Sion Sono

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Sion Sono
Sono Shion (Love & Peace) at Opening Ceremony of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival (21808669303).jpg
Born (1961-12-18) December 18, 1961 (age 60)
Toyokawa, Aichi, Japan
OccupationPoet, film director, screenwriter, cinematographer, film composer, actor, film producer
Spouse(s)Megumi Kagurazaka
Japanese name
Kanji園 子温
Hiraganaその しおん
Katakanaソノ シオン

Sion Sono (園 子温, Sono Shion, born December 18, 1961) is a Japanese filmmaker, author, and poet. Best known on the festival circuit for the film Love Exposure (2008), he has been called "the most subversive filmmaker working in Japanese cinema today",[1] a "stakhanovist filmmaker"[2][3] with an "idiosyncratic" career.[4]

Early life[edit]

Sion Sono was born in Aichi Prefecture in 1961. At the age of 17, he ran away from home, and joined a cult,[5] which inspired his 2008 film Love Exposure.[6] Sono started his career working as a poet before taking his first steps in film directing, making a series of short films on Super 8 as a student.


After receiving a fellowship with the PIA, Sono made his first feature-length 16 mm film in 1990, Bicycle Sighs (Jitensha Toiki), a coming-of-age tale about two underachievers in perfectionist Japan. Sono co-wrote, directed, and starred in the film.[7] In 1990, Sono moved to San Francisco, and was admitted to University of California, Berkeley; however, he never attended class, or learned English, instead spending his time watching B-movies and porno movies.[8] After returning to Japan, he wrote and directed his second feature film, The Room (Heya) (1992), a bizarre tale about a serial killer looking for a room in a bleak, doomed Tokyo district. It participated in the Sundance Film Festival.[9] The Room also toured on 49 festivals worldwide, including the Berlin Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival.[10][failed verification] In the following years, Sono directed works such as the drama I Am Keiko (1997), the faux-documentary Utsushimi (2000), and the pink film Teachers of Sexual Play: Modelling Vessels with the Female Body (2000).

In 2001, Sono wrote and directed the horror film Suicide Club, his breakthrough feature, which follows a series of interconnected mass suicides. The film was very successful, gaining considerable notoriety in film festivals (including winning the Prize for "Most Ground-Breaking Film" at the 2003 Fantasia Film Festival), and developing a significant cult following over the years, even spawning a manga adaptation, as well as a companion piece novel written by Sono himself. In 2005, Sono released Noriko's Dinner Table, a prequel to Suicide Club, which also received acclaim. The film received special mention at the 40th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.[11]

In 2005, Sono also released three other films: Into a Dream (Yume no Naka e), a coming-of-age tale about the life of a theatre group member, Hazard, a crime film shot in New York City, (which was wide released in 2006) and Strange Circus, where Sono worked not only as director and writer, but also as composer and cinematographer. In 2006, he wrote and directed the drama film Balloon Club, Afterwards. In 2007, he wrote and directed the horror film Exte: Hair Extensions.

In 2008, Sono directed and wrote the 237 minutes-long epic Love Exposure, which is widely considered his most acclaimed and popular work to date. The film won the Caligari Film Award and the FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the Best Asian Film award at the Fantasia Film Festival. Almost a decade later, Sono would release an extended mini-series version of the film titled, Love Exposure: The TV-Show. Love Exposure was the first film in Sono's thematic "Hate" trilogy. In 2009, Sono directed the dramas Be Sure To Share and Make The Last Wish.

Love Exposure was followed by the second and third installments, Cold Fish, released in 2010, and Guilty of Romance, released in 2011; both were acclaimed, and gained him the Best Director awards at the Yokohama Film Festival and the Hochi Film Awards.[12] 2011 saw Sono be recognized in the United States with his work being highlighted in the cinema series Sion Sono: The New Poet presented at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.[13][14]

In 2011 and 2012 respectively, Sono released two drama films inspired by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and Tohoku Earthquake: Himizu and The Land of Hope. The films were praised for their simplicity and seriousness compared to Sono's other works, and Himizu won the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. In 2012, Sono edited and released the film Bad Film using footage from the production of a massive unreleased underground film he shot in 1995 starring the performance collective Tokyo GAGAGA.

