May 24, 2024

A first trailer has been unveiled for Nicole Midori Woodford’s feature debut “Last Shadow at First Light,” which world premieres at the New Directors strand of the San Sebastian Film Festival.

The film is in competition for the New Directors Award. Starring acclaimed Japanese actor Nagase Masatoshi (“Sweet Bean”) and newcomer Shirata Mihaya, the film follows a teenage girl (Shirata) with a special ability to communicate with the spiritual world as she goes on a road trip from Singapore to Japan. On arrival, she is chaperoned by a cynical uncle (Nagase) to uncover the mystery of her strange dreams and her mother’s disappearance years ago. Tsutsui Mariko (“Harmonium,” “A Girl Missing”), Peter Yu (“A Land Imagined”) feature in supporting roles.

The feature is presented by Jeremy Chua’s Potocol (Singapore), Shozo Ichiyama’s Fourier Films (Japan), Studio Virc (Slovenia) and Happy Infinite Productions (Philippines), executive produced by Jermyn Wong and Sally Ng in co-production with Nocturne Films (Singapore), Purple Tree Content (Singapore), Fire and Ice (Philippines), Hello Group (Singapore), KawanKawan Media (Indonesia) and cogitoworks (Japan) in association with Prism Pictures (Japan) and True Colour Media (Singapore).

The cinematography was provided by Woodford’s regular collaborator, Hideho Urata, who shot Golden Leopard winner “A Land Imagined” and “Plan 75.”

Chua said: “By soulfully exploring the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, the film examines how trauma leaves an indelible mark on its survivors that ripple onto close family relationships. Crafting evocative atmospheres and elemental textures as metaphors for hauntings, hallucinations and dreams, the director delicately weaves the supernatural and the lyrical into a mystical road trip for the senses.”

Woodford’s shorts include “Permanent Resident” (Clermont-Ferrand, 2017) and “For We Are Strangers” (Busan, 2015). She directs commercials at Eric Khoo’s Zhao Wei Films. Her episode of their HBO Asia horror series “Folklore” premiered at the series section of Tokyo Film Festival in 2021.

Woodford said: “The story was inspired by a conversation I had with my Japanese grandmother after she suffered a stroke. She told me she had missed the train that very morning of the Hiroshima atomic blast and narrowly escaped death. This near miss encounter changed her perspective on life and she decided to leave Japan. Knowing this helped me understand how she moved on despite encountering trauma. I became interested to explore trauma as a cyclic undercurrent that recurs throughout life with repercussions on a person and the others connected to them.”

The film is supported by the Singapore Film Commission, TorinoFilmLab, Creative Europe – MEDIA Program for the European Union, Slovenian Film Centre, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Purin Pictures, National Arts Council Young Artist Award Grant, Talents Tokyo Next Masters Support Program, Kongchak Studios, White Light Post, VS Service and Crew United.

The project was developed at TorinoFilmLab’s FeatureLab, SEAFIC Southeast Asian Fiction Lab & Produire au Sud, Talents Tokyo, SGIFF Southeast Asian Film Lab and marketed at Busan Asian Project Market, European Work In Progress Cologne and Udine Far East In Progress.

The 71st San Sebastian Film Festival runs Sept. 22-30.

Watch the trailer here:

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