation that surprises Imaizumi

– Let’s begin with Imaizumi. How did you find Ninomiya’s “DREAMING IN BETWEEN”?

Imaizumi: It was great. His independent film and theatrical debut directorial effort “Sweating the Small Stuff” (2017) starred Ninomiya himself, but like his previous film “Minori, On The Brink” (2019), this film doesn’t feature the man himself. But just by watching the first few minutes of the film, you can already tell that it’s a Ryutaro Ninomiya film. What makes it different from other directors? I can feel the unique atmosphere and tension that only Ninomiya can convey. To be honest, I am jealous of him.

Rikiya Imaizumi
Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1981, Rikiya Imaizumi is a film director. He made his commercial film debut in 2010 with “Tama no Eiga.” Since then, he has released a series of high-profile films, including “Sad Tea” (2014), “Same Old, Same Old” (2017), “Just Only Love” (2019), “Over the Town” (2021), and “By the Window” (2022). His latest film, “Undercurrent,” will be released on October 6, 2023.

– Ninomiya’s acting in Imaizumi’s “Sad Tea” in 2013 was remarkable.

Imaizumi: When was the first time we met?

Ninomiya: It was 2010. That was when I took an acting course at ENBU Seminar. At that time, you were working in the office.

Ryutaro Ninomiya
Ryutaro Ninomiya is a film director, screenwriter, and actor. 2012, his first feature film, “The Charm of Others” won the Runner-up Grand Prix at the 34th Pia Film Festival and was well received at international film festivals. 2017, his second feature film, “Sweating the Small Stuff,” which he directed and starred in, was the only Japanese film selected in the feature film category at the 70th Locarno International Film Festival. In 2019, his third feature film, “Minori, On The Brink” was released. In 2023, his commercial debut film “DREAMING IN BETWEEN” was selected for the ACID (Association for the Promotion of Independent Cinema) at the 76th Cannes International Film Festival.

Imaizumi: I was an office worker at ENBU for three years starting in 2007, and in 2010 my first commercial feature film called “TAMA no Eiga” was released, but I was still working as an office worker. Ninomiya directed a short film called “I Want You to Enjoy It” while I was at ENBU. It was very interesting.

– And that led to “Sad Tea.”

Imaizumi: Ninomiya was an assistant director in the production department for “Sad Tea” initially. The chief assistant director was Wataru Hiranami (a Japanese film director whose representative works include “Amnesiac Love”), and Ninomiya was working under him.

He said that I offered Ninomiya a part in the film at that site. At that time, for some reason the image of “I want Ninomiya to appear in a movie wearing overalls” came to my mind. That scene became a scene that sort of embodied “lonely tea = sad tea. Was that a personal item?

Ninomiya: It was my personal item, but I never wore it once because it was tacky and didn’t fit me well.

Everyone: [Laughs].

Ninomiya: It was a mistake to buy it, but I thought, “I never thought I would wear it in a movie.

Scenes from “DREAMING IN BETWEEN” ©2022 “The Dream That Got Away” Film Partners

Imaizumi: At the time, Ninomiya usually had the air of a “teased character” among his friends. So when I saw “The Charm of Others” (2012), which won the runner-up prize at the PFF Awards, I was horrified.

Ninomiya directed and acted in that film by himself. In that film, Ninomiya plays a character who treats himself as a “teased character,” or rather as a bad clown, while calmly observing the ridiculousness of the men around him. On the surface she is being teased, but in reality she is objectively observing the ecology of the people who tease her, which I found scary.

– “The Charm of Others” was a great comedy that showed Ninomiya’s sharp observation of human beings.

Imaizumi: I’m being thought of this way too!” And. I feel as if Ninomiya was calmly observing me and confronting me.

Ninomiya: No, no, no! Not at all!



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