“There are 1,000 girls making their debuts in the porn industry every year. That’s 1,000 individuals leading everyday lives.”
So said Mana Sakura, the writer of the novel that serves as the basis for The Lowlife, one of two Japanese films playing in TIFF’s Competition, about the lives of women involved in the Japanese softcore-pornography industry.
The story traces the intersecting lives of three women: Ayano (Kokone Sasaki), a college-aged girl who became a porn actress after leaving her hometown in rural Hokkaido for Tokyo; Miho (Ayano Moriguchi), a housewife unsatisfied with her marriage who decides to make her porn debut; and Ayako (Aina Yamada), a high school student whose mother was once involved in the industry.
The three actresses joined director Takahisa Zeze and the novelist for a press conference following the world premiere screening of the film on October 31.
The actresses were asked whether the experience of appearing in the film changed their impressions of women in the porn industry, and the answers all revolved around a single theme: they are normal people, too.
“My impression changed a lot,” said Moriguchi. “I always thought of them as living in some other distant world, but now I realize how close they are to us. Just walking around downtown Tokyo, I’ve started to wonder how many of the girls I see are in the industry.”
“They’re not Martians, after all,” added Sasaki, “they’re just like us. Rather than playing a ‘porn actress,’ my stance was to play a regular girl who happened to choose porn.”
Yamada said: “My character has trouble with her mother, but in the end, realizes a mother’s love doesn’t change no matter what form it takes.”
Novelist Sakura praised the performances of the film’s actresses, saying, “I think with all the stigma toward the profession, these roles were very hard to digest. But I think all of the women did a wonderful job… I was extremely moved by their performances.”
Sakura and Zeze were next asked if part of the reason for creating the book and film was to help reduce the stigma surrounding porn actresses and their profession.
Sakura, herself an actress in softcore films, responded: “Yes, I’ve always had the desire to reduce the stigma toward this industry and the people who work in it. In writing this book, I hoped to capture the everyday lives of these girls.”
“Porn has become a huge part of our everyday lives in Japan, but I think there is still a discrimination we harbor toward this industry,” director Zeze added. “In depicting the lives of these people, I wanted to make a film that would resonate with people who do not work in the industry.”
Zeze went on to expand on the idea of the film connecting with people who have little to do with, or interest in, the industry. “I think The Lowlife is about women trying to find a place for themselves in the suffocating environment that is Japan. They happen to choose this line of work, but I think they are seeking something more universal… I wanted to take on the challenge to make this film that probably has more of a universal appeal than you would think. I hope the film reflects your own reality as well.”
The Lowlife will open in theaters across Japan on November 25.