2019 Sundance Film Festival, Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Originality
2019 / 120 minutes / Japan
Written and Directed by MAKOTO NAGAHISA
When four young orphans—Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura—first meet, their parents’ bodies are being turned into dust, like fine Parmesan atop a plate of spaghetti Bolognese, and yet none of them can shed a tear. They are like zombies; devoid of all emotion. With no family, no future, no dreams, and no way to move forward, the young teens decide that the first level of this new existence involves salvaging a gaming console, an old electric bass, and a charred wok from their former homes—just enough to start a band-and then conquer the world. Tragedy, comedy, music, social criticism, and teenage angst are all subsumed in this eccentric cinematic tsunami.
“I staked everything in my life on WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES. The film is like a music festival featuring all my favorite actors, musicians, and artists. It may be a bit hectic, but I hope it can touch the heart of at least one troubled person who might be crouching in a dark room, alone, looking for help. I, myself, cried several times at the preview screening. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
A whopping ninety songs are featured in WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES’ 120-minute runtime. The number surpasses convention. Director Nagahisa says, “This is also a musical film.” 8-bit music is the crux of this film. Classic Nintendo Entertainment System software was methodically researched and replicated into the low-bit sound of the 1980s, which was subsequently translated into unprecedented quirky, music that is both nostalgic yet brand new, sentimental yet pop. The songs by LITTLE ZOMBIES were co-written by LOVE SPREAD, a band from Brooklyn, New York.
Director Nagahisa, who constructs the scenes based on the rhythm of the music and then adds the footages onto them, took diligent care and effort with the music. He says, “I asked the crew to raise the sound one decibel or to use certain timing. They said movie directors don’t usually go into such detail. But if you ask me, why wouldn’t they? I like working with music next to writing a screenplay.” The director himself wrote the lyrics for all the original scores.