starring Bambi Naka, Akaji Maro, Ikuyo Kuroda, Masahiro Takashima
written and directed by Philippe McKie
by Walter Chaw I don't know if I've ever seen a film quite like Philippe McKie's Dreams on Fire. Not for its story of a young dancer looking for her big break while jumping from humiliating job to humiliating job; Flashdance and Fame are two of the picture's obvious touchpoints, although the Step Up franchise is the obvious headwater. Rather, Dreams on Fire is distinctive because of its focus on how each failure is a gift if you can manage somehow not to quit. The movie opens in a familiar place as young Yume (Bambi Naka) declares her dream of being a dancer to the violent disapproval of her tradition-bound grandfather (Akaji Maro), her mother (Ikuyo Kuroda) hiding to avoid the conversation. I've learned something, hopefully not too late, after thirty-some years in corporate America: that everything my parents taught me was a measure of success was a lie. Education, climbing the ladder, home-ownership, money as the end-all/be-all of happiness--lies, obvious lies. I have achieved everything I was supposed to achieve and it didn't make me happier for even a moment. No one comes to the end of their life wishing they'd worked more. I made the decision to be happy, and my worst days now are better than my best days then.