The pandemic has raised awareness about death. The Spanish-Japanese dark comedy film project Performing Kaoru's funeral confronts the ironic limits of hatred and love at the instance of our death in Okayama, Japan.

A darkly comic family drama, Performing Kaoru’s funeral tells the story of Jun Yokotani, bound by obligations of death to honor his estranged wife’s passing before he can begin a new life. Completely incompatible, Yokotani and Kaoru's daughter (also named Kaoru) must change their lives completely as they try to create a new family while performing Kaoru's funeral.

A cinematic adventure in the intimacy of timing, Performing Kaoru’s funeral is the latest episode in the filmic career of Noriko Yuasa, which features the exploration of complex passions through experimentations in color and light. Striking at the heart of what it means to become family while acknowledging the past within, Performing Kaoru’s funeral welcomes the complexity of passions at the heart of our identities.

Japanese are rich in ghost stories and Spanish film is notable for its dark comedies

We talked to Japanese producer Mika Shimoeda, who has a soft spot for Spanish and Latin American. She recognizes the rich tradition in literature related to death in Spanish and Mexican authors. Mika Shimoeda won Spanish film composer Joan Vilà and film-maker and cinematographer Victor Català to add their skills to Performing Kaoru's funeral. Victor Català is well known in the Spanish advertising industry. Joan Vilà known for the score in Quién eres by Javier Alba.

Mrs. Mika Shimoeda, funeral rituals are very important to hold a family. The film project Performing Kaoru's funeral suits the experience we are sharing regarding death. What is the current stage of the project?

Performing Kaoru's funeral is based on the farewell to a friend that director Noriko Yuasa actually experienced four years ago. After all, it is a great pleasure to work as a producer in film again. Japan also has a regional film tradition. Performing Kaoru's funeral will be shot at several locations, but mostly in Okayama prefecture. A prefecture worth exploring through film located in the southwest of Tokyo.

We rely on the support of the people of Okayama prefecture. As an international producer, I am proud that the crowdfunding support to Performing Kaoru's funeral has reached our target of 600,000 yen in just 3 days. But the high quality of this project demands a higher budget as well. We are aiming now for our next goal which is 3 million yen.

The film location is far from the hyper-urban environment that most people associate with Japan. How did you choose the filming location?

To make a movie in a small town of Japan allows artists to have more freedom to bring their ideas to the world, on one hand. On the other hand, the big cities have lost attraction due to the pandemic international events were canceled. Creative Industries that worked in the entertainment industry are finding new opportunities in less crowded regions of the country, like Okayama. Director Noriko Yuasa was born in Okayama prefecture and spent her time in Okayama until high school. One of the major reasons is that Okayama Prefecture is her hometown.

How do the creative industries react to the lack of events due to the pandemic?

Japan was severely affected too. Filming and screenings had to be postponed. In order to reach out to as many people as possible, we used live streaming.

As for our work, the American producer has quit. Because the situation in the United States was much worse than we were in Japan. We couldn't even get the funding we had planning in the US. So, I became the main producer and recreated the team. We really wanted to continue this project.

This work is a story of "omiokuri (ceremony to send off a spirit after death)" in Japan. During Covid restrictions, many people could not send off their loved ones in the way they wanted. Giving up the production of "omiokuri" story during this once in a century pandemic was not an option for us.

Also, Japan is still behind in recognizing women leaders in society, and as women, Yuasa-san and I wanted to break through to the world.

What is Performing Kaoru's funeral about?

Performing Kaoru's funeral deals with a woman, Kaoru, an infamously greedy screenwriter, who dies suddenly. In her farewell note, Kaoru asks her impoverished ex-husband, Jun, to be the chief mourner at her funeral, binding him in an obligation of mourning and meticulous respect, 10 years after their divorce. Jun is startled by Kaoru's last demand, but travels far in confusion to Okayama and meets Kaoru’s daughter. Jun, who proclaims himself an actor, usually works as an escort agency driver who sends sexually-serviced women to hotels. Jun cannot refuse either the request of his past love or a vast promised fortune if he performs Kaoru's funeral to the letter of Kaoru's last will.

That sounds hilariously tragic. [grin] Where is the project’s next pitching and how can we contribute directly?

Performing Kaoru's funeral was at the TIFFCOM Tokyo Gap Financing Market in November 2020. The pre-production is going on. Now we are looking for public funding, sponsor and investors to start the production.