Ryuhei Kitamura
2003, Japan, 80 minutes

What is THE DUEL PROJECT? Late one night at a German film festival, two of Japan’s most exciting directors met in a bar. The mutual admirers talked late into the night until Yukihiko (Trick!, Keizoku) Tsutsumi threw down the gauntlet and challenged Ryuhei (Versus, Alive) Kitamura to a duel. Not a traditional 10 paces turn-and-fire duel – but a cinematic battle with rigid rules of conduct. Each director would make a film in a confined setting about a duel to the death between two characters. Many consider The Duel Project to be a personal best for each director. Judge for yourself – and please don’t forget to fill out your ballot.

“An attractive neo-classical samurai/demon film establishes a tense, creepy situation before erupting into ritualized swordplay.” —Variety

Aragami represents a change of pace for Ryuhei Kitamura. After the yakuza vs. zombie splatterfest Versus, and the science-fiction mutant monster head-trip Alive, this IndieFest alumnus returns with his strongest film to date. Great performances from Masaya Kato and Takao Osawa, striking cinematography and set design, grim black humor and incredible action create a memorable night in mythological Japan.

Deep in the mountains, two mortally wounded samurai warriors stagger into an ancient temple and collapse. When one of them awakens, he finds that his terrible wounds have been completely healed, and his friend has disappeared. His gracious host persuades him to stay for a hearty meal and rest for the night. After a pleasant drinking binge, their conversation drifts to the legend of the Tengu, a goblin who haunts the mountain, eats human flesh and killed 794 samurai in hand-to-hand combat. The healer reveals that the true name of the Tengu is Aragami—and then he introduces himself. Let the battle begin.

—Bruce Fletcher

In attendance: Director Ryuhei Kitamura