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Winning the grand prize at the JCF Students Movie Festival for the second year in a row—dreaming of becoming a professional film director

Hiroaki Saito

A new star has emerged on the “Waseda film scene," which has turned out a large number of people who work in the film industry. Hiroaki Saito, a second year master's student, has won the grand prize at the JCF Students Movie Festival, which started in 1999, the last two years in a row. This student filmmaker has made other remarkable achievements in addition to this unprecedented feat, such as winning a prize in the film competition hosted by the United Nations. Although he has an easygoing manner of speaking, his words show a sharp insight unique to film directors.

His latest film Hamon (Ripples) was named the best film among 247 entries in the 11th JCF Students Movie Festival. With a focus on welfare benefits, this 12-minute short film is the story of an intellectually-disabled sister and the older brother who takes care of her. Saito wrote the script himself, and he directed, shot and edited the film on his own. Talking about his reason for making this film, he says, “This film is based on a true tragic story. Sisters who needed welfare benefits to support their livelihood died after they were refused those benefits. I wanted everyone to be aware that this is reality for some while others try to receive welfare benefits fraudulently."

Together with the members of GLEY-ZONE, who stimulate each other's emotions while making good films. Saito is in the front row, second from the left.

This well-received film deals with a social issue, but his previous grand-prize winning film HOLDUP features violence and action with plenty of entertaining elements. Instead of sticking to a specific genre, he tries to carefully delve into his personal concerns to come up with a production that fits with his themes. In other words, his filmmaking style is free and flexible.

It is surprising to know that Saito, who is young and establishing his own filmmaking style, had not made films until he entered Waseda University. He first developed an interest in filmmaking after seeing the making-of video for Battle Royal, created by the late, great filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku, when he was in high school. “In my childhood, I liked creating stories and writing parodies of famous novels," he says, looking back on his younger days. “I have always been interested in films, but when I was in high school, I devoted myself to acting in the school's drama club. Unfortunately, I had no chance to make films at that time." When he entered Waseda University with this passion for films, he joined the filmmaking club and devoted himself to making films with the other members. He found the university's many film-related classes, such as scriptwriting, very useful for filmmaking.

When asked about his future dream, he immediately answered, “I want to make a feature film someday." He has been submitting entries to indie film competitions since he was an undergraduate student because he believes receiving recognition there is a shortcut to becoming a professional film director. He also believes he can best repay his cast and staff for their work by winning prizes in such competitions. “I deal films for me," he says, “are those which give pleasure to the audience while they are watching and leave some kind of lasting impression in their hearts afterwards. This is why I want to make films which deal with social issues, but are still entertaining, in the future." He already has a clear vision for his future.

He is considering focusing on territorial issues in his next film. We look forward to seeing Saito's next film and more of his works in the future.

Saito giving an acceptance speech for the grand prize at the 11th JCF Students Movie Festival. This festival is considered the most prestigious student film competition.

A scene from Hamon (Ripples), his grand-prize winning film.

Saito at the PLURAL + Youth Video Festival, a film competition hosted by the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration.


Hiroaki Saito
2nd Year Master's Student, Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies

Originally from Chiba, Hiroaki Saito graduated from Chiba Prefectural Awa High School. He is now a member of GLEY-ZONE, a filmmaking club officially recognized by the university. After graduating from the School of Education, he went on to pursue a master's degree. He is the first to win the grand prize at the JCF Students Movie Festival two years in a row. His favorite film director is Quentin Tarantino.