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Adapted from the novel by Durian Sukegawa, the 2015 Festival selection from Naomi Kawase (whose other TIFF films include Still the Water, Vision, and last year’s True Mothers) is a graceful ode to the invisible essences of existence.
An is a delicious red bean paste, the sweet heart of the dorayaki pancakes that Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) sells to a small but loyal clientele. When 76-year-old Tokue (Kirin Kiki) responds to his ad for an assistant and cheerfully offers to work for a ridiculously low wage, Sentaro is skeptical about her ability to endure the long hours. But Sentaro agrees to take her on after she shows up early one morning and reveals to him the secret to the perfect an: listening to the stories of wind, sun, and rain that the beans have to tell. Business flourishes with Tokue’s an recipe — until it’s revealed that Tokue is afflicted with an illness, driving her into isolation.
While exploring her perennial theme of communion with nature, Kawase also poignantly addresses the discrimination that many people like Tokue face. Beautifully shot and quietly moving, Sweet Bean is a humble masterpiece from a singularly accomplished filmmaker. GIOVANNA FULVI
Programmed by TIFF’s Asian Heritage Month Staff Advisory Committee
Official Selection, 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
TIFF’s Asian Heritage Month programme is made possible thanks to the generous assistance of: Blockchain Venture Capital Inc., Canada Hong Kong Alliance – Toronto, Andy Chan, Elegant Financial Inc., Sharifa Khan/Balmoral Marketing, Alan Kwong, Irwin Li, Nobis Inc., and Justin Poy