×

Tokyo: ‘Sayonara’ Filmmakers Debate Future of Robot Actors

Are the days of flesh-and-blood actors numbered? Audiences at Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) now have a chance to answer the question for themselves.

Festival-goers were this weekend treated to what makers claimed is the first movie to feature an android performing opposite a human actor.

Koji Fukada’s “Sayonara,” which had its world premiere Saturday as part of TIFF’s competition section, showcases the thespian talents of Geminoid-F, an eerily lifelike female android created by roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro.

The film is adapted from a short play by Oriza Hirata, first staged in 2010 by Hirata’s Seinendan Theater Company. Japanese-speaking actress Bryerly Long, who starred opposite Geminoid-F in the original stage production, reprises the role in the movie.

“In some ways, this is a new form of puppet theater,” Long said at a TIFF press conference, as her android co-star sat quietly to one side.

Ishiguro – who also has an android copy of himself, named Geminoid HI-2 – sounded more bullish. “I think a robot can express more than human beings sometimes,” he said.

Fukada is by now a familiar face to TIFF audiences. His sophomore feature, “Hospitalité”, won the best picture award in the festival’s Japanese Eyes section in 2010. Follow-up “Au Revoir l’été” screened in competition in 2013.

The director, who is also a member of Seinendan, adapted Hirata’s 15-minute play into a full-length feature. He chose to make Long’s character a South African refugee living in an irradiated near-future Japan, where explosions at the country’s nuclear power plants have forced a nationwide evacuation.

The topic of nuclear power is still highly controversial in post-Fukushima Japan, though Fukada insisted that he wasn’t taking sides.

“It’s not an anti-nuclear film,” he said. “But I think people who are pro-nuclear should watch this film and think about it.”

“Sayonara” goes on general release in Japan on Nov. 21. Hirofumi Arai (“100 Yen Love”) and Seinendan’s Makiko Murata also star. The film was produced by Phantom Film. World sales are handled by ColorBird.

More Film

  • Knuckle City

    Jahmil X.T. Qubeka on Durban Opening-Night Film ‘Knuckle City’

    DURBAN–Dudu Nyakama is an aging boxer whose best fighting days are behind him. But for a man whose only glory has come in the ring, a big prize fight offers the one shot at saving his family, dragging him into the criminal underbelly of the gritty township he’s spent his whole life trying to escape. [...]

  • Venice Opener

    Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 'The Truth' to Open Venice Film Festival

    Palme d’Or-winning director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s hotly anticipated new film, “The Truth,” starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke, will open the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival. “The Truth,” which marks the director’s first work set outside his native Japan, will screen on Aug. 28 in competition. Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at [...]

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    More Than 20 Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    UPDATED: More than 20 people are feared to have died Thursday in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time Thursday reporting an explosion on the first floor of the [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content