The cast of the film The Lowlife (最低。) – playing in the competition section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival – hope that their film will decrease the stigma surrounding Japan’s AV – or adult film – industry.
Based on the novel of the same name by 23-year-old AV actress Mana Sakura, the Takahisa Zeze film is an ensemble piece about a housewife making her AV debut, an AV actress whose profession is discovered by her mother, and a high school student who learns that her mother may have been an AV actress in the past. Japan has one of the largest adult film industry in the world. According to Sakura, about 1,000 women make their AV debuts every year.
The film features graphic sex scenes, but doesn’t devote much time to the technical details of AV production. Sakura says that it was a conscious choice that she made with the novel, hoping that readers would understand AV actresses through their everyday lives rather than their workplace.
“For some people, seeing what happens behind the curtains can be a reality. For some people, the details of the everyday lives that these people live that might be more of a depiction of reality,” Sakura says, “I myself am lean towards the latter, so I based the novel on the everyday lives of the girls that work in this industry. The story itself is fiction, so it’s not reality per se, but what I wanted to do was to shed a lighter light on industry because people tend to shine a darker or a negative light on the industry, which makes me very sad.”
Zeze added, “The word ‘AV’ has become a familiar part of our daily lives. However, I think there somewhere in our minds, there’s still a kind of discrimination that we harbor towards this industry. In actuality, I think that the lives that these people live are not so different from ours.”
The lead actresses also emphasized that they felt that the world of AV is not so distant from theirs.
“My impression for those who work in this industry has changed because I thought it was such a faraway role away for me…but playing this role made me recognize that it’s a very accessible and nearby world,” says Ayano Moriguchi, who plays the housewife, “One of my friends might be in this industry. Even walking in the streets of Shibuya, it made me wonder how many of these girls are working in this line of business.”
Meanwhile, co-star Kokone Sasaki – a gravure idol who plays the seasoned AV actress in the film – shared a similar sentiment.
“My impression of the women working in this industry didn’t change at all, actually. I am someone who wants to be friends with another person regardless of their line of work. Those who work in this profession are not that different from us. My character is a woman who just happens to choose this line of work. I didn’t take a different approach because of her line of work. I just played a regular girl,” Sasaki says.
Zeze hopes that the film won’t be seen as just an exposé of the AV industry. “I had a few words of advice from a sempai who was a pink film director who became an AV director. He said there are two things that girls making their debut in the AV industry are looking for: one is money, and the other is to be acknowledged. I think that’s what Miss Sakura writes in her novel as well. It’s about these women trying to find their place in the suffocating environment that Japan is. They happened to choose this line of work, but I think what they’re seeking is more universal and there’s something that people not working in this industry can connect with…I wanted to tackle a story that is more universal than you’d think.”
The Lowlife opens in Japanese cinemas on November 25th.
Tokyo Film Festival: The cast of Lowlife on stigmas surrounding Japan’s adult film industry