8000 Miles - Irie (2009)
A sleeper hit of 2009 in Japan, Yu Irie's 8000 Miles is a no budget tragicomedy about wannabe b-boys in Saitama, a Tokyo suburb. A chubby NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) Ikku and his farmboy friends Mighty and Tom(u) are members of Shogung, a hip-hop group, lounging around empty warehouses and practicing their freestyle rap, dreaming of big success. Decked out in gangsta gears of their idols (2pac and Notorious B.I.G.), cocky attitudes and made-up slangs (bro, here stands for broccoli), it's pretty clear from the get-go, these ne'er do well, twenty-somethings are more interested in the idea of being rappers than actual music. Ikku tries to be relevant though- he collects clippings of newspaper headlines for lyrics.
The trio (because the rest of the group bailed at the last minute)'s first gig takes place in a local PTA meeting about youth problem. Shogung performing in front of the completely unresponsive audience and the Q & A session that follows are the most uncomfortable yet funniest scenes in the film. Irie's penchant for long takes works well here to catch all the awkward moments.
The subplot includes a sickly legendary DJ Takeda-san(TKD) residing in seclusion in their neighborhood and Ikku's high school flame turned porn star to stir things up inside the group.
All in all, this small movie is not really about rap culture in Japan. It's more to do with the blank generation and suburban ennui. Irie, a native of Saitama, understands well the frustrations of these lovable losers in suburbia and portray them with warmth and care. Hidden behind all the oversized parkas and dark shades, 8000 Miles is an ultimately a tender bromance between Ikku and Tom.
8000 Miles is screening on June 29th (6:30 PM) and June 30th (3:30 PM)at the Walter Reade Theater as part of 2010 New York Asian Film Festival. Director Yu Irie will be at the screening!
Review at Twitch