Sena Nakajima, Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura and Satoshi Mizuno appear in We Are Little Zombies by Makoto Nagahisa, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Japanese filmmaker Magato Nagahisa makes his feature film debut with a movie that deals with grief and disappointment through the eyes and minds of children. That opening sentence might make this film sound like a dour and depressing affair, but Nagahisa channels his inner child well to present a creative vision full of color, life, and a defiant attitude. This is an inner child raised on video games, “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories and punk rock, in an age of desensitization. As nihilistic as the kids in this movie may often seem, they are still individuals trying to process grief, and the ups and downs of real life. They have heart and passion, but are searching for ways to express it.

In Japan, four kids meet at a crematorium and bond over one thing they all have in common–their parents have all died. Unable to process their grief at first, Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura get to know each other better and seek out a new path ahead. Salvaging things they love from the ashes of their now up-ended lives, the four orphans set out on a new adventure when they form a rock band and become an overnight sensation. With this new journey comes a brand new rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, joys, and disappointments. But such is life as these badass kids eventually discover. Life is an adventure and it is up to them to choose their paths well.

Like a breath of fresh air, Magato Nagahisa brings some exciting childlike sensibilities to what could have been a depressing and completely nihilistic tale. Nagahisa’s blend of vibrant colors, surreal imagery and 6 bit video game aesthetics make this film a fun and exciting sensory journey. Though the style choices can overshadow the films themes in moments, the movie and its protagonists have their undeniably defiant attitudes and an overall can-do and will-do spirit that make this story rather triumphant and joyous. This feat could not have been accomplished without the young actors cast as Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura. Each child perfectly portrays their characters’ angst and frustrations well with some unique charms of their own.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much and must strongly recommend. Fans who grew up on low tech video games, role-playing type games and punk rock are sure to enjoy this exciting and fun adventure with the “Little Zombies.” The movie will be available for viewing via vitual and live cinemas on July 10, 2020. Go to https://littlezombies.oscilloscope.net/ for details on how to watch this awesome movie.

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