Japanese Films at the Berlin Film Festival 2012 – Results

Berlinale 2012 finished yesterday and the Italian film Cesare Must Die walked away with the Golden Bear award (Best Motion Picture). The list of films walking away with silver bear awards (given to individual achievements in Directing, Acting and Short Film) saw an eclectic mix of films from stretching from Northern Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa. What happened to Japanese films in and out of competition?


Atsushi Wada's Great RabbitAtsushi Wada earned a Silver Bear award for the Best Short Film (Jury Prize) with “The Great Rabbit” anime short (seven minutes). It is described as “a magical animation that is also a profound conundrum.”

In another part of the festival programme, more specifically the Generation 14plus which is aimed at children fourteen and above) Isamu Hirabayashi’s “663114” anime short received a Special Mention honour from the Youth Jury. His film uses a cicada to explore parallels between Hiroshima’s atomic bombing and the recent disaster at Fukushima while asking questions about the future of the planet.

The Children’ jury gave a special mention to the Just Pretended to Hear, which came Hana Nonaka and Meru Gouda in Kikoeteru, Furi wo Sita Dakesecond in the Generation section. It is directed by Kaori Imaizumi and stars Hana Nonaka as a young girl named Sachi whose mother has died. Her only relief is in a friend and the belief in an afterlife that allows her mother to stay by her side. This film was actually directed by a nurse on maternity leave which is pretty inspiring – maybe I should pick up a camera and do my short film based on Silent Hill…

I’m actually delighted that Rent-a-Neko, a film that seemed to be too fluffy for a major weight film festival, garnered great praise. I can see this being picked up be a western distributor.

Maho Yamada and Mikako Ichikawa in Rent-a-Neko

In my preview I missed out Nuclear Nation by Funahashi Atsushi, Friends After 3.11 directed by Shunji Iwai and No Man’s Land directed by Toshi Fujiwara. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was missing something and there you go… I also ignored two short-films which was rather silly because Japanese film-makers regularly win awards in this field.

It’s a mistake I’ll avoid next year.

Anyway, congratulations to all of the winners. Next up is the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival.

8 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Berlin Film Festival 2012 – Results

  1. Yeah, I hope these get western distribution too. I can definitely see Rent-a-Cat and The End of Puberty getting a release in the west because they fit the label of cool/quirky Japan and have up and coming stars and I can see labels like Criterion and Eureka picking up Yuzo Kawashima’s films. The nuclear documentaries will probably do the rounds on television.

  2. Raku

    Films directed by Naoko Ogigami are shamefully lacking in western releases, Kamome Diner is a particularly enjoyable one from her but like (I think) all her films so far you have to resort to nefarious means to obtain a subtitled copy……apart from Toilet I believe.

  3. Raku

    It’s pretty interesting stuff you feel kind of refreshed after watching her films, I first watched Megane, in which Mikako Ichikawa also appears alongside Masako Motai who’s a regular in Ogigami’s movies, funnily enough Masako Motai doesn’t seem to be in Rent-a-Cat even though she’s been in practically everything Ogigami has done up until this point….so it’ll be odd if she’s not in it.

  4. Raku

    The few female Japanese directors that there are all seem to be talented and at the same time underused, apart from Naoko Ogigami off the top of my head all I can really think of is Miwa Nishikawa (Sway, Dear Doctor), Naomi Kawase (Mourning Forest) and Momoko Ando (Third Window Films released Kakera)

    I’m sure there are more and I’ll be kicking myself later.

    1. J-Film Pow-wow had an interesting article about the most influential women in the Japanese film industry and it included some directors.


      I’m aware of Kakera but haven’t purchased it yet. That actually reminded me that Third Window Films released Quirky Guys and Gals last year and two of the sections were directed by women – Mipo Oh and Tomoko Matsunashi. Their parts of the film were rather accomplished.

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