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TOKYO ELEGY (article first published : 2004-05-30)

United States company Eclectic DVD has announced the release of Tokyo Elegy for June 15 2004. Also known as Shabondama Elegy, Tokyo Elegy was written and directed by controversial South African film-maker, Ian Kerkhof, in 1999 and shot in Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo Elegy received the Golden Calf Award in the Netherlands (the Dutch Oscar equivalent), and has been on circuit in Europe and Asia. The film has also been well-received at film festivals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and others.

Distributor Eclectic DVD has acquired a reputation for controversial and ground-breaking cutting-edge cinema, but Kerkhof's film is their riskiest release to date.

Tokyo Elegy tells the story of Jack (played by Dutch actor, Thom Hoffman) and his betrayal of his gangland partners. He escapes from the police in Tokyo and, with a large bounty on his head, hides out with Keiko (real-life porn actress, Mai Hoshimo), a porn diva who was sexually abused by her father. Jack takes refuge in her flat and they soon fall in love. Unable to leave her apartment because both the police and the yakuza (Japanese 'mafia') are on his tail, Jack grows distraught and despondent, spending hours alone while Keiko works long hours on the set of a porn film.

Keiko visits the yakuza 'Don' responsible for the contract on his head, and agrees to hand him over in exchange for a pile of cash. She has one stipulation - that she gets to spend three days with her soon-to-be deceased lover. The boss agrees, on condition that she engages in kinky sex with him. The deal seems set until unforeseen events intervene.

This is a story of betrayal and redemption set in the sleazy Tokyo underworld. It was the first-ever Japanese feature film shot on digital video tape and blown up to 35mm film. South African director Kerkhof pioneered this procedure in 1996 with Wasted!, the world's first DV feature blown up to 35mm. The technique would later be copied by Lars Von Trier and the dogme movement, and has become a mainstay of contemporary cinema.

Kerkhof returned to South Africa in 1999 in order to meet his biological father for the first time. He changed his name to Aryan Kaganof (the name of his father), and made Western 4.33, a film about a German concentration camp in Luderitz where thousands of Herero people were massacred.

Western 4.33 won First Prize at the 12th African Film Festival of Milan, Best Documentary Prize at the first African and Islands Film Festival of Reunion, and was screened at the prestigious Berlinale Festival in March 2004.

Kaganof is currently in pre-production for Hectic!, his latest feature film based on his novel of the same name.




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