Photo/IllutrationA scene from “Jesus” (Provided by Showgate)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A low-budget indie movie made by a college-age director is back in Japan after receiving praise and recognition at film festivals overseas.

"Jesus," directed by 23-year-old Hiroshi Okuyama, was released at a multiplex theater in Tokyo on May 31--an unusual feat given that it was such a low-budget production.

"I never considered this development while making it," he said.

The story centers around Yura, who moves with his family to a snowy rural town to live with his grandmother and starts attending a Christian elementary school.

The director's subtle camera work follows the boy as he is perplexed by his new life in unfamiliar surroundings and starts having visions of a small Jesus.

"I wanted to depict things I felt when I was small, in addition to things I felt were odd," the director said, explaining why he made the film.

Asked why he chose the snowy countryside as a setting, he added: "I wanted to set the story in an unusual, otherworldly place. The locale covered with snow is very different from Tokyo. I also wanted to express purity with white snow."

Okuyama studied at the Film School of Tokyo for a year while attending Aoyama Gakuin University and gained experience as an assistant director and director of photography for advertising and other productions.

He shot scenes for “Jesus,” his first feature-length film, in February last year just before graduating from the university and completed the movie after landing a job at a leading ad agency.

The director took one week to film, dipping into his savings to fund the project and borrowing money to cover a shortfall.

When “Jesus” was submitted to the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain, Okuyama became the youngest winner of the Kutxabank-New Directors Award. He went on to win awards at other film festivals in Stockholm, Dublin and elsewhere.

While movies with similar production costs would normally be destined for arthouse cinemas at best, Okuyama's film gained global recognition and secured a multiplex release, causing something of a stir.

"Responses at film festivals vary depending on the country. Some (people) tell me how they felt about the theme, while others get into the details," Okuyama said. "I was able to make a movie that can be understood in various ways. I'm looking forward to seeing how it is received in Japan."

As for future films, the director said he is developing ideas for several projects.

"I want to make it happen within the next couple of years in one way or another.”