You’ll notice I’m breaking one of my rules with this one. The venue looked awesome, so it’s too bad I didn’t get a photo of it. You walk inside and everything is white or glass, with two small connected rooms to the right: the first one with food on a table near the back (and walls lined with plants in square cubby-holes), the second with a white couch that snakes its way along the wall for people to sit on. In the center stands the bar, past it are one or two steps and then the dance floor, with two small alcoves off to the left (behind a standing table) where coats and bags can be kept.
The party was for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and while I briefly saw the director for that film, the highlight of the evening — and so far, of the festival — was meeting Setsuro Wakamatsu (director of the excellent Snow on the Blades) and his wife.
First, a little history. Two SIFFs ago, I became friendly with one of the festival volunteers at the Uptown, whom I saw almost every time I came to watch a movie there. That friendship continued through her becoming a lead usher the following year. This year, she joined the office staff and looked to be having a blast. When I saw her talking to the director, I knew I had my in, for she knows that I speak a little Japanese — which usually shrinks in proximity to an actual Japanese person. Wakamatsu-san had a translator (a Caucasian woman born in Japan), and while she was there, he asked me what my favorite part of the film was. I thought for a while, then said the two main actors. I also mentioned that idea of transition between the Tokugawa and Meiji eras. He asked me what I thought of the snow. “Kirei [Beautiful],” I answered. He also asked me if I understood the wife’s facial expression when she gives her husband the umbrella. “I think so,” I said. “She’s sad because she knows that if he succeeds and finds this man, then he will have to take his own life afterwards.” In Japanese, the director answered, “Some things are universal.”
But then the translator went with Wakamatsu-san’s wife to grab food, and another friend of mine came over and began talking to him. I was asked to translate. I failed. He asked me what “blade” meant. I tried to pantomime it, forgetting that I have an English/Japanese translator on my phone. He probably think it means to cut someone’s head off.
Despite my inability to translate well, I was able to tell him where I lived in Japan and that I had been a teacher for NOVA. I also successfully asked him what he thought of Seattle. “Subarashii [Amazing],” he said, and then I think he compared it to Sapporo.
When the translator and wife returned, she (the translator) gave him a small plate of food. He offered me a piece. “Iitadakimasu,” I said as I picked up a piece of bruschetta. After I ate it, I found out his wife had been a NOVA student years ago in Shinjuku. I tried to find out which Shinjuku location she had gone to (I taught at Shinjuku Honko, a few times at Nishi, and once at Higashi), but she didn’t understand my question (which, to be fair, I asked in English in a loud room). She said the best way to learn Japanese was to have a Japanese girlfriend.
Other noteworthy events at the party included visits from Mad Max cosplayers and the subjects of the documentary Romeo is Bleeding. Also, the DJ’s machine broke during “Livin’ on a Prayer” (he fixed it after several minutes). But the highlight was talking with Wakamatsu-san.