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Tokyo Talk: Mamoru Hosoda, Hirokazu Koreeda on Channeling the Past

TOKYO — What do you get when you put together an animation maestro and an art-house darling?

On Wednesday, following an evening screening of Mamoru Hosoda’s 2012 hit animation “Wolf Children” at the Tokyo Film Festival, Hosoda and fellow director Hirokazu Koreeda took to the stage for a free-ranging discussion. They covered their themes, inspirations and filmmaking philosophies.

The event was a full-house crowd at Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills Screen 7.

Koreeda noted that they had already held a similar talk event at Tokyo’s Waseda University revolving around the theme of family – and focusing on fathers and sons, especially the absence of the former in the lives of the latter. This is also a theme of “Wolf Children,” in which a single mother raises her half-human, half-wolf son and daughter after their werewolf dad dies an early death, and of Koreeda’s new drama “After the Storm,” whose addicted gambler hero longs to establish a relationship with his son following his divorce from the boy’s mother.

The film, said Koreeda, expressed his own relationship with his own often-absent dad. “I couldn’t understand him to the end,” added Koreeda, “And as a father I don’t think he understood me.”

Hosoda also confessed that “I never had the opportunity to have a drink or a meal just with my father — he was hardly ever at home and as a father his existence was ambiguous.”  At the same, both directors said that though often absent in the flesh, their fathers loomed large in their minds – and later in their films, if not as anything resembling role models.

Hosoda, whose work is being honored with a special section at TIFF, admitted that “I was crazy to take up such a personal theme” in a work of commercial animation, “but I just wanted to do it – I’m not sure why.”

With “Wolf Children,” which was based on Hosoda’s own original story, he also wanted to express his feelings toward his mother, who died while he was working on his 2009 hit “Summer Wars.” “I wanted to apologize to her through the movie,” Hosoda said.

Koreeda also said that basing “After the Storm” on elements of his own past “made me nervous.” “I didn’t want to put my own life directly into my movies,” he explained. “In making movies you should change everything (personal) into something else.” But he ended up filming in the same danchi (public housing complex) where he once lived with his family. “I didn’t want to do it,” he said, ”But it was the only danchi that gave us permission to shoot.”

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