The very personal reason behind filmmaker Takako Imai’s breakdancing documentary

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Takako Imai is originally from Japan but moved to London to become a music journalist and later a filmmaker. She loved journalism and meeting celebrities, but soon she wanted to be the one behind the camera, so she made the films ‘Recordare: Days of Remembrance’ and ‘Venus in Eros’, both of which have a strong focus on dance and music. Her latest project is a documentary about breakdancing, provisionally titled ‘BBoy In A Dream’. Takako talks about meeting stars like David Bowie and Brian May, her journey into making films, and how she was captivated by talented ‘BBoys’ while making her latest documentary.

What was it like working as a music journalist?

“I met many legendary musicians including David Bowie, Boy George and Brian May. I learned a lot from their sincere attitude towards music and realised how hard it is to survive in the entertainment world. Sadly some of them have now passed away and I can’t speak with them anymore. But I still have a lot of respect for them.”

Photo credit: Dominic Jacobs

How did you get started in the film industry?

“I’ve wanted to make movies since I was a kid. There weren’t great film schools in Japan at the time, so I thought I should study in New York, but my parents were against the idea. I worked for a music company in Tokyo then I became a music journalist after moving to London.”

“By chance I met Harrison Ford, and then I ended up meeting many big movie stars and interviewing them.”

“Then I started to make movies by myself – I made a short film and then a feature film, ‘Venus In Eros’. This film was released in cinemas in Japan. The protagonist was a Japanese-German actress, who was the most popular porn actress in Japan at the time. Although it was an art movie, it might be mistaken for a porn movie because there are scenes where she gets completely naked.”

Which projects have you been most proud of to date?

“My first short film, ‘Recordare: Days of Remembrance’, a love story between two men, was made in collaboration with dancers from the Matthew Bourne Company. It was officially selected for the Chicago Short Film Festival and the Paris Short Film Festival.”

“‘Venus in Eros’ was my first feature film. It is also a love story expressed through dance, where a statue with a human heart gets drawn into a love triangle.”

“These two works use the music of a London boys’ choir called Libera. And then I really enjoyed filming a documentary for a major Japanese TV station. We filmed a double of David Beckham, and when I was filming him on the street, many people thought he was real and stared at him!”

Photo credit Cam Harle Photography

Tell us about the new documentary you’re filming now?

“I’m currently making a documentary movie about breakdancing. It’s provisionally titled ‘BBoy In A Dream’ and it started shooting in 2014, but the movie isn’t really finished yet, because breakdance was added to the Paris Olympics for 2024. So we’ve added young breakdancers to the cast. The main music has already been made by Libera and Takatsugu Muramatsu, a Japanese composer and we are looking for a hip-hop artist to collaborate with.” 

What inspired you to make a documentary about breakdancing?

“My husband, Brian Jacobs, who was also my business partner, died before my first feature film ‘Venus In Eros’ was released. My son Dominic Jacobs edited it. He was a BBoy and really wanted to do breakdancing events. He often said: ‘Don’t force me to do what you want’, and at one point my son and I stopped talking at all. I felt so lonely. So I watched many breakdancers on YouTube to try to understand my son’s mind. I saw some videos of BBoy Taisuke and I was amazed. He’s a Japanese BBoy who’s famous all over the world. I found his contact details and told him: ‘I want to make your documentary film’. A few days later I got a great reply that he wanted to participate in the project and I went to Japan to shoot him. At the end of the movie I will confess why I wanted to make it and convey my words to my son and my husband.”

Featured photo credit Cam Harle Photography