Famed director Kore-eda passed his role to five others to produce “Ten Years Japan”, an omnibus film looking into fictional but plausible futures of the nation.

A representative of Ministry of Welfare promotes the latest program called “Plan75” to give the elderly an option to plan a painless death. He does his best to understand his clients as they share their mixed feelings about life. While it seems a humanitarian way to end suffering, its intentions are simply to cut costs in the government. The representatives however starts to rethink about it when things hit home.
Director Chie Hayakawa deals with the tough subject of aging mortality. “Plan75” shows both the logistical side with coldness as the worker stays professional while presenting, not taking in the clients’ emotions. The shift in morality when it comes to loved ones compared to strangers shows some more of the other opinions that people may have. Though this short arrived to some conclusion, it leaves the debate on the future as everyone grows older.

“Mischievous Alliance”
In a school surrounded by mountains, the students each have a small device implanted on the side of their heads. It is part of the digital surveillance program under the name PROMISE and analyzes each child’s movements. Depending on what it it, PROMISE would do its best to suggest ways of steering the student towards a practical life as a working member of society. Young Yamashita frequently disobeys and hangs out at the stables with the old horse Rocky. Even though PROMISE plays a song of a screeching orchestra, he continues to do his own thing until the faculty steps in.
Director Yusuke Kinoshita presents a unique way of raising children to become proper citizens. PROMISE becomes the ultimate teacher but its AI programing takes out the human input of dreams and aspirations. It means well to have the students gain work that is beneficial to everyone but it tries to bend human will. “Mischievous Alliance” shows that some bad decisions can turn into good lessons.

As a daughter prepares lunch for her and her father, the man springs the idea of her meeting his girlfriend. The student’s mother has passed away sometime time ago and she decides to access her mother’s memories thanks to the digital inheritance card. After getting help from a friend, she finds photos, videos and records of her mother. As she tries to understand what her mother did, she finds an old note that sharply stops her moment of happiness.
Director Megumi Tsuno takes a look at the possible advancement of technology where people can leave digital archives of their lives. Though the “inheritance” is comprehensive by saving old conversations and even shopping lists, Tsuno shows that the impressions it leaves are not always the truth about the person.

“The Air We Can’t See”
Young Mizuki lives with her mother and the rest of the townspeople in their underground settlement. They do their best to stay away from the radiation after getting evacuation orders. One day Mizuki meets Kaede, an older girl who shows the colorful paradise of her room. She even has a small colony of roly poly which Mizuki’s mom fears for they are from the world above. They enjoy each other’s company until Mizuki visits her place to find only a cassette tape player instead of Kaede.
Director Akiyo Fujimura’s film is very reminiscent of Toshihisa Yokoshima’s “COCOLORS”where humans live far inside the Earth to avoid the ruined surface. Unlike Fuyu and Aki, Mizuki and Kaede along with the rest of the residents don’t have protective suits to travel safely. Still, they pursue going up even though neither they nor the audience know the true condition of the air. The uncertainty gives viewers much to ponder on the environment.

“For Our Beautiful Country”
Company representative Watanabe overseas workers put up new subway posters for the upcoming military draft. When he returns, his superior tells him that the current ad’s design won’t convey the proper message to the youths and young adults. They send him to the artist’s home to apologize, but as he tries to do the deed, the artist quickly interrupts him with several tasks.
Director Kei Ishikawa’s film is a quirky but very poignant one that shows what may happen when people are swept in the flow of life even though it is against their beliefs. The lighthearted moments in this short gives more to the gravity of the issue concerning warfare. Though it doesn’t bring much action, its atmosphere within the quiet moments is all that is needed to bring the message to the audience.

This anthology was inspired by the Hong Kong-based “Ten Years” from 2015. Its large reception and censorship from China led others to start and continue this project of filmmakers creating their predictions of their countries. SDAFF 2018 also showed “Ten Years Taiwan” and “Ten Years Thailand” other omnibus films with directors projecting their thoughts on their respective countries’ futures. Check out SDAFF’s page on “Ten Years Japan” for more information.

Featured Photo courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival.