Screening Dates
New Restoration

Original and unpredictable … The film brims over with the enviable pleasures of a bustling, noisy communal existence, a sense of extended family, in which a long day’s work is topped with a few rounds at the neighborhood bar.”

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

From his first feature (House) to his last (Labyrinth of Cinema), Obayashi Nobuhiko countered the status quo by way of a lively aesthetic coupled to political engagement. More grounded than those career bookends, but just as emotionally overwhelming, his mid-career masterpiece Beijing Watermelon foregrounds the complexity of everyday life in each one of its bustling tableaux shots. Haruzo, Michi, and their two children run a small greengrocer, which means early mornings, tight margins, and a storefront that doubles as an entranceway to their home. After Haruzo extends a reluctant favour to a group of Chinese exchange students in need, the film tracks in strict yet moving detail what it means to let generosity become the guiding principle of one’s life. The premise might suggest a parable, but the film is based on real-life events, and this latitude allows Obayashi to synthesize both his filmic forebears (Shimizu, Ford) and the political currents of 1989.

In Japanese and Mandarin with English subtitles

Best Director
Yamaji Fumiko Movie Awards 1989

Obayashi clearly believes in the healing potential of cinema … The most powerful [evidence] of this comes in Beijing Watermelon … Few directors deserve rediscovery as much as he does.”

Ryan Swen, Hyperallergic

Obayashi [finished] the 80s on a strong note … This is the director at his most sensitive and nuanced.”

Hal Young, Senses of Cinema

“[The premise] may sound like typical heart-warming TV drama fare, but Obayashi’s treatment is anything but conventional … Both dryly humorous and determinedly unsentimental … A virtuoso turn that few other directors could even imagine, let alone bring off.”

Mark Schilling, The Japan Times