[From June Issue 2010]
Swing Girls (Directed by YAGUCHI Shinobu)
This story takes place in a small town in the Tohoku region of Japan where 13 remedial high school students, including SUZUKI Tomoko (UENO Juri), are attending supplementary classes during summer vacation. One day, the school’s entire brass band, the one supporting the school’s baseball team, contracts a severe case of mass food poisoning. NAKAMURA Takuo, the only healthy band member left, tries to rebuild the band with new recruits. Tomoko and others who want to skip their supplementary classes, as well as some who enjoy playing music, join the band.
Soon a new, 17-member band is formed, led by timid Nakamura. Tomoko and the other girls complain about all the running and muscle training, but still the band starts taking shape. Eventually, as the original band members start to recover, Tomoko and her friends lose their positions. But the girls, who start to enjoy playing music, decide to form their own band at the beginning of the new semester. Nakamura, who did not fit in with the brass band, quits and joins them.
Tomoko and the other girls start working part-time to buy their instruments, but most of them end up spending their money on clothes and bags, and eventually quit the band. Four members including Tomoko, and Nakamura never give up and finally buy used saxophones and trumpets to form “Swing Girls and a Boy.” OZAWA, the Jazz-freak math teacher, then introduces them to the excitement of Jazz, and the band get into full swing.
The former band members decide to return when they hear how well Tomoko and the others thrillingly play together. One day, they find out that the “Tohoku Students Music Festival” is accepting applications, so they record an audition tape. However, Tomoko misses the deadline, eliminating any chance for them to take part in the contest. Tomoko still hasn’t told the truth, even by the day of the contest. They are all travelling to the concert hall by train when they are stopped by a snow storm. Finally the students know that they won’t be able to play anyway.
Disappointed, they blame Tomoko for her fault. Then, as they overhear some passenger’s portable radio playing Jazz, they all start spontaneously playing their instruments. Soon after that, a motor coach arrives to pick them up, as they have been invited to participate in the contest as replacements for another band that had to cancel due to the same storm.
The band eventually gets on stage for the festival’s final performance, and just start playing in harmony. While their style of Jazz, with its unique rhythms and power horns, is in sharp contrast to the classics that the other bands played, it still gets the audience going. Eventually all the people are standing and clapping to the beat.
Released in 2004, this movie won many prizes including ‘Best Film Nominee’ at the 2005 Japanese Academy Awards. All the actors trained intensively to learn how to play their instruments before filming began, and performed live nationally and internationally to help promote it.