Japanese actress Fumi Nikaido receives the inaugural Screen International Rising Star award at the New York Asian Film Festival

Not only does Fumi Nikaido make brave and striking choices when it comes to her career path, favouring edgy indie fare over mainstream movies that might simplistically make the most of her teen model looks, but she is positively charming to meet.

The smile on her face when she accepted the Screen International Rising Star Award at the New York Asian Film Festival was honest and open…and when she added coyly: “…and can I take it home?” it was impossible not to be won over by her.

The same can be said for critics (and audiences) who have raved over her acting work over the last few years. Her breakthrough, was as the much-abused girlfriend of Shota Sometani’s violent hero in Sion Sono’s drama Himizu, which screened at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. The film won Sometani and Nikaido a joint Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actors.

Born in Okinawa in 1984 she followed a familiar route for many young and attractive Japanese actresses, becoming a model in teen fashion magazine Nicola before moving over to acting in 2007. But she has been astute in choosing to work on edgy projects and with more left-field film-makers.

Recent work has included the sword-wielding gangster’s daughter in Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de Naze Warui?), which premiered at Venice last year; a dreamy student in coming-of-age drama Au Revoir l’Eté (Hotori no Sakuko) and in Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s recent controversial Moscow Film Festival award-winner My Man (Watashi no Otoko).

She is forthright and determined about the sort of directors she wants to work with and the type of films she wants to make. She admitted she is determined to work with Iranian director Amir Naderi, who made cult hit Cut in Tokyo in 2011 (though her favourite of his films is 1900’s The Runner).

She is also busy working on her English – which is pretty good in any case – so it is also highly likely she could be featuring in international projects.