Corporate chief takes to silver screen

Kyodo

Masahiro Yoshino, 66, who leads a media consulting company with some 100 employees, may have left it late, but his dream of breaking into the movies was finally realized when a recent film funded by his firm won recognition abroad.

“Work in real life and dreams are the wheels a company needs to run on, and we should never abandon our dreams,” said Yoshino, president of Media Research Inc., a Tokyo-based firm that specializes in IT consulting, translation, publishing and media arts.

Yoshino had almost no experience of acting before taking a role in a theatrical production at the age of 55. He continued to tread the boards, but it was not until this year that he made it onto the silver screen.

The film, “Ningen” (“Human”), in which Yoshino plays the leading role, also features some of his employees and friends in the all-amateur cast. Written and directed by Guillaume Giovanetti and Cagla Zencirci, a filmmaking duo based in Paris, Istanbul and Tokyo, the 104-minute movie broke into the list of nominees for the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in September.

“Ningen,” in which Yoshino plays a man running a failing business, is based on a Japanese folk story about a fox and raccoon that disguise themselves as human beings and deceive a rich man. Yoshino said that when he learned the film had been nominated for the Toronto festival’s Contemporary World Cinema program, he thought that he, too, “must have been deceived by a fox.”

Shooting took place in various places across Japan, including the Oe Nogakudo noh theater in Kyoto. The film also features “itako” — usually female shamans in Aomori Prefecture who are said to have the ability to communicate with the dead.

Despite the focus on Japanese mythology and traditions, Yoshino was keen to include a non-Japanese perspective, reflected in his choice of Giovanetti and Zencirci as writer-directors as well as a key role for Lee Xiao Mu, a Chinese writer and an expert on Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district.

“I hope to introduce ancient Japanese culture to the world” through the perspectives of foreigners,” he said.

Yoshino, who hails from Miyazaki Prefecture, has further goals. A keen reader, he says he also plans to write a novel.