Japanese writer-director Ogigami Naoko has a track record of creating sensitive, emotionally-healing dramas that are serious enough to grab festival attention, but which are spirited enough to also achieve commercial releases.
Her next project, “Blind Forest,” being pitched at the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), is unlikely to stray far from that track.
Many of the director’s previous works (“Glasses” “Close Knit” “Yoshino’s Barber Shop”) involve the culture-clashing arrival of a stranger and their route to eventual accommodation.
The story in “Blind Forest” focuses on women in an institution (no prizes for guessing what kind) who are busily working on creating Braille texts for blind readers. While most Braille books these days are printed by special machines, the women are doing it the labor-intensive, old-fashioned way, with a needle. When a younger blind woman joins the team she reveals her special ability to see into the past. The unseeing newcomer discerns that the residents have all committed murder, and eventually comes to understand their motivations.
“In the novel ‘A Manual for Cleaning Women’ by Lucia Berlin, there was a description of a blind old lady reading a Braille newspaper on the bus. That image stuck with me and I decided to start writing a story about women and Braille,” Ogigami tells Variety explaining the origin of the fictional narrative.
“Braille is only used by a small minority of people, yet translating into Braille is a painstaking process done by volunteers. It is (an act of) ‘love.’ I created this story to depict the manual process of creating Braille text as a form of salvation for the former criminals, of healing for their past wounds.”
“When I write a story, I always think about the main character’s solitude. I think that has always been the theme of my films,” she says.
Ogigami says that Japan has much to reflect on. “It has been ten years since we had big earthquake and Tsunami. Year by year, as I get older, I cannot stop thinking about death. I would like to try to make this new film about women who are deep in grief,” Ogigami says.
Getting it on screen is expected to cost $1.25 million, according to HAF. “I hope I can find enough funds, make the film, take it to film festivals and distribute it all over the world,” Ogigami says. Some $20,000 of that total is already in place and she can count on the backing of Fuji Creative a group company of FujiTV as her producer.