“It’s a drug, it’s addicting. And once you get a little taste of that, I want more, I want more of that.” Bearing no particularly stand-out talents, 'ordinary' Aussie Dave and his two friends have one mission: experiencing and understanding fame. And they are prepared to do whatever it takes get there.
Aware of the rising demand for foreign celebrities in Japan - the popularity of which has become so absurd that you can achieve fame simply for not being Japanese - star-to-be Dave and camera-men Lachlan and Louis fly themselves over to Tokyo to make the biggest splash they can. As they venture deeper into the city, they meet an eccentric host of gaijin tarento
(foreign talents), that inform and inspire their path to stardom.
Fellow Australian turned Japanese icon Rick ‘Ladybeard’ Magarey is a cross-dressing rock sensation. Having wracked up 60,000 twitter followers in just six months of arriving in the capital, he appears to be going from online strength to strength. Yet he is beginning to realise that fame comes at a cost. He recounts that back home “I can’t do anything. I can do what you saw on stage. I can get in the ring and do some wrestling. At real life I suck so much”, but now he has reached the point where he can’t walk down the street without being mobbed by fans.
Meanwhile TV veteran Bob Sapp has adopted the character of ‘The Beast’, a pro-wrestler and MMA fighter from the nineties. At first a hit TV personality with the Japanese, 'The Beast' must now struggle to keep his reputation and celebrity status alive. He reflects that being famous is certainly a double-edged sword: “A little over 10 years I’ve yet to see anyone in my family, yet to speak to anyone”, he laments, not wanting to compromise their safety due to obsessive fans.
Last but not least the team come across Canadian teen turned Jpop idol Kelsey Parnigoni, who left her home at the age of twenty in desperate pursuit of recognition in Japan. Yet the world of Jpop is perhaps not all Kelsey dreamed of, as she comes to terms with the fact that this role strips the individual of their right to have a boyfriend or indeed any public opinion of their own.
For Writer and Producer Dave, sacrifice manifests itself in the humiliation and degradation of his alter-ego, ‘Mr Jonesu’, who is pushed to swim in icy waterfalls or publicly expose himself in order to gain followers on social media. Having tasted the lifestyle of celebrity-hood - highs include securing an advertising deal with Toyota and receiving 14000 retweets on one of their twitter pictures - the crew is finally pushed to ask: ‘When is it time for us to go home?’. The further they pursue their journey, the more difficult it becomes to gain a tangible grasp of what it actually means to be famous.
It may be wild, funny and even downright bizarre, but beneath the laughs Big in Japan
reveals the disconnect between our glorified perception of fame and the restricting reality of the lifestyle it entails. Flashing lights and national reverence aside, Dave’s endeavour stresses the importance of keeping sight of what is real.
Reviews and More
"The documentary is well paced. The soundtrack is perfect. Tokyo has never looked so appealing
" – Follow Magazine
“Big in Japan
finds its own crucial statement and style” – Louise Agostino, Film Blerg
"A strange and oddly philosophical fame joyride in the vein of Louis Theroux
" – Cinema Australia
For a Q&A
with writer and prodcuer David Elliot-Jones, see here
Documentary Edge Festival - Official Selection
Melbourne Documentary Festival - Official Selection