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The Witness(森淳 一監督「見えない目撃者」)
The Witness is a pulse pounding Japanese thriller, in the vein of David Fincher's suspense movies or Jonathan Demm's Silence of the Lambs. It is a remake of the award winning Korean film, Blind (2011), which was also remade in Chinese as The Witness (2015). The Witness is set to premier in English at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Newly graduated police officer Natsume Hamanaka(Riho Yoshioka) is involved in a tragic car accident that costs her eyesight and her younger brother's life. Several years later, Natsume has retired as a police officer and is living with her mother, transcribing audio for a living. She has become accustomed to her blindness, but is still mentally affected by the crash and is receiving psychiatric treatment. One night while walking home, she witnesses a minor car accident, and when she approaches the car to ascertain whether everyone is okay, she hears the voice of a teenage girl crying for help. Certain that the young girl is a kidnapping victim, Natsume reports the incident to the police, but they are dismissive of her report due to her handicap. Natsume has no choice but to pursue the case herself, putting everything she learned as a police officer to use in order rescue the girl before it's too late.

The film immediately reels in the audience with its interesting premise, and keeps everyone along for the ride with its twisty mystery story and nail-biting action sequences. Natsume's blindness adds a palpable sense of danger, while paradoxically also making her capable in ways that other detectives aren't. Fans of other blind thrillers like Terence Young's Wait Until Dark will have a basic idea what to expect, but The Witness still has plenty of fresh ideas to offer, including a very creative sequence involving FaceTime. It is clear why this premise has been receiving so much attention throughout Asia.

Director, Junichi Mori has recently honed his craft in the mystery/thriller sphere through popular TV dramas like Eerie and Miss Sherlock, and it is clear that he has what it takes to become a powerful force in the genre. As a fan of Asian suspense cinema, I can't wait to see what comes next.
Text by Hugh Wilson Nettlebeck

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