A Japanese film that imagines killing seniors as a solution to the problem of an aging population is taking a break from Cannes

A Japanese film would have devastated Cannes Film Festival audiences with its poetic imagination of a dystopian solution for Japan’s aging population.

“Plan 75,” written and directed by Chie Hayakawa, is set in an alternate Japan in which citizens aged 75 and over have the option—and are strongly encouraged—to be euthanized for free.

Although reported as controversial, the policy is generally accepted in the society which is proud of its “history of sacrifice”. As part of the deal, the contestants receive a sum of $1,000 which they can spend freely.

“At first glance, the government’s 75 plan is full of goodwill, friendliness and pragmatism,” Hayakawa said. AFP. “But in truth, it is both very cruel and shameful.”

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The film follows three main characters living in extraordinary circumstances: Michi (Chieko Baisho), a 78-year-old maid who finds happiness in small things – until she is fired; Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), a young Plan 75 agent who comes to his senses when he contacts his older uncle; and Maria (Stefanie Arianna Akashi), a Filipina who started out as an elderly carer, until her daughter’s failing health forced her to join Plan 75 for better pay.

Hayakawa acknowledged that Japan’s aging population is not a recent problem. However, she was inspired to work on the film after the 2016 Sagamihara stabbings, in which a 26-year-old man engaged in a series of stabbings at a disabled care facility, killing 19. people and injuring 26 others.

“I was furious and thought if Japan were to speed up this path of intolerance, what would it be like?” Hayakawa said The Hollywood Reporter.

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While developing the film, Hayakawa interviewed 15 elderly Japanese women, all of whom said they would consider applying for Plan 75 if it actually existed. Their reason: “They don’t want to be a burden.”

For all its grotesque premise, “Plan 75” strays from the expectations of a “futuristic sci-fi” aesthetic. Instead, it adopts a more realistic cinematic style, effectively instilling a sense of urgency as the story unfolds as “an extension of our real world today,” Hayakawa said.

Currently, about 30% of Japan’s population is over 65, according to AFP. This fraction is should speed up in the years to come.

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“What worries me a lot is that we are in a social reality that would greatly favor such a drastic solution,” Hayakawa told the outlet. “It’s scary.”

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