Cast into Chaos—a celebration of the films of Akira Kurosawa.
The most celebrated Japanese filmmaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa had a career that spanned from the Second World War to the early nineties and that stands as a monument of artistic, entertainment, and personal achievement. His best-known films remain his samurai epics Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, but his intimate dramas, such as Ikiru and High and Low, are just as searing. The first serious phase of Kurosawa’s career came during the postwar era, with Drunken Angel and Stray Dog, gritty dramas about people on the margins of society.
The protagonists in these films are not extraordinary, rather they are average, common people cast in a storm of shifting realities. Just like a duck appears serene upon the waters, even though it paddles furiously underneath, there is a churning internal life behind our external appearances. It’s the internal struggle to make sense of our lives. Where not everything can be understood—the only constant being the search for meaning and purpose. At another level, it’s for order and balance. Sometimes, the right answers are found. Other times, they prove elusive. Themes of humanism, Japanese moral values, spirituality, masculine ideals and irony are consistently recurring motifs in these films. This project attemps to incorporate the artistic expression of Akira Kurosawa and his five chosen films (Drunken Angel, The Bad Sleep Well, Stray Dog, Ikiru and High & Low) through a consistent visual language and design deliverables that work together as an integrated system.
Festival Thread and Title
The name Cast into Chaos encapsulates one the most common theme of Kurosawa's films, the internal struggle to make sense of our lives. Cast into a storm of shifting realities by events outside their control, the past seems like an illusion and individual actions, futile. The result is self knowledge that brings redemption or madness.
The concept of the poster was to express the spirituality behind the films of Kurosawa that closely relates to the thread. The image of a Japanese calligrapher at his desk is a representation of an artistic expression and his internal struggle with reality.
This is a narrative piece designed to showcase the films in the festival along with information about director, location and viewing schedule. I chose to design this catalogue like a coffee table book with a wooden cover and a slipcase. The design is simple with structurd typography, bleed images, fine details and organic textures.
Festival DVD Packaging
A set of 5 DVDs of the films featured in the festival. Since it is a limited edition I chose to make it look exclusive and handcrafted. I used Balsa wood for the case/box with lazer engraving and book cloth to bind the DVD cases. Each case consist of a booklet with information related to the film.
Festival Product 01 | Buddha Board
I used the concept of shifting realities from my thread for this product. The futility of human effort. Buddha Board is inspired by the Zen idea of living in the moment. You simply paint on the surface with water and your creation will come to life in bold design. Then as the water slowly evaporates, your art will magically disappear leaving you with a clean slate and a clear mind, ready to create a whole new masterpiece. I used wood with clamshell design that can be transformed into an easel stand for desk.
Festival Product 02 | Tilted Desk Planter Pot
This product is an abstract association with Kurosawa’s vision in his films and my festival thread. The unformed characters in Kurosawa’s films are a projection of the director’s own life. The protagonists often lose their balance in their search for meaning. Recovery often lies in discarding notions of control and in recognizing beauty in life with all its shifting currents. An off-balance plant pot is a signifier of this serenity in imbalance and can also be found on a calligrapher’s desk.
Festival Product 03 | Calligraphy (Shodo) Set
Kurosawa was an artist and a calligraphy expert. From an early age calligraphy (Shodo) became an essential medium for his artistic expression. I chose to package a beginner’s calligraphy kit that can be used in the festival workshop.
Festival Soundtrack | A counterweight Music
A playable limited run piece that includes soundtracks from the films featured in the festival. I designed a USB format that looks like a pebble (bunchin) made of sculpting clay.
I used a simple wooden box and a slipcase for packaging. Kurosawa made novel use of music as counterpoint in his films–where the music pulled against the mood of the scene. Relive these ironic musical compositions packaged in a representation of a bunchin, a paperweight to hold paper in the place–a metaphor for how the musical counterweight grounded and enhanced the master’s films.
I followed simple Japanese sensibility for the stationary design. Use of textured paper for the business card, rice paper for the letterhead and a “red-orange” envelope. Red envelop is considered auspicious in Asian culture and associated with invitations and good news.
Festival Promotion | Guerrilla Advertisements
I wanted to use an unconventional and yet simple medium to communicate the mood of the festival. I used empty outdoor walls as my medium to promote my festival concept. Below are the examples of two different walls in San Francisco.
Festival Promotion | Outdoor Advertisements
To promote the festival I used outdoor advertisement at mundane public spots. Below are the two examples of common public locations in San Francisco.
A functional festival website for detailed information about schedule, films, events, location and bookings.