Hailed as the “Top Gun on Land,” it’s a worldwide sensation! The director of the film “Alivehoon” reveals the ultimate in realism
A film released in Japan in June of this year has been receiving great acclaim around the world.
It is called “Alive Hoon. The film has been described overseas as “the top gun on land,” and at the “Asian Pop-Up Cinema” film festival held in Chicago in September, it won first place in the audience vote and the Audience Choice Award, the highest honor given to a film. The film was also released theatrically in 15 countries around the world, and in Singapore, Thailand, and Taiwan, it ranked among the top 10 films of the month of its release at the box office.
The main character is Koichi Ooba, a young e-sports genius played by Shuhei Nomura (29). The film depicts how Ohane, who won the Japanese championship in a racing game, is scouted by the real-world drifting team “Team Alive” and how his talent blossoms. ALIVEHOON” focuses on “drifting,” which is gaining recognition as an international motorsport and is gaining momentum overseas. Director Ten Shimoyama talks about the film’s appeal and features.
–What was the inspiration behind the production of “ALIVEHOON”?
The project was conceived by Keiichi Tsuchiya, 66, known as the “Drift King,” who has supervised many movies, including the Hollywood movie “Wild Speed X3 TOKYO DRIFT” and the Hong Kong movie “Initial D.” Mr. Tsuchiya is also an e-sports enthusiast himself. Mr. Tsuchiya himself is deeply involved in e-sports, and he wanted to make a film that fused the real and virtual worlds into a story.
–What do you think was the reason for the great response you received overseas?
I think it was the fact that we insisted on shooting the film at real speed, without CG, using live-action. This was also Mr. Tsuchiya’s strong intention. I felt the same way: “In order to convey the world of drifting and the power of drifting in a drifting movie, everything has to be real! I felt the same way. I struggled to convey the realism of the smoke, the sound, and the way gravity is applied in the sideways direction.
–I think another appealing point is that all of the cars in the competition are Japanese. Nissan Silvia S15, Toyota GR Supra, Toyota GR Yaris, Toyota Mark II, Toyota Chaser, etc. …… What was your aim in unifying all the cars in the show with Japanese cars?
Japan is one of the world’s leading automobile kingdoms, producing many world-class masterpieces. And yet, there are few films about cars. …… Also, “drifting” is a sport that originated on the streets of Japan. That is why we wanted to make a film about drifting that could be transmitted from Japan to the world. The film was shot on location in Fukushima Prefecture, and all the cars in the film are Japanese cars, making it a “purely Japanese” film. I think that may be the reason why the film was so popular, especially among foreign audiences.
–I heard that you had some difficulties during filming because of the realism of the film.
We always shoot at real speed, not only with the main character, Mr. Nomura, but also with the camera and lighting crew. Normally, the maximum speed is about 40 to 60 km/h once the actors are on board. This time, however, I convinced Mr. Nomura and the other cast members to shoot at speeds far beyond that, while giving full consideration to safety. In any case, I wanted to focus on reality.
The cast and crew responded to that enthusiasm. Nomura-san, for example, said he was just trying to get used to it, and even after the cut, the driver kept giving him rides around in circles. The truth is, I wanted to cool the engine and give the car a rest because the tires wear down when they run (laughs).
–(laughs) – The fact that there are no lies in your work is the main reason for the great acclaim you have received.
In the field of Japanese films, the priority tends to be given to shooting “plays. If a film is about a young man and woman, they are required to tell a love story in which the two fall in love (laughs). With that remaining time, we shoot action and stunts. …… That is why I feel that it is difficult to improve the quality of the film. For this film, I decided to simplify the story to the utmost limit and make a film that fully conveys the powerful driving of drifting machines. I hope you will enjoy the real thing.
The film has already made its triumphant return to Japan and is scheduled to be screened again at movie theaters nationwide starting January 15. We hope you will experience the world-class power of this film.
Interview, text, and photographs： Kumiko Kato