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Evil Does Not Exist

“Evil Does Not Exist,” the new Japanese drama from director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, following his Academy Award-winning film “Drive My Car.”opens with a long tracking shot through the trees, looking at the sky, with the sounds of nature bleeding into a score that initially seems more suited to a horror film. However, as the film progresses, this tonal choice becomes clear. Hamaguchi invites patience and time to accept the pace of Mizubiki, the peaceful village outside Tokyo where Takumi lives with his daughter, Hana.

The film evolves into a deliberately paced drama about the struggles between peace and violence, city and countryside, and humanity and nature. The story centers on a large company in Tokyo that buys land in the village to create a glamping site near Takumi’s home, where his daughter enjoys exploring the woods, and he works odd jobs around town. The company sends a talent agency firm to host a public meeting to inform the locals about their plans. It quickly becomes clear that the meeting hosts have no real authority and are merely messengers for their clients in Tokyo. The town recognizes this and demands transparency before the company disrupts the village's balance.

The film unfolds slowly, peeling back layers to reveal a damning and unsettling examination of tourism's dialectics and how the human desire for peace and beauty often leads to destroying what we love. This serves as a microcosm of the larger issues we face as a species, particularly regarding climate change and the destruction of our planet’s balance.

“Evil Does Not Exist” may not be for everyone, but I found it profoundly beautiful yet unsettling, featuring layered performances that are paradoxically opaque and vulnerable. The film goes to places you anticipate from the beginning yet still finds ways to shock you without feeling unearned. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how genuinely funny some the scenes can be in the film as well.

I love a film that trusts its audience, one that doesn’t spoon-feed answers and allows you to sit with it, lingering long after you leave the theater. This is that type of film. It’s been over 24 hours since I watched it, and it still sits with me, begging to be revisited.

“Evil Does Not Exist” is now playing at Film Streams in Omaha and at The Ross in Lincoln.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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