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Raise the Castle!

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Raise the Castle!

(Chikujo seyo!)

Canadian Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 115 min
  • video
  • Japanese with English subtitles


DramaComedyAction / Adventure

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Director: Yo Kohatsu
Screenplay: Yo Kohatsu, Hitoshi Hamagashira
Cast: Ainosuke Kataoka, Hana Ebise, Toru Emori, Kai Ato, Tomoko Fujita
Producers: Yumiko Masuda
Print Source: Toho



The people of the village of Sanage are looking for a way to revive their hometown, but they are split over which method would bring the desired results. The mayor of the town is backing a project to build a manufacturing plant that would bring much-needed jobs to his citizens. The village’s top academic is leading a movement to rebuild a historic castle in hopes of bringing tourists to their area. Both men are totally unprepared, however, for the fantastic events that occur when digging starts at the disputed site. When three locals fall into a shaft, the spirits of three ancient Samurai warriors take over their bodies, aiming to launch an impossibly crazy task. They rope in hapless Sanage residents into rebuilding their castle—in just three days! Out of cardboard! Mayhem ensues with one side struggling to achieve their impossible dream while the other plots to lay siege to the structure.

RAISE THE CASTLE! is director Yo Kohatsu’s first full feature, based on his original short film of the same title, which won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2006 San Fernando Valley International Film Festival. Kohatsu brings the romance of the samurai period into the present, and the theatrical feel of the film comes from classic kabuki actor Ainosuke Kataoka in the lead role. His commanding presence brings a sense of nobility to the samurai lord who, even in the most bizarre circumstances—from laying siege to an office building to discovering the wonders of a bulldozer—maintains his dignity. Comedy is ever-present in the tale, but it never overshadows the tenderness of the human drama. There are many lessons to be learned here, both by the living and the long since departed. And the film itself is quite an achievement. It was the first in Japan to be shot on Red One, the super high-powered digital camera, giving the movie a distinctive look. And the towering, 25-metre castle made entirely of cardboard is breathtaking. Samurais become modern-day heroes in this castle-raising classic!

—Robert Guillemette

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