By: Shuichi Okita
Being away from home can get a little lonely, but good food always cheers you up.
Eight men join a research expedition to the Dome Fuji Station in Antarctica – an environment so cold that even viruses cannot exist, let alone living creatures. Jun Nishimura’s job is to cook for the members every day. He prepares the meals with the greatest care, sometimes with fine delicacies, and takes pleasure in watching everyone sitting down together and enjoying his food.
In faraway Japan, Nishimura has a wife, an 8-year-old daughter, and a new-born son. He thinks of his family often and sometimes it makes him feel like crying. The assignment lasts a year and a half. While his thoughts are with his family 14,000 kilometers away, the ultimate mission away from home is still to continue.
Antarctic life is unlike anything in Japan. The team members encounter things they had never even imagined. As they struggle to get through each day, they form a tight friendship. Each day brings a different mood; they laugh, get angry, become excited, or sink into sadness. But as long as there is good food, it gives them the strength to go on. Though the film is set in the coldest climate in the world, The Chef of South Polar warms you up from the center of your heart. Good food and human drama, full of laughter and love!
Masato Sakai is the chef in Antarctica!
A mesmerizing performance by an ensemble of excellent actors!
The chef Jun Nishimura is played by Masato Sakai, who won major film awards in 2008 for his performances in The Climber’s High, After School, and The Two in Tracksuits. Gaining wide popularity after appearing in the NHK period drama, Atsuhime, he is the most sought-after actor at the moment. Sakai took cooking classes to prepare for this role and became so good that he has impressed his colleagues with his newly acquired skill. He has made sure he embodies the character of the chef in Antarctica in every aspect, also putting on eight kilos and forcing weight loss towards the end of the story.
The other unique members of the expedition are played by a colorful cast of Katsuhisa Namase of The Wow-Choten Hotel and Yatterman, Kitaro of In the Pool and Fine, Totally Fine, Kengo Kora of Snakes and Earrings and Fish Story, and Kosuke Toyohara of Cinderella Formula, and (Children of the Dark). The film was shot on location in winter in Abashiri of northern Hokkaido Prefecture – one of the coldest places in Japan. As the cast all spent time together on the shoot, they bonded just like the actual characters of the film.
Kanji Furutachi, Daisuke Kuroda, Masahiro Kohama, and other strong stage actors join the crew, with Naomi Nishimura playing Nishimura’s wife and Takashi Ukaji and Kyusaku Shimada as Nishimura’s Japan Coast Guard colleagues. The skillful performances by the supporting actors are also a must see.
Based on the hilarious autobiographical essay of a chef on an Antarctic research team.
Film score by Yoshiharu Abe and theme song by Unicorn!
Delicious dishes that make your mouth water!
The film is based on the autobiographical essay “Fun Days of an Antarctic Chef (Omoshiro Nankyoku Ryorinin)” by Jun Nishimura, who actually used to cook for an expedition in Antarctica.
Antarctica is getting a lot of attention this year, since it is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty and the new Antarctic research vessel “Shirase” left for its first voyage.
The Chef of South Polar is written and directed by 31-year-old Shuichi Okita, who has been lauded for his work on independent films and TV dramas. This is the first major film for the promising “next generation” director, who has the outstanding talent of bringing out the comic and sympathetic sides of people in daily life through a matter-of-fact approach.
The mouth-watering dishes are prepared by the food stylist, Nami Iijima, whose previous film work includes Kamome Diner and Glasses, and Takako Kuretani, who has had experience on TV commercials and films with Iijima. The menu spans from extravagant cuisine with spiny lobster, Japanese high-grade beef, and foie gras, to more down-to-earth meals like rice balls and ramen noodles. The dishes are delicious to the eye as well as to eat, adding color to the dinner table and screen. The film score is by Yoshiharu Abe, who is a producer as well as the keyboardist for the band, Unicorn. This is the first time for Abe to produce film music while Unicorn performs the theme song “Surround” that adds a heart-warming touch to the end titles.
- Shuichi Okita (Director, Screenwriter)
Born in Aichi prefecture in 1977 and graduated from Nihon University, College of Art in 2001. His short film Pots and Friends won Grand Prix at 7th Mito Short Film Festival. In 2005, his short film Go Ahead! (2005) was nominated for the best film at Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Competition 04-05, and later the film was released at theaters as one of the omnibus film Life Cinematic(2006). He also shot behind the scene of Dogs & Cats which was directed by Nami Iguchi.
In 2006, his first feature film Wonderful World was premiered at the cinema in Tokyo and well received by audience. In addition to the films, he is working on the various TV dramas’ script writing and directing. The Chef of South Polar is his first commercial feature film.
- Masato Sakai (Jun Nishimura the Chef)
Born in 1973 in Miyazaki Prefecture. Started acting in the theatrical company “Tokyo Orange” in 1992, caught attention with performances in theater productions “Zenmai” (1998/staged by Eriko Watanabe) and “VAMP SHOW” (2001/staged by Narushi Ikeda). Won acclaim for solid performances in the NHK TV series Audrey (2000-2001) and NHK period drama Shinsengumi! (2004), and gained wide popularity in the NHK period drama Atsuhime (2008). Film appearances in 2008 earned him the 51st Blue Ribbon Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as several other Best Supporting Actor awards. The Chef of South Polar is his third film lead role following The Wall Man (2007/Wataru Hayakawa) and The Two in Track Suits (2008/Yoshihiro Nakamura).
After School (2008/Kenji Uchida)
Climber’s High (2008/Masato Harada)
The Triumphant Return of General Rouge (2009/Yoshihiro Nakamura)
A Lush Life (2009/Tomoko Toyama)
The Wonderful World of Captain Kuhio (2009/Daihachi Yoshida)
Golden Slumber (2010/Yoshihiro Nakamura)
- Katsuhisa Namase (Moto-san the Snowologist)
Born in 1960 in Hyogo Prefecture. Joined the theatrical company “Sotobakomachi” as a university student and later became company leader. Left the company to explore other activities, which now span from stage productions to film and TV dramas. Film debut in 1996 with Tokiwa: The Manga Apartment (Jun Ichikawa).
The Wow-Choten Hotel (2006/Koki Mitani)
Yattarman (2009/Takashi Miike)
Sideways (2009/ Cellin Gluck)
- Kitaro (Captain the Meteorologist)
Born in 1948 in Chiba Prefecture. Established the theatrical company “Hyogen Gekijo” with Morio Kazama and others. Formed the comic unit “City Boys” with Makoto Otake and Shigeru Saiki in 1979. Debuted on the NTV program Owarai Star Tanjo in 1981 and has been performing in stage productions, film, TV dramas, and variety shows ever since.
In the Pool (2005/Satoshi Miki)
Fine, Totally Fine (2008/Yosuke Fujita)
- Kosuke Toyohara (Doc the Doctor)
Born in 1965 in Tokyo. Career took off with the film ISAMI (1982/Izo Hashimoto) and NHK period drama Tokugawa Ieyasu (1983) and has been in several films and TV dramas ever since. Activities are wide-spread, including stage performances and musical activities as a band musician. Played the lead for Cinderella Formula (Hideki Wada) in 2008, which won four awards at the 2008 Monaco International Film Festival including Best Actor.
Cinderella Formula (2007/Hideki Wada)
Sad Vacation (2007/Shinji Aoyama)
Children of the Dark (2008/Junji Sakamoto)
Chameleon (2008/Junji Sakamoto)
Zatoichi the Last (2010/Junji Sakamoto)
2009 / 35mm / 125min / Color
Japanese Theatrical Release: August 8, 2009
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