Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 Part 2

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The Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 starts today! The festival takes place from January 23rd to February 03rd and the schedule is out. There is a fair-sized contingent of Japanese films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival which is why I have split this post into two parts. In the first part I looked at some of the highlights of the feature-length films (and missed three out すみません!) while in this part there are more outré titles, international co-productions, television series and short films.

I tend to ignore short films in my festival reporting but this selection looks really good.

Here are the rest of the films programmed for the festival!


Lesson of the Evil                           Lesson of the Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 悪 の 教典

Romaji: Aku no Kyoten

Running Time: N/A

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer:  Yusuke Kishi

Starring: Hideaki Ito, Fumi Nikaidou, Shota Sometani, Kento Hayashi, Hirona Yamazaki, Kento Hayashi

Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake, Thirteen Assassins) had a major hit at the end of 2012 with this film which audiences flocked to and critics praised. It looks like the type of film I would love. The film is based on a novel written by Yusuke Kishi who has twice won the Japan Horror Associated Award. It stars Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaidou who blew me away in Himizu

Seiji Hasumi (Ito) is a popular teacher at a high school. His attractive smile and friendly demeanour masks the beating heart of a psychopath. A psychopath who will stop at nothing to make his school perfect including killing his students.


Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigon sounds like one of those films rescued from obscurity. A road movie/Vietnam war film about a Japanese businessman who decides to flee the country with his lover, this is a genre action film shot in Vietnam and it was to be the directorial debut of Norio Osada, a scriptwriter who had worked with Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honour or Humanity, Battle Royale) but when funding dried up the film was never finished and sat in the National Film Centre of Japan. It was rediscovered recently and the film was completed. Now cinephiles can see it at the festival.

Inori is directed by Pedro González-Rubio and is a documentary about a mountain village which looks to be on the set of collapse. Despite being located in a beautiful mountainous area the lack of work has driven young people away ad only a few old people remain. The village will soon be reclaimed by nature and this documentary records the area, the few old people remaining and their thoughts.


Penance                   Shokuzai Drama Poster

Japanese Title: 贖罪

Romaji: Shokuzai

Running Time: 270 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Script), Kanae Minato (Original Novel)

Starring: Kyoko Koizumi, Eiko Koike, Sakura Ando, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yu Aoi, Mirai Moriyama

Kiyoshi Kurosawa followed the magnificent Tokyo Sonata with this five-episode TV drama based on Kanae Minato’s novel of the same name (Minato also wrote the novel which the film Confessions is based on). It stars a collection of some of the best actresses in Japan including Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo SonataAdrift in Tokyo), Sakura Ando (Love ExposureCrime or Punishment?!?), Yu Aoi (Memories of MatsukoAll About Lily Chou-Chou), Eiko Koike (Kamikaze Girls2LDK) and Chizuru Ikewaki (Haru in The Cat Returns). It has appeared at Toronto and Venice film festivals.


When a girl named Emiri moves from Tokyo to Ueda she makes friends with four girls named Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka. One day when the five girls are playing volleyball at school they are approached by a man dressed in work clothes who asks for their help in repairing the ventilation system. He picks Emiri. The two head towards the gym. When there is no sign of Emiri returning her friends head in the same direction and discover her dead. When questioned by the police they cannot describe the man which means leads to the investigation grinding to a halt. Several months later, Emiri’s mother Asako (Koizumi) invites the four girls to her house on Emiri’s birthday. It is there that she tells them that they will have to atone for their inability to describe the man and help in his capture. Fifteen years later, Sae (Aoi), Maki (Koike), Akiko (Ando) and Yuka (Ikewaki) are leading troubled lives and live in fear of the penance expected of them.

Going My Home                                           Going My Home Poster       

Japanese Title: ゴーイングマイホーム

Romaji: Goingu Mai Homu

Running Time: N/A

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer:  Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, You, Aoi Miyzaki, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Ken Yasuda, Hirofumi Arai, Toshiyuki Nishida, Aju Makita

Koreeda usually makes me emotional. I was moved to tears with Nobody Knows, After Life and Still Walking. I have not reviewed them yet but I consider them three of the best Japanese films of recent years. This is his television series (as in written and directed) and it has a starry cast including Hiroshi Abe and Aoi Miyazaki. I have not watched it but I have had it on my radar for a while. First we had Penance being screened at Venice last year and now this. Will the next London Film Festival have the balls to screen SPEC or some such drama/TV show associated with a great director?