In 2013, he directed the action-drama Why Don't You Play in Hell?, which was an international success, winning the People's Choice Award in the Midnight Madness section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and being distributed by the American company Drafthouse Films. In 2014, he directed Tokyo Tribe, a hip-hop musical adaptation of the manga of the same name.[15] In 2015, five films directed by Sono were released: Shinjuku Swan, an action yakuza film, Love & Peace, a tokusatsu fantasy drama, Tag, an action horror film which was named Best Film of the year at the Fantasia Film Festival and the Fancine Malaga, The Whispering Star, a science fiction film which won the NETPAC Award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, and The Virgin Psychics, an adaptation of the science fiction comedy manga series All Esper Dayo! by Kiminori Wakasugi.

In 2016, Sono was one of the directors chosen by Nikkatsu for its Roman Porno Reboot project, which asked five Japanese filmmakers to make a film that abided by the same rules as the studio's popular softcore pornography films released in the 1970s. Sono's film, the surrealist Antiporno, was praised for its feminist exploration of sexuality.[16] In 2017, Sono directed a sequel to Shinjuku Swan, Shinjuku Swan II. In the same year, he wrote and directed a 9-part horror mini-series titled Tokyo Vampire Hotel, which was produced and released to streaming by Amazon. A special feature-length cut of the show running 2 hours and 22 minutes was shown at various festivals. Also he made a cameo appearance in Meisekimu Genshi's short film Ami. exe.[17]

In 2018, it was announced that Sono was working on his first overseas production and English-language debut, a film titled Prisoners of the Ghostland, starring Nicolas Cage, which was described by Cage as "the wildest movie I've ever made."[18] In 2019, Sono was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery following a heart attack, temporarily halting pre-production on the film.[19]

In 2019, Netflix released The Forest of Love, a crime film written, directed and co-edited by Sono, inspired by the murders of Japanese serial killer Futoshi Matsunaga. An extended, mini-series version of the film, titled The Forest of Love: Deep Cut was also released. In 2020, Sono wrote, directed and edited the film Red Post on Escher Street, which followed a film director's efforts to complete a film, and won the People's Choice Award at the Montreal Festival of New Cinema.[20]


In The Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui writes that Sono has "established himself as one of the most idiosyncratic artists of his generation".[1] Often considered a provocateur, Mike Hale of The New York Times argues that he is "the most recognizable, if not the most universally celebrated, director in Japan", which Sono himself explains by stating (in Hale's words) that Japanese critics generally "reserve their approval for work that doesn’t 'embarrass' the nation." The director has said, "I do think an international audience understands my work more.”[21] Sono is considered an auteur,[22] with his style being characterized by features such as grotesque violence, extreme eroticism, philosophical references, surreal imagery, and complex narratives. Sono's portrayal of women has been a subject of discussion, with some considering his works misogynist, and others claiming they are feminist.[23] Common themes in his works include sex, cinema, cynicism, and modern Japanese society. Sono's work has often been described as belonging to, or being inspired by, the ero guro nansensu genre.[24]

Sexual misconduct allegations[edit]

On April 4, 2022, women's magazine Shūkan Josei reported allegations by two actresses and rumors inside the Japanese film industry that Sono has sexually harassed and made unwanted advances towards actresses for years.[25] On April 5, in a video he posted on YouTube, actor Tak Sakaguchi, who happeared in Sono's films, identified himself as the actor merely identified as "T" in the Shūkan Josei article, and confirmed he organized the drinking party that led to Sono allegedly assaulting one of the accusing actress.[26] On April 6, Shūkan Bunshun reported that producer Haruo Umekawa, who produced Sono's Love Exposure and Himizu, has allegedly pressured actresses for sexual favors in exchange for being cast in his films.[27] In a statement released on April 13, 2022, actress Kiko Mizuhara said she had heard widespread rumors about Sono's sexual conduct and had been warned by a fellow actor when she was offered a role in his film.[28]


Sono received the following awards for his films:

Sono also received the following nominations for his films:

Recurring collaborators[edit]


Feature films[edit]

