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Yasukawa Yuka Continues Exploration of Women’s Societal Issues in Tokyo Festival’s ‘Nighthawk’

The Nighthawk’s First Love
The Nighthawk’s First Love Film Partners

Yasukawa Yuka is one of two Japanese directors with films in the Asian Future section for up-and-coming Asian filmmakers. Her romantic drama “The Nighthawk’s First Love,” is based on Naoki Prize-winner Shimamoto Rio’s 2013 novel about a college student with a facial birthmark that made her a target of bullying as a child and sapped her confidence as a woman. Then a book partly based her life becomes a movie – and she falls for its director, but her feelings are not reciprocated.

“I was fascinated by the charm of the heroine, Aiko, who wants to affirm herself, despite her birthmark, in a society with distorted beauty values,” Yasukawa said in a statement. “By the time I finished reading the book, I strongly felt that I didn’t want it to fall into the hands of another director.”

Her lead is Matsui Rena, an in-demand TV and film actress who also starred in Yasukawa’s segment of 2019 anthology film “21st Century Girl.” “Matsui-san, who was eager to play this role, was a rock who carried the entire film,” Yakukawa said. “When I visited her in the dressing room to discuss a scene, I could see her reading the novel, filled with sticky notes in the pages. Her determination and enthusiasm to fulfill her dream of playing the film’s main character inspired me many times.”

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Yasukawa Yuka, director of “The Nighthawk’s First Love”. Courtesy of Tokyo IFF

Born in Nara Prefecture in 1986, Yasukawa made her feature debut in 2012 with the indie drama “Dressing Up.” The film premiered at the 2012 Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) and was awarded the Grand Prize at the 2013 Tama New Wave festival. Released nationwide in 2015, it earned Yasukawa the prize for best new director at the 25th Japanese Professional Movie Awards.

Among her films since are segments in “21st Century Girl” and “Kamata Prelude,” another anthology. For the latter film, which closed the 2020 Osaka Asian festival, Yasukawa scripted and directed the story of young actress (Matsubayashi Urara) who auditions for male director’s film about sexual harassment and explodes when his incessant demands start to amount to… sexual harassment.