Jonen (played by Japanese indie rock superstar Suneohair) is a monk undergoing a midlife crisis. Flipping out of control after being invited to espouse his vocation at a "Thinking About the Future" career guidance session at the local high school, his thoughts begin to turn towards his past as the wayward frontman of a riotous punk band, a past that tragically led him to drugs and the brink of suicide. Realising he can't live without music or a stage to perform on, he approaches Genshu, the head of his Buddhist temple, for advice. Against the wishes of his wife Tae, who is concerned for his mental health, and with fierce opposition from the local community, Jonen plans to give a live concert in the small rural town where he lives, in a final attempt at achieving absolution through noise.
Based on an original novel of the same name by Sōkyū Genyū, a real-life Buddhist monk, this meditative yet ultimately heart-warming portrait of a lost soul attempting to reconcile his past with his present recalls such films as Yojiro Takita's 2009 Academy Award-winner Departures and Nobuhiro Yamashita's exuberant Linda Linda Linda. This film was a surprise hit at Sundance 2011.
Japanese film trivia fans might like to note that cinematographer Ryuto Kondo shot four of the titles that played at the first Zipangu Fest in 2010 - Live Tape, Annyong Yumika, Pyuupiru 2001-2008 and NN891102 - while Yoshihide Otomo, whose soundtrack pays particular attention to depicting the uncontrollable noise inside Jonen, is a well-known experimental musician and composer and is featured in Cédric Dupire and Gaspard Kuentz' documentary on noise music We Don't Care About Music Anyway..., also playing at this year's festival.
Born Tokyo, 1980, after graduating from the French Literature department of Rikkyo University, Naoki Kato entered Tokyo University's Graduate School of Film and New Media in 2005 where he studied under filmmakers such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Takeshi Kitano. His graduation project, A Bao a Qu (2007), played at several international film festivals including Nippon Connection in Germany and Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea. Abraxas is his first commercial feature.
Greenberg, James. "Sundance Review: Punk Rock Meets Buddhism in Naoki Kato's Exquisitely Crafted Debut Feature Abraxas." Hollywood Reporter, 26 January 2011. [http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sundance-review-punk-rock-meets-76418]