In an age of ever-increasing technology, art has been showing an increasing anxiety at these increasingly rapid developments towards "Terminator 2: Judgement Day". Armando Iannucci lampooned it with "Time Trumpet"; In 2015, five young directors from Hong Kong were tasked with expressing anxieties at the changing political climate in Hong Kong post-hand-over to China. Set ten (count them) years in the future, "Ten Years" featured five short films showing possible futures for the people of Hong Kong as China's influence increases.
Three years later, the producers of "Ten Years" have moved towards other Asian countries, with a trilogy of "Ten Years Thailand", "Ten Years Taiwan" and "Ten Years Japan". The latter (the one I watched), executive produced by respected film man Kore-eda Hirokazu, is made in the same vein, looking at themes that are universal, but are specific to Japan at the same time.
The first, fourth and fifth films are more specific to current Japanese anxieties:
"Plan 75" (directed by Chie Hayakawa) is a gentle pace-setter, looking at concerns of Japan's ageing population. The problem no secret to the world, the "Plan 75" scheme is a government-sanctioned euthanasia programme to offer a happy solution for all. But when the scheme is taken up by a young employee of the scheme's mother-in-law, his pregnant wife is less than happy; and the reaction of a young man as he sets up a stall at a train station show that this solution is full with difficulties in an increasingly less-human political landscape.
"The Air We Can't See" (directed by Akiyo Fujimura) is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, as humanity is forced to live in underground bunkers, following a nuclear meltdown. Young Mizuki wants nothing more than to see beyond the concrete walls that surround her world, while her mother wants to keep her in a secure bubble. But while recent tragedy make this a very real concern, futures where nature is taken away from humans is one done many times before, making this a little bland, like the walls surrounding Mizuki's days.
The final short, "For Our Beautiful Country" (directed by Kei Ishikawa) has the return of Japanese militarism at heart, and is one of the stronger pieces on display. A poster for recruitment for the war effort is deemed too old fashioned by the Ministry of Defence, and a young advertising exec is sent to the house of the ageing designer to tell her the bad news. But instead of an awkward conversation, he is treated to food and video games with a playful old lady and daughter of a war veteran. She is well aware of why he has come and it was her intention all along the make her design unappealing to the young. War is not something she wants advertised.
The second and third segments are more universal themes."Mischievous Alliance" (directed by Yusuke Kinoshita) is straight out of "Black Mirror": school children signed up to a scheme where they wear a headset that tracks their movements and behaviour. Big Brother surveillance surrounding the grounds, the children's behaviour is constantly monitored and messages designed to shape their future careers are pumped into their minds at all times. The imminent death of the school horse prompts one boy to rebel against it and its consequences. A clear dig at Japanese school systems, this is perhaps one school day not to be too fondly remembered.
"Data" (directed by Megumi Tsuno) again has "Black Mirror" at heart. A young girl whose mother has died starts to get anxious as to the mother she never knew when her father wants her to meet the new woman in his life. A data passport allows you to "inherit" the social media data of the owner. As such, she opens up a can of worms, seeing words and images without context. Discovering things she wished she probably hadn't, she begins to question her own life and situation. Her father, seemingly well prepared for this, helps her see that real relationships are better than virtual ones.
As with the original "Ten Years", it's a little bumpy, though the quality is perhaps more consistent overall - the Hong Kong original switching between strong works to the down-right bizarre. But made on a budget with novice filmmakers, this is to be expected. Also, with only an average of around twenty minutes, ideas cannot be fully explored and formed, making the more simple ideas, such as "Data", work more effectively at getting their point across.
One thing that is noticeable with "Ten Years Japan", however, is that while the Hong Kong original was borne out of genuine political concerns, the Japanese version feels much more like an extension of a successful idea. As such, the five stories feel more like pilot ideas for "Black Mirror" rather than genuine political statements about the way the world is turning. The ideas are at times clever, but never cut too deep - as previously stated, feeling quite universal as opposed to the more specific concerns affecting Hong Kong. Technology is more a feature of anxieties here, as well as the demands of an ageing population and increasing nationalist sentiment. Though these are themes that are hardly specific to Japan alone.
But while not perfect, "Ten Years Japan" has enough good ideas and filmmaking on display to get you thinking. It's just that the thoughts here might be ones you've already had.