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[Interview] A Conversation with MISSING Director Shinzô Katayama

E.L. King chats with emerging film director Shinzô Katayama about his commercial feature debut and latest thriller from Dark Star Pictures.

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Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Missing (Sagasu) is a devastating Japanese thriller that gut-punches audiences with intense and raw emotion as the mystery unfolds. It's the second feature from co-writer and director Shinzô Katayama, who penned the screenplay with Ryô Takada and Kazuhisa Kotera. The layered and morally ambiguous story is told from three distinct viewpoints. Kaede Harada (Aoi Itô) is a teenage girl caring for her grieving father Santoshi (Jirô Satô), following her mother’s death. Depressed, in debt, and frequently inebriated, Santoshi vows to find the infamous serial killer No-Name (Hiroya Shimizu) to claim the reward money. When he goes missing, Kaede fears he has become the serial killer’s next victim and sets out to find him.

Katayama crossed paths with Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite, The Host) and served as his assistant director on Mother (2009). His debut feature Siblings of the Cape (2019) was selected by numerous domestic and international film festivals and he is now one of the most promising, emerging directors in Japan. Part of the Official Selection at the Busan International Film Festival, Fantasia International Film Festival, and Fantastic Fest among others, Katayama sets out to present a study of the pain and harsh realities of our lives, demonstrating just how fragile our daily routines are in Missing. The film is Katayama's commercial film debut.

Katayama joined E.L. King for an interview discussing his captivating and slow-burning thriller. Missing opened theatrically in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, and major cities in early November followed by its digital release on November 18. The film arrives on Blu-Ray on December 6 from Dark Star Pictures.


E.L. King: You co-wrote the screenplay for MISSING with Ryo Takada and Kazuhisa Kotera. What inspired the story?

Katayama: When I was a high school student, my Father said that he saw a serial killer while he was riding on the train. As a high school student, I didn't believe him, but later, on television, it was there and I realized that it actually was a serial killer that my father saw. That story, all those years ago gave me the idea to write this script.

E.L. King: MISSING is your second feature-length film. Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

Katayama: Yes, I always have. Since junior high school, I wanted to become a film director.

E.L. King: What filmmakers have inspired you on your journey?

Katayama: I've been greatly inspired by David Finch, Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick — I've been watching them since I was a kid. They're all a big inspiration to me.

E.L. King: Could you tell us about how you got your start as a filmmaker?

Katayama: When I was around 20 and doing part-time jobs, I went to this, uh, kind of like a "cram school" almost for film, where you go twice a week for a year. A director called Ryûichi Hiroki, had me help me on set and that is how I got my start.

E.L. King: Could you share with us your experience filming MISSING with its talented cast and crew?

Katayama: Working with Jirô Satô, Aoi Itô, and Hiroya Shimizu was excellent. When I would direct them, they would do exactly what I wanted and more. It was a really great experience.

E.L. King: You've mentioned the fragility of our individual and shared realities concerning survival in the modern world. Can you expand your thoughts on that and how the film explores it?

Katayama: Right now in Japan, the largest reason for young people dying is actually by taking their own lives... suicide, so basically it's a very hard society to live in within Japan during this time. What I wanted to show in the film, especially for young people, was that part. What they are going through, what is happening and that actually the older generation is making it harder for the younger generation to live. They're pressuring them and hurting them.

E.L. King: How do you hope audiences will resonate with Kaede (Aoi Itô) and the film's message?

Katayama: Kaede is the sunlight in the film itself. She is like the film's conscience. While she's the youngest of the characters, being only in junior high, she goes through a lot. She's going against society and I hope that the audience will identify with her, find a lot of courage through her, and respect.



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