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Firefly Dreams

Firefly DreamsFine, emotive Japanese films are
  usually the province of revered
  Japanese directors — but Firefly
is one exception because
  the writer and director is none
  other than British-born, Welsh-
  raised long-time ex-pat in Japan,
  John Williams

A BEAUTIFULLY-REALISED COMING-OF-AGE story filmed in modern Japan by John Williams working with Japanese actors and crew, Firefly Dreams has been hailed as a minor masterpiece.

Faced with his wife having an affair and worried that his daughter is staying out late and playing truant, Hiroshi sends the sulky and rebellious 17-year-old Naomi (perfectly played by Maho Ukai) to stay with his sister Mieko in the country for the summer.

Naomi finds herself helping out at her aunt's hotel and is bored by the country, away from her friend Tomoko and the excitement of Nagoya, the city where she lives. She is unkind to her cousin Yumi and finds the guests tedious; particularly the older men who make suggestive comments to her.

Mieko tells the young girl that it was different thirty years ago when it was a great place to be with Geishas from Kyoto, writers and politicians.

An elderly relative, Mrs Koide (Yoshie Minami — who has roles in films by Kurosawa and other Japanese masters to her credit), becomes ill and her memory is failing. Although Naomi at first resentfully complies with her aunt's request to her an eye on the fragile old lady, she becomes fascinated by Mrs Koide's stories of her past — as a young woman full of hopes and dreams, a war widow working in the munitions factory in Toyokawa, her love of dancing when she lived in Tokyo and her life as an actress who was involved in a scandal when she was betrayed by her film director lover.

Naomi is enthralled by the story and discovers old photographs of the beautiful young film star and it is all the more poignant when the teenager has a brief affair with a local delivery boy, Masaru, who takes her to an abandoned movie theatre.

Naomi is devastated when Mrs Koide dies and then her father commits suicide. She returns to Nagoya a different person. She tries to tackle the deep feelings of resentment she has towards her mother and she seeks out Mrs Koide's movie, The Valley Of The Fireflies. Through Mrs Koide, she has begun to get her life back into perspective.

The superbly filmed and underrated Firefly Dreams is a fascinating look at Japan from the perspective of a sulky teenager, contrasting her life against that of her elderly relative whom she comes to love.

A delightful story, Firefly Dreams features engrossing performances by the two female leads against a backdrop of stunning mountain scenery in an area rich with natural beauty, interesting folklore and history.

Called The Most Beautiful Summer in Japan — because there were two other films with 'Firefly' in the title at the time it was released — Firefly Dreams is beautifully filmed by Yoshinobu Hayano and delicately edited by John Williams himself, who wrote the succinct script. Paul Rowe's guitar score is haunting and effective. The film has won awards in several international film festivals, including Best Feature at Hawaii, Best Film at Manila, Audience Award at San Jose and Netpac Special Mention at Karlovy Vary. The film's Executive Producer is Maryann Manelskiand and Firefly Dreams is Produced by Steven Haas.

Having lived in Japan for twelve years, John Williams makes excellent uses his experience and knowledge of Japanese culture. In Japan, the firefly is a symbol of the transience of life. The dyed blonde schoolgirl look was in fashion around the time the film was shot in 2000. At that time there was much concern over truancy and the growing awareness of freedom of the young. John also glosses over the appeal for young girls to earn money by selling nude photographs of themselves. The sex industry in Japan is very big and the temptations higher than anywhere else.

Using 21-year-old Maho Ukai to play Naomi is a masterstroke in itself — she plays the 17-year-old in the throes of teen angst to perfection. Also notable are the shots that the cinematographer and John have framed to great effect.

Firefly Dreams is a 100 Metre Films Production and is released on DVD in the UK and Ireland by Stoney Road Films. Since Firefly Dreams, John Williams has made one more Japanese film, the atmospheric horror film Starfish Hotel.

Firefly Dreams will be released in April, 2009. Running Time: 100 Minutes | Dolby SR | Language: Japanese With English Subtitles.

"…something like a minor masterpiece…" — New York Herald Tribune

"…a fine firm directorial eye and a pair of astutely crafted perfs" — Variety

"The superbly filmed and underrated Firefly Dreams is a fascinating look at Japan from the perspective of a sulky teenager, contrasting her life against that of her elderly relative whom she comes to love" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar