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  • THE DEPARTURE - Ittetsu

    The subject of Lana Wilson’s documentary The Departure, Ittetsu Nemoto is a fascinating individual. The former rebel-turned-Buddhist priest has made it his life’s work to personally help people who want to kill themselves. Because he cannot turn anyone down when they call or text him—and because suicide is rampant in Japan—the 44-year old’s own health has been terribly compromised. This impressionistic portrait of a heroic yet flawed character is meditative and often quite beautiful, as befitting its extraordinary subject and his environment.

    At the monastery where he lives with his wife and young children, we see Nemoto welcome visitors to the Departure, a retreat specifically geared to help people who are contemplating suicide. He does this by having them “experience” death; we see a small part of the process, which involves writing down things they’re leaving behind and crumpling up these pieces of paper one by one until nothing is left. The idea is to find something worth living for. Later in group discussions, the participants discuss their feelings. It’s interesting that so many utterly despondent people have allowed themselves to be filmed. On the other hand, suicide has a long tradition of honor (kamikaze pilots, the ritual of seppuku) in Japan, so there’s probably less shame attached to it.  This may make people more open about their feelings, but also guarantees that Nemoto is seriously overworked.


    The film shows him riding his motorcycle to meet with the various people who call or text his personal “hotline,” including a visit with a young woman whose grandfather thinks she should be “stronger” and a series of interactions with a man who is depressed over losing custody of his children. Nemoto is a comforting presence, listening carefully and offering various ideas to guide them through their crises, without judging or promising easy solutions. With groups, he uses art, movement, theater games and other forms of expression; as he says, there is no one right way to help. After each encounter with a potential suicide, he is clearly drained, but, as he explains in voice-over, he feels responsible for these people. His calendar is booked solid and he won’t turn anyone away.

    Later, his exhaustion takes on deeper meaning as we see him undergoing tests in a hospital. Though relatively young, he has major cardiac and pulmonary issues, exacerbated by the stress of his work. The irony of the fact that he’s killing himself in a way is not lost on us or on him. At one point, he wonders if he is a hypocrite.

    THE DEPARTURE - Ittetsu-Woman

    We learn about the people in his early life who committed suicide, and how this led to his current mission. He also talks about his rebellious youth, which involved playing in rock bands, heavy partying and picking fights. A near-fatal motorcycle accident at age 24 led to both his marriage and the priesthood. Though he has clearly evolved in a big way, he still drinks and goes out dancing in clubs—which seem to offer a release from his grueling work, even as they contribute to his deteriorating health. Though his wife pleads with him to “stay healthy for another 20 years” for the sake of his son, she seems resigned to her husband’s way of life.

    The Departure offers no easy answers or platitudes, just an indelible portrayal of someone who gives 100% no matter what the cost. Though it is frustrating to watch such a valiant human being deplete himself, it’s inspiring to witness his selflessness. In these egocentric times especially, Ittetsu Nemoto is the rarest of gems.

    The Departure opens on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Metrograph Theater.

    Marina Zogbi

  • Twain, Mt. Davidson

    For music aficionados and the real heads that check out a lot of live shows, you know when you’re in the presence of exceptional musicians, singer/songwriters. Where Mumford and Sons have in some respects brought a new wave of progressive folk music to the forefront of popularity, I can’t say the results have led to many high quality bands.  When I received an invite to check out the band Twain, I was a bit reluctant about attending, but after listening to some of their stuff I was ready to go.

    On this night, they were playing the opening set, but it was obvious that the early crowd was gathered to see Twain, and by the end of the night it was clear they were worthy of the top billing for this show.

    With 8pm fast approaching, the level of excitement was building as eager fans edged closer to the stage, and with their new album Rare Feeling dropping on October 20th, this would be the first opportunity for many to experience the new stuff live.  As they got into their first song, the thing that initially caught my attention was the depth and warmth of their sound, and as their set progressed I heard glimpses of everything from Neil Young, The Doors and even The Grateful Dead.

    This is the kind of music that grows on you, and as you continue to listen to Mt. Davidson (lead singer/songwriter) and the band perform, you’re soon captivated both musically and lyrically. Though many of the songs deal with serious subject matter, there’s an undeniable sense of enthusiasm in Davidson’s wide ranging voice.  There’s a handful of bands out there today that can make you feel sort of sad and inspired at the same time.  If you have the chance to see them live, they have some upcoming dates in Brooklyn, NY  (Oct. 24th, Union Pool), Asheville, NC (Nov. 7th, Grey Eagle) and Washington D.C. (Nov. 9th, Pearl Street Warehouse).

