The Asian Pop-Up Cinema, founded by film and cultural curator Sophia Wong Boccio and a part of Sophia’s Choice, endeavors to “create awareness of Asian cultures through film and promote Chicago as a place of Asian film production.” Now in its 4th year, this festival will show 18 full-length feature films, 10 of which are free and open to the public, over the course of the next several weeks at the AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St.
The opening night film, “Survival Family,” is written and directed by Shinobu Yaguchi and takes place in Tokyo, Japan starring Fumiyo Kohinata, Eri Fukatsu, Yuki Izumisawa, and Wakana Aoi. This brilliantly hilarious new film brings us into a realistic world of a sudden loss of electricity and how a family copes and ultimately attempts to survive. Imagine a world with no electricity. None. No batteries, no cars, nothing. Could you survive? That is the question that is posed to this typical family of four and their journey is one that is humorous, heartfelt, and thought-provoking.
One by one, the family awakens on what should have been a regular weekday morning. But this particular morning marks the beginning of a new era; one without electricity. Each of the family members reacts with utter disdain at the inconvenience that the outage is having, not realizing the extent of the blackout. Days go by, resources become scarce and the family must attempt to get to the grandfather’s house hundreds of miles away—using bicycles…three bicycles for four people, in the hopes of finding electricity and safety.
The film magnificently portrays how our world is completely governed by our phones and dependency on our conveniences in life. The lack of interaction and our absolute laziness in many areas of life is absolutely atrocious, but Yaguchi always keeps things light in this film. His message, however, plants the seed that if you are forced to unplug, the results just might be stunning.
Creating such vibrant and real characters in this family is what compels you to cheer for them and relate to them. The family must actually act like a working team to survive and their skills are put to the test. The teens are typical: they whine and complain, overpack, and initially are quite self-absorbed. Father (Fumiyo Kohinata) and Mother (Eri Fukatsu) have their issues, but it is the mom that seems to be the strongest and most resourceful of them all. It’s always refreshing to see a female lead portrayed in this way.
The entire premise of the film isn’t that much of an imaginative stretch. You can definitely see something like this happening, possibly in the very near future. It is Yaguchi’s attention to detail that provides such beautiful comedy in “Survival Family” and with this detail, the film comes full circle in a magnificent and meaningful way.
Humor is at the heart of this film from the opening scene to the very end. We watch the teen daughter pack what she thinks is absolutely necessary to start her trip while wearing 4 inch wedges for shoes to ride a bike. We see the reluctance of the teenage son to get rid of his unusable iPhone and attempt to learn to read a map. Together, they wrestle with a pig in the hopes of eating dinner that night. Each and every situation this family encounters is complex and beautiful in portraying our need to survive and the bond between family members all while making you laugh!
The entire cast is stellar, but it is the leadership of Kohinata and Fukatsu who skillfully bring this film to life. Kohinata creates a disengaged, television-watching, food-focused father and Fukatsu is astute in finding very subtle and often-times hilarious ways of conveying her superior knowledge and skills. With such outstanding performances, the script becomes an artist’s paintbrush, creating a remarkably entertaining portrait of a family and their ability to work together.
“Survival Family” takes us on a comedic journey into an apocalyptic world where money becomes meaningless and water is gold. While it poses many serious and sometimes frightening questions, it never loses its humor. This is an exceptional comedy with outstanding performances and a rich story that is absolutely captivating.
For more information about films during the Asian Pop-Up Cinema festival, go to www.asianpopupcinema.org