8000 Miles @ Nouveau Cinema

The Nouveau Cinema Film Festival recently presented the first North American screening of the Japanese feature film "8000 Miles." Written and directed by Yu Irie, the story follows the lives of a group of young guys from a small suburb called Fukuyama, who dream of becoming successful hip hop artists. For starters, they are total slackers, and it doesn't really help that they are not exactly talented either. While eagerly trying to imitate American hip hop artists, you can bet that laughs will surely follow.

Ikku (Shoukai Komakine) is what is referred to as a NEET (not engaged in employment, education or training). He has high hopes of becoming a famous rap artist someday. His friends Tom (Shingo Mizusawa) and Mighty (Shoukai Komakine) are also hopeful and join Ikku in recording tracks in their studio. But in the meantime, they still have to make a living so Tom continues to work in strip joint and Mighty tends to his family's broccoli farm.

Things get a bit more complicated when Ikku's former classmate Chinatsu (Mihiro) crosses paths with him after she returns from Tokyo where she worked as an adult video actress. It is obvious that he still has feelings for her but every time they meet after that, she makes fun of him and eventually Ikku begins losing confidence, especially after some so-called friends insult him. He then decides to get a job in a restaurant but his passion for hip hop music won't leave him so easily.

Yu Irie took a big risk presenting a topic like this in Japan, where education and having a good job are high priorities. Also the Japanese hip hop community is fairly small compared to the North American one. He was pleased to have won prizes in a Tokyo festival and in South Korea. In turn, his film has gained popularity and is now considered one of the most successful Japanese films of 2009.

Personally, I thought the film was an interesting insight into another culture and an opportunity to hear about Japanese hip hop (which was a first for me). Keeping in mind that the film was pretty much a no budget project, Irie managed well with what he had to work with. While the acting was hit and miss at times and a couple of scenes were a bit slow storywise, there were some highlights as well. The group of guys performing at a meeting with older folks in an effort to create a better understanding between the two generations was quite amusing. The rap battle scene with Ikku and his friend Tom in the restaurant was also fun. While the film is comedic, it also has some emotional moments where you can't help but feel bad for the main characters to the point where you just kind of hope that they will succeed just so they can prove everyone wrong.

*Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with the director in the "Plus" section.

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