Rebelling against her strict Grandfather, young naïve Yume runs away to Tokyo to become a dancer. Entering the world of dance, she ventures through the subcultures of the city’s underground clubs and bars, exploring her surroundings as well as her own style.
Dance films can take on all forms and disciplines and combining the talent of one of Japan’s most famous dancers right now, Bambi Naka, and the feature-length directorial debut from Canadian Philippe McKie, there is the worry that the story could be lost in translation but Dreams on Fire is a vibrant and uplifting story about refusing to give on a dream.
Unlike the American dance films, we’ve all grown accustomed to with the occasional European flair, dance films rarely make a dent at the cinema. Enter Bambi Naka, known for her voguing (along with ex-partner Ayo Sato), taking centre stage as Yume who wants a career as a dancer but no clue where to start. Naka is captivating on-screen, especially during her dance sequences. Her distinct style, which is commented on during the film, makes her stand out, even among the other weird and wonderful characters she meets along her journey. We are with her through every step, being taken along for the ride, and get to experience everything from fetish clubs to S&M themed bars and what it’s like to audition to be a go-go dancer. Of the people she meets and befriends, they are only in one or two scenes which seems a shame that these characters are included more or developed further, but this is Yume’s story and no one else.
As the central character of Yume is naïve and new to the city, there is an obvious opportunity for the story to take a dark turn. Yume does start off working at a hostess bar where she has to endure somewhat unsavoury customers who want to touch her and a manager who doesn’t respect her time but thankfully, this is as seedy as the story gets. This gives the story room to explore the more positive aspect of exploring a new city. Yume is free to roam around and enjoy her experiences even the disappointments and harsh realities, such as getting a job based on how many followers, she has on social media accounts. From her classes to the various clubs she dances to the performance in the competition, Yume seems to glide from opportunity to chance meeting, but it isn’t seen as effortless, like her we get to see her working hard at her craft as she really puts her heart and soul into her performance.
Dir: Philippe McKie
Prd: Michelle LeBlanc, Philippe McKie
Scr: Philippe McKie
Cast: Bambi Naka, Masahiro Takashima, Akaji Maro
DoP: James Latimer
Country: Canada, Japan
Run time: 123 minutes
Dreams on Fire is available from 6th March on Glasgow Film Festival at Home