Following on from its showing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts the Zipangu Japanese film festival moves to Newcastle’s Star and Shadow cinema in the second half of January where the following films will be shown.
Saturday 14th January, 19:30
Kiyohiko Ushihara (1897-1985), one of Japan’s leading directors of the silent period, is relatively unknown in the west but The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen gets a rare screening. This is, an early chiller especially subtitled for Zipangu Fest, and a rare chance to experience one of Japan’s few surviving prewar horrors, a genre that was soon to be suppressed by the increasing state censorship of the wartime years. A quintessential example of the period “ghost cat” (bakeneko or kaibyo) movie, the movie follows Mitsue, the possessive onna-kabuki actress betrothed to apprentice shamisen player Seijiro. When one day Okiyo, a beautiful young girl of samurai class, is led to Seijiro’s house by his lost cat Kuro, she becomes besotted with him. Dark jealous passions are invoked in Mitsue, which are intensified when Seijiro gifts Okiyo his precious shamisen. The cat is the first to suffer at the end of Mitsue’s hairpin, but returns from the grave to assist Okiyo’s younger sister Onui avenge her sister’s murder.
Tuesday, 17th of January 19:30
A trio of short films by the experimental Japanese film-maker/animator Takashi Makino. This was recently seen at the ICA last year but the New Castle event will also include an introduction by Julian Ross of the University of Leeds who is a specialist in independent Japanese cinema.
Thursday 19th of January, 19:30
Blair Witch meets Morning Musume (or is that reference too old? AKB48 perhaps?) where the director, Kôji Shiraishi, stars in his own film as the director of a supernatural reality TV show who offers J-pop idol band Momoiro Clover the chance of appearing on NHK TV’s annual Kôhaku New Year’s Eve music show. What’s the catch? They are to perform their latest single in a haunted school where Shirome (white 白eyes 目), a ghost who can grant wishes and make people go insane if their wishes are insincere stalks the corridors. The stage is set for a lot of screaming and shaky camera. Incidental the J-pop starlets weren’t let in on the fact that this was a film…
Friday, 27th of January 19.30
This is a 90-minute programme of seventeen short animations made between 2002 and 2011.
Sunday 29th January, 19:30
This film explores the use of sound and its place in ritual. Filmed in Kyushu, the film looks at, and more importantly listens to, three very special Japanese musicans: Akinobu Tatsumi, the young Buddhist priest and custodian of a temple outside of Kumamoto City who moonlights as a hip-hop DJ while indulges his love of beat boxing in the remote forests; Eri Fujii, who has devoted her life to the mastery of the sho, a rare and ancient Chinese bamboo wind instrument evoking the cry of the phoenix, and Akihiro Iitomi, a master of Noh theatre and a kotsuzumi drum player whose love of jazz almost matches that of his passion for Japan’s traditional performing arts.