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‘A Girl Named Ann’: Director Yu Irie and Yuki Takahashi Discuss the Challenges and Resolve in Portraying Tragic Events



May 2020. Amid a society stifled by the pandemic, with connections and support systems severed, a woman passed away.

Inspired by a newspaper article the producer read, and resonating deeply with the emotions it evoked, director Yu Irie created the film “The Story of Ann,” based on the life of a real woman.

The film addresses the tendency to demand “personal responsibility” for problems too overwhelming for individuals to handle, how the vulnerable are more affected by inadequate systems, and the hollow “hope” presented amid the struggles of many. ‘A Girl Named Ann’ explores these societal distortions and human complexities against the backdrop of the pandemic, focusing on the life of a woman named An Kagawa (played by Yuumi Kawai).

In this discussion, director Yu Irie and writer Yuki Takahashi, who had interviewed the former detective that inspired the character Tatara (Jiro Sato) – a man who created a support group for drug rehabilitation but also committed sexual offenses against its participants – share their perspectives. They reflect on the film, blending fiction and non-fiction, and discuss their experiences and insights from their respective roles as creators.

Director Irie’s First True Story Adaptation: Honoring the Lives Behind the Tale

-How did you two get to know each other?

Irie When I was trying to write the script for ‘A Girl Named Ann,’ I had a chance to talk to Mr. Takahashi.

Takahashi: After the woman who was the model for An (Kawai Yumi) passed away, there was an article about her in the newspaper. In the article, there was also mention of a former detective who had supported her, the same Tatara (Jiro Sato) from the movie. A web media outlet asked me if I would be interested in interviewing the former detective. When I requested an interview, he readily agreed and we were able to conduct the interview without delay, but then he was arrested*.

*While serving at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, he was arrested and charged with assault and abuse of authority as a special public officer for actions including photographing a woman in her underwear who had come to seek his advice.

Takahashi: I went to see the trial and wrote an article about what happened, and I was contacted through the film company, saying that they wanted to talk to me. They wanted to know about the woman, and I thought that I would not be able to live up to their expectations, since I was the former detective they were investigating. Besides, in the past, when TV or other staff members wanted to talk to me about a certain case, sometimes someone who didn’t know much at all would come in and I would have to explain everything from scratch. Of course, not all of them were like that, but when I first met them, I was nervous because of the uneasy aspect, sorry [laughs].

Yuki Takahashi
Non-fiction writer. In 2005, she founded the women’s court-watching group “Kasumikko Club.” The following year, she published a book based on the blog of the same name. Since then, she has been active as a court-watching writer, focusing on writing articles about court cases and incidents.

Irie: That’s fine [laughs].

Takahashi: It’s not often that directors and other upper-level people come to such occasions, but I was very surprised that the director was there as well. But I didn’t feel like I was able to meet their expectations, so I was concerned.

Irie: Not al all. I myself have not met the former detective who was arrested, so when I heard your impression of him, I felt I had some idea of what kind of person he was.

Yu Irie
Film director and screenwriter. Graduated from the Film Department, Directing Course at Nihon University College of Art in 2003. In 2009, his independently produced film ‘8000 Miles’ garnered significant attention. Subsequently, he won the Emerging Director Award at the Takasaki Film Festival in 2011 for ‘Ringing in Their Ears.’ In 2019, he received the Best Screenplay Award from the Japan Film Critics Awards for ‘AI Amok.’ His latest film, ‘A Girl Named Ann’ will be released on June 7, 2024.

Takahashi: I see. Good. to hear.

Irie: For me, this is the first film based on a true story. I realized while I was writing the script that this was a big responsibility. The process of digging up what actually happened and creating a work of art is quite similar to the work that nonfiction writers like you do.

I was reading “Tsukebi no Mura” (2019, Shobunsha) written by Takahashi. In nonfiction, you don’t know whether or not a story will turn into a work of art even after you’ve covered it. I was interested in people who do that kind of work, so I wanted to meet Mr. Takahashi. I wondered what kind of person would be able to conduct in-depth interviews like that, but he was very kind (laughs).

“The Village of Tsubeki” (written by Yuki Takahashi / 2019 / Shobunsha)
Synopsis: In the summer of 2013, five villagers were murdered overnight in a small Yamaguchi Prefecture settlement with only 12 residents. A haiku posted at the perpetrator’s house stirred the public as a “murder notice,” but it turned out to be nothing more than “gossip.” The book meticulously investigates and verifies the rumors spread by the internet and the media.

-How did you see this film, Takahashi?

Takahashi: I think there are many parts of the life of the person who was the model for Anzu that we have to make up for in our imagination, but this time, the director created the world in his own image, and I was satisfied with the fictional part of the film and watched it with great interest.

Trailer for the film ‘A Girl Named Ann’
Synopsis: Twenty-one-year-old An is forced into prostitution by her mother since she was a teenager and leads a harsh life. One day, when she is interrogated on suspicion of using methamphetamine, she meets a detective named Tatara.

She gradually opens her heart to Tatara, who supports her rehabilitation from drug addiction, helps her find a job, and accepts her as she is. Kirino, a reporter for a weekly magazine, gets a leak that Tadara is privatizing a self-help group for drug addicts and forcing female participants into relationships. Just then, a new type of coronavirus was raging. Anzu finally loses her place of residence and connections with others.

Irie: The person who was the model for Anzu has passed away, so we cannot physically meet her and answer her questions. I had to supplement that with my imagination, but I had a responsibility to the person who served as the model, so I created the story while thinking that there should be no disrespect in my imagination.

Takahashi: With fictional characters, you have more freedom in this respect.

Irie: If there is a flaw in the portrayal of a character, you can take responsibility for it if it is a character you created. That’s the difference this time.



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