After studying at the Japan Academy of the Moving Image (full disclosure: I was an instructor there) director Kaze Shindo burst onto the film scene in 2000 with the brilliant and rough-edged Love/Juice. The career of the filmmaker, however, hit a lull as she took care of her eminent grandfather, the legendary director and screenwriter Kaneto Shindo. Her latest film (her third) is a flawed though also somehow charming work which premiered at the last Tokyo International Film Festival. Grade school child Umi (Aoi Ito) lives on the tiny and isolated Okinawan island of Zamami. She is extremely sensitive to sound and anything the slightest bit dissonant gives her splitting headaches, something that leads to her being bullied. Her grandfather, a local folk music treasure, is raising her because mom fled the island to drink in the big city. Umi’s life changes when violinist Yuko (Sakura Ando) decides to take a break from urban life and teach at the school. The two form a bond, helping the child come to terms with her sound issue. Though some of the scenes are either too sugary sweet or contrived, the flick does create an idyllic and appealing atmosphere, especially in the scenes between Umi and Yuko, where both actresses shine.
Japanese title: Shimajima Kaisha. (99 min.)