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 59)
Toyokawa, Aichi, Japan
OccupationPoet, film director, screenwriter, cinematographer, film composer, actor
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]


Sion Sono was born in Aichi Perfecture in 1961. At the age of 17, he ran away from home, and joined a Christian cult, which inspired his 2008 film Love Exposure.[2] 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.[3] In 1990, Sono moved to San Francisco, and was admitted to Berkeley University; however, he never attended class, or learned English, instead spending his time watching B-movies and porno movies.[4] 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.[5] The Room also toured on 49 festivals worldwide, including the Berlin Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival.[6][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 satirical 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, and won the Don Quixote award at the 40th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.[citation needed]

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, and Strange Circus, a personal project where Sono worked not only as director and writer, but also as composer and cinematographer. 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. It 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.[7] 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.[8][9]

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.[10] 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!.

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.[11] 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.[12]

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."[13] In 2019, Sono was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery following a heart attack, presumably halting production on the film, temporarily.[14]

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.[15]


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.”[16] Sono is considered an auteur,[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]


Sono received the following awards for his films:

Sono also received the following nominations for his films:

Recurring collaborators[edit]


  • Love Song (1984) Director [Short film]
  • I Am Sion Sono!! (1985) Director, writer and actor [Short film]
  • A Man's Flower Road (1986) Director and writer
  • Love (1986) Director and writer [Short film]
  • Decisive Match! Boys Dorm vs Girls Dorm (1988) Director and writer
  • Bicycle Sighs (1990) Director, co-writer and actor
  • I Hate You... Not (1991) Actor
  • Heya: The Room (1992) Director and writer
  • Otaku (1994) Actor
  • Bad Film (1995) Director and writer
  • Keiko Dessukedo (I Am Keiko) (1997) Director and writer
  • Kaze (1998) Director and writer [Short film]
  • Dankon: The Man (1998) Director and writer
  • Utsushimi (1998) Director, writer and cinematographer
  • Depression Blot (1999) Director and writer
  • Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf (2000) Actor
  • Seigi no tatsujin: Nyotai tsubo saguri (2000) Director and writer
  • Suicide Club (2001) Director and writer
  • 0cm4 (2001) Director and writer [Short film]
  • Father's Day (2001) Director [Short film]
  • Prom Night (2002) Director
  • Chichi no Hi (2003) Director and writer
  • Nō-pantsu gāruzu: Movie box-ing2 : Otona ni Nattara (2004) Director and writer [Anthology]
  • Into a Dream (2005) Director and writer
  • Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) Director and writer
  • Hazard (2005) Director and writer
  • Strange Circus (2005) Director, writer, composer and cinematographer
  • Balloon Club, Afterwards (2006) Director and writer
  • Jikō keisatsu (2006) Director [TV show]
  • Exte (2007) Director and writer
  • Love Exposure (2008) Director and writer
  • Be Sure to Share (2009) Director and writer
  • Make the Last Wish (2009) Director
  • Cold Fish (2010) Director and co-writer
  • Himizu (2011) Director and writer
  • Guilty of Romance (2011) Director and writer
  • Kenkichi (2012) Director and writer
  • The Land of Hope (2012) Director and writer
  • Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013) Director and writer
  • Minna! ESPer Dayo! (2013) Director and writer [TV series]
  • Venice 70: Future Reloaded (2013) Director [Anthology]
  • Tokyo Tribe (2014) Director and writer
  • All Esper Dayo! SP (2015) Director [TV Movie]
  • Shinjuku Swan (2015) Director
  • Love & Peace (2015) Director and writer
  • Tag (2015) Director and writer
  • The Whispering Star (2015) Director and writer
  • The Virgin Psychics (2015) Director and writer
  • Madly (2015) Director [Anthology]
  • Antiporno (2016) Director
  • Shinjuku Swan II (2017) Director
  • Tokyo Vampire Hotel (2017) Director and writer Amazon original series
  • The Bastard and the Beautiful World (2018) Director and writer
  • The Forest of Love (2019) Director and writer
  • State of Emergency (2020) Director [Anthology][25]
  • Red Post on Escher Street (2020) Director
  • Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) Director


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


  1. ^ a b Tsui, Clarence (July 29, 2016). "'The Sion Sono': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  2. ^ Wilentz, David (2009-09-04). "10% True, 90% Lies: SION SONO with David Wilentz". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Channeling Chaos - An Interview with Sion Sono -". 3:AM Magazine. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  5. ^ "1985-1996 Sundance Film Festival" (PDF). Sundance Institute. p. 16. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  6. ^ "Sion Soni - Biography". Festival Scope. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  7. ^ "'Suicide Club' Director Gets Behind Camera for 'Cold Fish'". BloodyDisgusting.
  8. ^ "Sion Sono: The New Poet". Museum of Arts and Design. Museum of Arts and Design. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  9. ^ Abrams, Simon. "Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono is not big on faith and family". Capital. Capital. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Live-Action Tokyo Tribe Film's Trailer Features a Rap Battle". Anime News Network. August 20, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  11. ^ Acevedo, Yoselin (2017-01-12). "'Anti-Porno' Trailer: Japanese Director Sion Sono Returns with a Feminist Take on Sexuality". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  12. ^ Cinema Nippon. ""ami.exe": A Glitch in Japanese Film". Retrieved 2021-01-10.
  13. ^ Nordine, Michael (2018-12-14). "Nicolas Cage Calls 'Prisoners of the Ghostland' 'The Wildest Movie I've Ever Made'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  14. ^ "Japanese Auteur Sion Sono Hospitalized After Heart Attack | Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  15. ^ Escher dori no akai posuto - IMDb, retrieved 2020-11-15
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Japanese Auteur Sion Sono to Direct Netflix Series | Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  18. ^ Dazed (2017-12-01). "Your guide to controversial Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono". Dazed. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  19. ^ Lazarus, Lady (2015-06-16). "Deviant Desires: Erotic Grotesque Nonsense. Part 1 (Introduction)". Lady Lazarus. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  20. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire.
  21. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire.
  22. ^ "19th Fantasia International Film Festival Announces 2015 Winners". IndieWire.
  23. ^ "Toronto International Film Festival Announces 2015 Award Winners" (PDF) (Press release). TIFF. 2015-09-20. Retrieved 2015-09-21.
  24. ^ "Sion Sono". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  25. ^ "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.

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