Dreams On Fire

Dreams On Fire
Running time:124 minutes
Director:Philippe McKie
Release date:Not communicated
Yume has only one dream; to break into the dance world in Japan. She leaves her small town, against her parents' wishes, to move to Tokyo and make her mark in her discipline. She navigates between street dance competitions, hip-hop classes, life in her tiny apartment, and multiple encounters with colorful characters. All alone in this big city, she must also accept a job as a hostess to help her survive. Far from her initial ambitions, this job may help her assert herself and gain self-confidence, unless it leads her into a toxic spiral instead.

Mulder's Review

The selection of the Fantasia festival never ceases to surprise us this year by breaking the mould of genre films to offer us animated films as well as a film on modern dance like Dreams on fire. Japanese cinema has a hard time finding its place in the current world cinema and Dreams on fire is certainly one of the good surprises of this edition of Fantasia. By offering a vibrant look at the Japanese dance and subculture communities, Dreams on fire certainly deserves to be discovered.

While American cinema has offered us numerous dance films with varying degrees of success in theaters, Japanese cinema seems to want to take this cinematic trend and revisit it in its own way. We discover the young Yume (Bambi Naka) who decides to oppose her father and leave the family home to go to Tokyo to become a professional dancer. This new beginning for her will prove to be far from being a modern fairy tale. 

To get her place in the dance world, Yume will not only have to pass a multitude of auditions but also leave a welcoming home to find herself in a tiny room and find a job while she can live from dancing. She works as a simple hostess in one of Tokyo's red light districts. The film is thus a clever mix of a description of the Japanese underground but also a psychological drama in which success often comes after survival.

For his first film, director Philippe McKie drew on his personal experience living in Japan to bring to life a universal story about the quest to surpass oneself and about wanting to live one's dream even if it means constantly surpassing oneself and persevering. Unlike American dance films, here the heroine is not living a daydream nor does she have a lucky star. The dance world is a real hell in which competition is omnipresent and only the most motivated, courageous and ready to pay the highest price can stay on the dance floor.

Dreams on fire is all the more successful because it is based on a young actress, Bambi Naka who is a real professional dancer and who was the star of the troupe AyaBambi. This one announced in 2018 her wish to stop the dance environment to move to another career. It is therefore understandable the great success obtained in Japan and the fact that all his fans have responded to discover this film. It comes out very spectacular dance numbers that have nothing to envy to American dance movies and especially a real vision of a director invested that really has something to tell.

Dreams On Fire
Written and directed by Philippe McKie
Produced by Michelle LeBlanc, Philippe McKie
Starring Akaji Maro, Bambi Naka, Masahiro Takashima, Ikuyo Kuroda
Music by Eiji John Mitsuta
Cinematography : James Latimer
Edited by Philippe McKie 
Release date : August 8, 2021 (Fantasia)
Running time : 124 minutes

Seen on August 8, 2021 (Fantasia press screener)

Mulder's Mark: