Perhaps one of the most innovative and challenging filmmakers working in cinema today, Japanese director Hiroyuki Oki has made everything from pornography to sublimely beautiful experimental films that are both socially conscious and visually compelling. Though he has been championed as one of the gay community's leading filmmakers, Hiroyuki's reluctance to classify himself as a "gay filmmaker" has not only made him difficult to pigeonhole, but kept the meaning of his sometimes obscure films open to much wider interpretation. A native of Tokyo whose interest in architecture led him to study at the Architectural Department of the Facility of Engineering of Tokyo University, the avant-garde designer's decidedly non-mainstream sensibilities left him a bit out of place in a school generally geared toward more orthodox methods. Although he had been exposed to film during his college years, architecture remained his main priority until graduation in 1998. Hiroyuki's interest in cinema was piqued, however, when a filmmaker friend asked him to write a script, and the architect was soon writing, directing, and starring in his first film while working at a remote mountain lodge.
Hiroyuki subsequently enrolled at the Image Forum -- which is well known for having a teaching staff with a notable flair for more experimental filmmaking -- and learned the basic foundation of the craft. He also began to use more unconventional methods of filmmaking. Beginning in 1984, Hiroyuki made a number of shorts, though his three-hour, 1989 thesis project The Film of Buddy Matsumae stood out. The following year, his film Swimming Prohibited took home the Special Juror's Prize at the Forum Film Festival, and after moving to Kochi City in 1991, Hiroyuki directed his first 35 mm feature, I Like You, I Like You Very Much (1994). A softcore dramatization of the "coming out" of a young, gay Japanese male, the film showcased Hiroyuki's strong visual flair and tempered his penchant for more experimental filmmaking with a generally straightforward storytelling structure. In 1996, he won the NETPAC prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for his Heaven-6-Box. Hiroyuki's reputation continued to grow in subsequent years thanks to such efforts as Tears of Ecstasy and 3+1 (both 1997).