Year Title Distributor Credited as Notes Ref.
Director Writer Actor
1986 A Man's Flower Road Yes Yes Yes
Happiness Avenue No No Yes
1988 Decisive Match! Boys Dorm vs Girls Dorm Yes Yes Yes
1990 Bicycle Sighs Yes Yes Yes Co-written with Hisashi Saito.
1991 I Hate You... Not No No Yes
1992 Heya (The Room) Yes Yes No
1994 Otaku No No Yes
1997 Keiko Desukedo (I Am Keiko) Yes Yes No
1998 Dankon: The Man Yes Yes No
1999 Kōshoku Fūfu: Susutte Hoshii No No Yes
2000 Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf Teruo Ishii Productions, Slow Learner (Japan), Eleven Arts (USA) No No Yes
Seigi no tatsujin: Nyotai tsubo saguri (Teachers of Sexual Play: Modelling Urns with the Female Body) Yes Yes Yes
Utsushimi (The Real Body) Yes Yes Yes Credited as cinematographer.
2001 Suicide Club Earthrise (Japan), TLA Releasing Yes Yes No
2004 Nō-pantsu gāruzu: Movie box-ing2 : Otona ni Nattara (No Pants Girls: Movie Box-ing2) Yes Yes No Anthology series.
2005 Into a Dream Yes Yes No
Noriko's Dinner Table Eleven Arts (global), Tidepoint Pictures Yes Yes No
Hazard Evokative Films, Eleven Arts Yes Yes Yes With Kazuyoshi Kumakiri as contributing writer. Also cameo.
Strange Circus Yes Yes No Credited as composer, cinematographer.
2006 Balloon Club Revisited Yes Yes No
Damejin No No Yes
2007 Exte Toei Company Yes Yes No Screenplay written with Masaki Adachi, Makoto Sanada.
The Insects Unlisted in the Encyclopedia No No Yes Credited as composer.
2008 Love Exposure Omega Project Yes Yes No
Tokyo Gore Police No No Yes
2009 Be Sure to Share Yes Yes No
Make the Last Wish Yes Yes Yes Cameo.
2010 Cold Fish Yes Yes No Co-written with Yoshiki Takahashi.
2011 Himizu Gaga Yes Yes No
Guilty of Romance Yes Yes No Story written by Mizue Kunizane.
2012 The Land of Hope Yes Yes No
Bad Film Yes Yes Yes Credited as editor. Shot in 1995, released in 2012.
2013 Why Don't You Play in Hell? Drafthouse Films (USA) Yes Yes No Credited as composer.
2014 Tokyo Tribe Nikkatsu Yes Yes Yes Cameo.
2015 Shinjuku Swan Sony Pictures Entertainment Yes No No
Love & Peace Asmik Ace Entertainment Yes Yes No
Tag Shochiku, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Universal Pictures Japan (via NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan) Yes Yes No
The Whispering Star Yes Yes No Credited as producer.
The Virgin Psychics Gaga Yes Yes No
2016 Antiporno Nikkatsu Yes Yes No Credited as producer.
2017 Tokyo Vampire Hotel Amazon Video Yes Yes No
2017 Shinjuku Swan II Yes No No
2018 Red Blade No Yes No Screenplay by Toshiki Kimura (as Ichirô Ryû), story by Sion Sono (as Shion Sono).
2019 The Forest of Love Netflix Yes Yes No
2020 State of Emergency Amazon Studios Yes No No Anthology series. [34]
Red Post on Escher Street Yes Yes No Credited as Editor (as Shion Sono).
2021 Prisoners of the Ghostland RLJE Films Yes No No First English-language film [35]

Short films[edit]

Year Title Credited as
Director Writer Actor
1984 Love Songs Yes No Yes
1985 I Am Sion Sono!! Yes Yes Yes
1986 Love Yes Yes Yes
1995 Vagina and Virgin Yes Yes No
1998 Kaze (Wind) Yes Yes No
2001 0cm4 Yes Yes No
2001 Father's Day Yes No No
2010 Karma No Yes[a] No
2013 Venice 70: Future Reloaded[b] Yes No No
2016 Madly[b] Yes No No
2017 Ami. exe No No Yes
2018 ami.exe No No Yes
2018 The Bastard and the Beautiful World[b] Yes Yes No


Sono has director and writer credits for two episodes and acted in one episode of the 2006 comedy television mini-series Jikō Keisatsu (Prescription Police) and wrote one episode of the 2007 series Kaette Kita Jikō keisatsu (Before Prescription Police). He directed, wrote, and acted in an episode of the 2013 series Minna! ESPer Dayo! and directed its 2015 television special continuation All Esper Dayo! SP. Sono directed and wrote the 2017 Amazon original mini-series Tokyo Vampire Hotel.


  • Tokyo Gagaga (1993)
  • Furo de Yomu Gendai Shi Nyuumon (2000)
  • Jisatsu Saakuru: Kanzenban (2002)
  • Jikou Keisatsu (2002)
  • Yume no Naka e (2005)


  1. ^ Story by Alex Paille
  2. ^ a b c Anthology series.


