International Competition

7-year-old Nora and her big brother Abel are back to school. When Nora witnesses Abel being bullied by other kids, she rushes to protect him by warning their father. But Abel forces her to remain silent. Caught in a conflict of loyalty, Nora will try to find her place, torn between children’s and adults’worlds.

Festival De Cannes – Un Certain Regard

Japan Premiere
  • Director:Laura Wandel
  • Belgium
  • 2021
  • 72min.
  • color
  • -
  • French
  • JPN & ENG Sub.


Screening Dates, Times, and Venues

Sep.21 (Wed.) 13:00-
Naramachi Center

Sep.24 (Sat.) 10:00-
Naramachi Center

* Only if there are vacant seats, tickets are available at the door.

Guest Talk

Sep.24 (Sat.) 10:00-
After screening

movie trailer
With ”Playground”, I wanted to send viewers back to their school days, back to the very first confrontations with others and the universal need to not be excluded, to feel recognized. Childhood is a time where we map out and build our inner landscape. Our first steps into the social microcosm of a school have an important impact on this landscape and often shape our worldview as adults. « Playground » experiences mirror the way things unfold in many different levels of society in the world. Through Nora’s journey, I wish to explore the vulnerability of this pivotal moment in the learning and growing process. In this story, bullying is a starting point to explore the roots of a universal fear we all share: the fear of exclusion. This particular fear connects all the elements we used to build this story. By doing this, I wish to portray how our fears influence our perception of the world and how our beliefs end up transforming reality. Confronted with moral violence, Nora comes face to face with her own limits. In her journey, this confrontation is necessary in order for an act of resistance to violence to arise, no matter how great the fear. By freeing herself from her fears, Nora succeeds in bringing an end to the violence through an act of kindness. Through this gesture, I hope that one can feel the way in which she succeeds in changing the course of events. Once this change is set in motion, a new connection to others becomes possible. I am deeply moved by the possibility of this reconnection process. In a time where, more than ever, fear looms as a terrifying weapon, widening the gap between individuals and pushing people towards self-isolation, I am convinced that the universal reach of this story bears the ability to echo within each and every one of us.
Laura Wandel

Laura Wandel was born in 1984 in Belgium where she studied filmmaking at the IAD school. Her school film, “Murs”, was selected in many festivals around the world. After her first short film, “O négatif”, she directed in 2014 “Les corps étrangers”, selected in competition at Cannes Film Festival. “Playground” is her first feature.

Recommendations from the NIFF Supporters

This work shoots the film from the height of the 7-year-old protagonist’s point of view. It’s like reliving your elementary school days. Before I knew it, I had become the main character, Nora. The last is a surprise. The performance of the main character, Nora, in particular, is excellent. The talent of the director who directs it is amazing.


Jury President│Filmmaker

Billante Mendoza

Filipino film director and producer. Known as a Living National Treasure. His films
have been highly acclaimed and won awards at the world’s three major film festivals―the Cannes Film Festival,
the Venice International Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival. After working in the advertising
industry, he became a production designer. He has served as juror and jury president at film festivals held in
Japan, Egypt, France, Malaysia, Singapore, and Belgium.



Momoko Ando

Born in Tokyo in 1982. She studied abroad in England since high school and
graduated from the University of London’s Faculty of Arts. After that, she studied filmmaking in New York, worked
as an assistant director, and made her debut as a director and screenwriter in 2010 with “A Piece of Our Life”. In
2011, she published her first full-length novel “0.5mm”, and in 2014 directed, wrote and made it into a movie. After
that, the movie “Utamonogatari CINEMA FIGHTERS project ‘Aeiou'”, which she directed and wrote, was released
in 2018.


Professor at Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Humanities

Dr. Oussouby SACKO

As a government-sponsored student, he studied at Beijing Language and Culture
University and Nanjing Southeast University. In 1990, he experienced a shortterm
homestay in Tokyo and was surprised by the downtown culture that was common to Mali. He came to
Japan in 1991, and in 1999 completed a doctoral course at the Department of Architecture, Graduate School
of Engineering, Kyoto University. Ph.D. (Engineering). Specialized in spatial anthropology. After working as a
faculty member and dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Kyoto Seika University, he was appointed president of
the university in April 2018 (until March 2022) before taking up his current position. He advocates a society that
recognizes diverse values from the perspective of everyday life.



Asian Film Programming Advisor

Asia│Film Programming Advisor

Jacob Wong

Jacob Wong has been a member of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society for over two decades, with double-barrel responsibilities as Curator and Director of HAF (Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum). He is currently Director of the Film Industry Office, overlooking HAF, HAF Goes to Cannes, the Film Lab, Co-productions and Foreign Sales. He is also the Berlin Film Festival’s delegate for Chinese-language cinemas.


Locarno IFF Selection Committee, Film Critique

Daniela Persico

Daniela Persico is part selection committee for Locarno Film Festival and Berlin Critics Week and
a curator for L’immagine e la parola, spin-off of the Locarno Festival. She’s founder and editor in chief of the online quarterly
Filmidee ( She has also devoted to help various young filmmakers in developing films. In 2022, she was
appointed artistic director of the Bellaria Film Festival.

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