    -Frank Jackson

  • For those of you who might not recognize the fashion label Barragán, you are now in for an unexpected treat!

    Led by Victor Barragán, the edgy label has now attracted almost 45,000 Instagram followers. Not a bad feat for a brand new, small label.

    SS17 Campaign

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    In seasons past, Barragán issued looks that included ‘jewelry fashioned out of sex toys or raw fruit, and bags fabricated to look like rocks.’

    Victor Barragán tells Fashionista that the label began when he started making DIY, tongue-in-cheek shirts. The label quickly expanded to a full line. “For me, fashion is more than just about selling clothing for wholesale — it’s about telling a story,” he says.

    By @mikeyasanin for @bullettmagazine

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    The label’s daring looks have led the design team to gain a selling slot at Opening Ceremony, as well as collaboration opportunity with the likes of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

    In addition, Barragán says that his hometown of Mexico City, and his adopted city, New York, have greatly informed his work. All of his sourced fabrics are sourced locally in NYC, while garments themselves are produced in Mexico City.

    AW17 soon available on selected stockists !

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    And what’s also inspiring about this new label is that it appears to be gender fluid. ‘When we’re designing, we’re never really thinking about gender,’ he says, adding, ‘I think if people are gonna wear the clothes, they’ll wear them how they want.’

  • Big Sweater

    We recently caught up with the guys from the band Big Sweater to discuss their music, inspiration and their exciting new album they’re currently recording.

    In one way or another, members of the band have all been part of AFP’s music education programs over the years. So, we’re very proud and excited to see how they’ve progressed and evolved as artists.  Check out “Platform Stare,” a single from the new album.

    1) What inspired you guys to become musicians, writers?

    Collectively what inspired us to be musicians is that of which was instilled in us by our parents and their taste for the most part. Being shown things that would be considered “old school”. Those things later becoming memories and what is now sense of nostalgia of car rides and long trips throughout the years subconsciously planting a seedling in a driving force that is creating sound as well as putting words together that sum up how we feel.

    2) How would you describe your sound?

    Our sound is derivative of multiple things that boil down for the most part to blues. Our upcoming album has a combination of really somber and light tunes and also some really upbeat ones but overall our sound is very mellow.

    3) Have you been playing the songs off the new album live, and if so how has the crowd responded to the new songs?

    We’ve played most of the upcoming album in a rotation for about a year now, the crowd now sings along and its one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. What everyone is in for is an album that is unlike the live show. The album is a step back from an energetic performance, puts us under a microscope and gives you a rawer and intimate version of what people are familiar with as well giving you a sound that is unique sonically.

    4) What do you enjoy most about performing live?

    The feeling of being able to express yourself in front of a group of people who resonate with what you wrote in your own haven is beautiful, the fact that what you truly feel is relatable is good and you can make a definite and lifelong connection this way…..also having people sing your songs is pretty amazing. Playing music with your best friends is a treat and being in sync and vibing off one another is another solid piece of the pie.

    5) Tell me about your creative process. Do you work remotely or do you work together as a group?

    The songs on this upcoming album were written between Franklin & Elijah remotely. Most songs on it were ideas before the formation of Big Sweater, and they were given new life throughout this current lineup and everyone added their parts individually as introduced. This is something that we are straying away from as we are working towards being more collective with our ideas now that we have set aside a space for us to have writing and rehearsal sessions without any restriction.

    6) Where do you find your inspirations as artists?

    Being broad, we find our inspiration in pure feeling, we dwell on an emotion, it marinates, it becomes something.

    7) What band’s or musicians have been major influences?

    The Beatles, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, & Radiohead are some of our favorites as well as Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters. Again a lot of radio from long trips or Sunday afternoons have had a ton of influence.

    8) What does art for progress mean to you?

    Art for Progress means so much to us because its given us not only a platform to create a record but develop skills with Barry Komitor who is also producing our album and is our musical father figure. Art for Progress has given us a chance to see the development of high school student’s musical skills and maintain a relationship with them to where they come to our shows and we consider them friends. AFP has provided for us and for these students the necessary tools it takes to evoke a certain emotion through creativity, this is the focal point of our music as well, evoking an emotion that we could very well all share, for this we are grateful and hope to continue doing work. Art for Progress is exactly that, keeping creativity in the hearts and minds of not just the youth but everyone so that we can maybe use our words, our pictures, and sounds to push one another….to strive, to lift and to incite emotions in people.

    with love, Big Sweater