  1. ^ a b Tsui, Clarence (July 29, 2016). "'The Sion Sono': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  2. ^ Acevedo, Yoselin (January 12, 2017). "'Anti-Porno' Trailer: Japanese Director Sion Sono Returns with a Feminist Take on Sexuality". IndieWire. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  3. ^ Brown, Todd (January 10, 2017). "ANTI-PORNO: First Trailer For Sono's Latest Delivers A Splash Of Color And Fetish". ScreenAnarchy. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  4. ^ Harvey, Dennis (December 15, 2017). "Film Review: 'Antiporno'". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  5. ^ Hoenigman, David F. (July 28, 2009). "channeling chaos – an interview with sion sono". 3:AM Magazine.
  6. ^ Wilentz, David (September 4, 2009). "10% True, 90% Lies: SION SONO with David Wilentz". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  7. ^ "Bicycle Sighs (Jitensha Toiki)".
  8. ^ "Channeling Chaos - An Interview with Sion Sono -". 3:AM Magazine. July 28, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "1985-1996 Sundance Film Festival" (PDF). Sundance Institute. p. 16. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  10. ^ "Sion Soni - Biography". Festival Scope. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  11. ^ "Závěrečná tisková zpráva (9. 7. 2005)" [Final press release (July 9, 2005)] (PDF) (in Czech). KVIFF. July 9, 2005: 2. Retrieved March 18, 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "'Suicide Club' Director Gets Behind Camera for 'Cold Fish'". BloodyDisgusting. February 15, 2010.
  13. ^ "Sion Sono: The New Poet". Museum of Arts and Design. Museum of Arts and Design. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  14. ^ Abrams, Simon. "Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono is not big on faith and family". Capital. Capital. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  15. ^ "Live-Action Tokyo Tribe Film's Trailer Features a Rap Battle". Anime News Network. August 20, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  16. ^ Acevedo, Yoselin (January 12, 2017). "'Anti-Porno' Trailer: Japanese Director Sion Sono Returns with a Feminist Take on Sexuality". IndieWire. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  17. ^ Cinema Nippon. ""ami.exe": A Glitch in Japanese Film". Retrieved January 10, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Nordine, Michael (December 14, 2018). "Nicolas Cage Calls 'Prisoners of the Ghostland' 'The Wildest Movie I've Ever Made'". IndieWire. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  19. ^ "Japanese Auteur Sion Sono Hospitalized After Heart Attack | Hollywood Reporter". February 7, 2019. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  20. ^ Escher dori no akai posuto - IMDb, retrieved November 15, 2020
  21. ^ Hale, Mike (July 12, 2016). "At Japan Cuts Festival, Films by Sion Sono That Don't Fit His Bad-Boy Label". The New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  22. ^ "Japanese Auteur Sion Sono to Direct Netflix Series | Hollywood Reporter". October 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  23. ^ Dazed (December 1, 2017). "Your guide to controversial Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono". Dazed. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  24. ^ Lazarus, Lady (June 16, 2015). "Deviant Desires: Erotic Grotesque Nonsense. Part 1 (Introduction)". Lady Lazarus. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  25. ^ 園子温の性加害を出演女優らが告発!「主演にはだいたい手を出した」と豪語する大物監督の“卑劣な要求”. Shūkan Josei Prime (in Japanese). April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  26. ^ 俳優Tは「私です」園子温監督の性加害報道で飲み会にいた坂口拓がYouTubeで謝罪「細かいことは覚えていないんですけど…」. Chunichi Sports (in Japanese). April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  27. ^ 「園子温監督の右腕」有名プロデューサーが女優に性的写真要求メール. Shūkan Bunshun (in Japanese). April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  28. ^ 「芸能界の性加害」水原希子のコメント全文. Shūkan Bunshun (in Japanese). April 13, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  29. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire. August 5, 2015.
  30. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire. August 5, 2015.
  31. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire. August 5, 2015.
  32. ^ "Toronto International Film Festival Announces 2015 Award Winners" (PDF) (Press release). TIFF. September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  33. ^ "Sion Sono". IMDb. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  34. ^ "斎藤工&ムロツヨシ&夏帆らが参加、オムニバス映画『緊急事態宣言』配信". Cinema Cafe. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  35. ^ Welk, Brian (January 31, 2021). "Sundance 2021: What Has Sold So Far, From 'CODA' to 'Flee' (Photos)". TheWrap. Retrieved January 31, 2021.

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