English and Japanese with English subtitles, 2012, 81 minutes, color, U.S.A., U.S. Documentary
Winner of the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Zachary Heinzerling’s remarkable debut is an indelible portrait of art, companionship, and the 40-year love story between Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two Japanese artists who meet and marry in New York in the early 1970s. Surviving decades of hardship, resentment, financial anxiety, thwarted aspirations, and Ushio’s chronic alcoholism, they are a study in artistic symbiosis.
Now 80 years old and finally sober, Ushio is preparing a joint exhibit with Noriko, yet he still treats her as a de facto assistant. Ushio’s mixed-media sculptures and “boxing” paintings, infused with chaotic energy, have brought notoriety—but rarely income. Meanwhile, Noriko, emerging from her husband’s shadow, creates intimate comic-styled watercolor and ink drawings that tell the story—a muted empowerment fantasy—of their alter egos, Cutie and Bullie.
Skillfully photographed and crafted, Cutie and the Boxer moves fluidly between past and present, employing a vérité aesthetic, archival footage, and beautifully animated sequences of Noriko’s drawings. Heinzerling seamlessly inhabits their space, observing its rhythms and textures, their complex dynamic, and the creative vitality that fuels their lives. - J. N.
About the Director
New York–based Zachary Heinzerling is a director and cinematographer who has worked on several films for HBO, including three Emmy Award–winning documentaries as a field producer and camera operator. In 2011, he attended the Berlinale Talent Campus, a six-day creative summit sponsored by the Berlin International Film Festival, and was selected as one of 25 filmmakers for the New York Film Festival’s Emerging Visions program that same year. This is Heinzerling’s first feature as director.
Cast and Credits
Director: Zachary Heinzerling
Executive Producers: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Kiki Miyake
Producers: Sierra Pettengill, Patrick Burns, Zachary Heinzerling
THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL IS ONE PROGRAM OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT
DISCOVERS AND SUPPORTS INDEPENDENT FILM AND THEATRE ARTISTS FROM THE U.S. AND AROUND THE WORD
AND INTRODUCES AUDIENCES TO THEIR NEW WORK.