Short Movie Time: Jujuba (2018)


In our new Short Movie Time, we focus on Shun Ikezoe’s first film ‘Jujuba’ (2018), a film about his life with his Chinese stepmother. At The 12th Glasgow Short Film Festival, Ikezoe’s first film received the Special Mention and, at the Image Forum Festival 2018 East Asian Experimental Competition, the Award for Excellence. It was also screened at the 40th Pia Film Festival (2018).

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One day, on a train-platform, a man, Ayumu Ueno (Shinya Ueno), is waiting for the train. Conflicted by the coming trip to his hometown and his childhood home, he decides to ease his mind with a cigarette. But what he finds in his pocket is not a lighter, but a jujuba fruit. This jujaba fruit immediately brings back memories of his second mother, the Chinese Rèn Shìróng (Geizen Shu). He remembers that, as he didn’t want to call her “mom”, he began to call her, as his father suggested, “sis”.


Shun Ikezoe’s Jujuba is a very personal narrative, due to the fact that his short narrative is, in fact, a representation – or better a ‘narravitation’ – of various child-hood memories. He re-evaluates these particular memories, memories who have defined him, memories that, during his coming-into-being as subject, remained relevant, to evoke the impossibility of people to really understand each other.

This statement is driven by one fundamental question that, as is implied by the narrative, never got any answer: why did Ikezoe’s former mother-in-law leave him and his father? It is the inability of providing a satisfactory answer to this question that led Ikezoe to state that true understanding is impossible. This inability to understand another is not so much caused by a difference in nationality, gender, or language, but by the fact that a subject, in essence, does not understand himself. But even if we fail to understand our own subjectivity and the subjectivity of the other, a meeting between two subjects, as is successfully shown by Ikezoe’s Jujuba, always has subjective effects.


Due to the fact that Jujuba is filmed on an expired 8mm film, the overall feel of the short-film is radically different from other contemporary short-films (Subject-Note 1). Not only does the 8mm film evokes the past as such – i.e. the dimension of memories of a long time ago, the blurriness of the shots, the noise, the play with colour, and the shakiness of the frame gives Jujuba an otherworldly, dreamy quality.

The dreamy quality of Ikezoe’s narrative is, furthermore, empowered by the nature of the composition/montage as such. Ikezoe does not try to tell his story in a straightforward way, but aims to express it via a concatenation of evocative and poetic shots. That we, as spectator, are able to follow the story and able to interpret the evocative imagery, is due to the narrating voice – i.e. Ayumu who recounts his childhood memories. The narrating voice, in fact, allows the imagery to realize its full poetic dimension.


But the ‘place’ that Ikezoe evokes through his cinematography is neither dream nor reality. Jujuba is a phantasmatic place made by Ikezoe’s subjectivity. While subjectivity is neither real nor dream/imaginary, our subjectivity defines how we see the past from the ever-shifting position of our present. Ikezoe’s Jujuba is, in short, an evocative expression of subjectivity, an experimental narrative dealing with subjective matters. It is a narrative that successfully reveals how beyond non-understanding subjects do define each other through the signifier/word.


Subject-note 1: Note that the expiration date of the 8mm film Ikezoe used for his short-movie coincide with the actual year his former Chinese mother-in-law walked out on him and his father.


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