Ryota Tsuboi (Abe) produces commercials and has a glamorous wife named Sae (Yamaguchi) who is a food stylist. The two have a daughter named Moe (Makita) who they affectionately call “furodo” because she claims to see a fairy. Despite his success he has a timid personality which means he finds it difficult to fit in. When Ryota learns that his estranged father has collapsed he heads to Nagano where people believe in a fairy named Kuna. There he has a strange meeting…


Short Films:


2:11                                                                 Tatsushi Omori Short Film

Japanese Title: 2:11

Romaji: 2:11

Running Time: 29 mins.

Director: Tatsushi Omori

Writer: Tatsushi Omori (Scenario),

Starring: Takuma Nagao, Yoi Kojima, Shoichiro Suzuki

Cinema Impact was a project that allowed young filmmakers, producers and actors the chance of working with a more experienced filmmaker. Here we have the first of two projects which is directed Tatsushi Omori was the screenwriter and director of the popular film Tada’s Do-it-All House which starred Eita and Ryuhei Matsuda among others. He is also an actor who appeared in Our Homeland. He’s at the festival with a 29 minute short film where he sticks a group of young actors in an empty office building. The festival describes it as being “ Like an experiment with rats. Acting with Stockholm syndrome.” Sounds like an adaptation of Satre’s play No Exit only a lot more entertaining. It is twinned with the next film…


Shibata and NagaoShibata and Nagao

Japanese Title: N/A

Romaji: N/A

Running Time: 18 mins.

Director: Yang Ik-June

Writer: Yang Ik-June (Scenario),

Starring: Chihiro Shibata, Takuma Nagao

Yang Ik-June (Breathless, King of Pigs) directs the other short film inspired by actor’s workshops but is a much more comedic affair.


Wandering Alien Detective RobinWandering Alien Detective

Japanese Title: さそらい の エイリアンー私立 探偵ロビン

Romaji: Sasurai no Alien Shiritsu Tantei Robin

Running Time: 20 mins.

Director: Risa Takeba

Writer: Risa Takeba (Screenplay),

Starring: Masanori Mimoto, Takuro Kodama, Kinuwo Yamada

This was an instalment from an omnibus about mysterious creatures made as part of a film project by Polar Circle, a collective of filmmakers founded by the director Shu Kageyama. This is the debut of Risa Takeba and focusses on an alien named Robin who works as a detective and struggles with loneliness on earth. He receives a request to track down a murder and finds out that the suspect might come from the same planet as him.

Don’t Dare to Stop Love                     Don't Dare Stop Loving Me

Japanese Title: 愛が とまらない

Romaji: Aiga Tomaranai

Running Time: 54 mins.

Director: Yoko Oguchi

Writer: Yoko Oguchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazumi Fujishima, osiro Hatori, Fumiko Abe

We get some drama shot on Super-8 thanks to Yoko Oguchi, a veteran of the Rotterdam Film Festival, who brings us a film inspired by a real life story about a mother who thinks she is dying and so picks up a young man… From the festival website’s information it seems like she is continuing her focus on femininity, love and miscommunication.

Other films include Akiba-Field, a 15 minute short written and directed by indie filmmaker Devi Kobayashi. He also stars in it alongside Waki katakura and Nao Muranaga. It is described as “Two women. Two swords. A man in a box. An empty street. All you need to set the scene for the apocalypse. An exercise. A joke.”


Chiri (Trace) comes from Naomi Kawase, a woman who has had major success as a filmmakeras she won the Grand Prix at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for her film The Mourning Forest. It is a follow-up to the award-winning film birth/mother which took an intimate look at a woman named Uno, Naomi Kawase’s foster mother, a woman who looked after Naomi like a mother. While in birth/mother Uno was alive, in this film she is dead and Kawase films her body.


Stom Sogo: Ultimately, a posthumous release that knits together works from the personal archives of Stom Sogo, a visual artist who died in July 2012. He is described on the site as “a romantic rebel if ever there was one. For over two decades he created a hair-raising, retina-burning body of distinctive and aggressively beautiful films and videos. His psychically charged work revels in optic and aural attacks just as much as it attempts a sincere connection with the viewer.”

Experimental film-maker/animator Takashi Makino is also at the festival with 2012, a film that “contains everything he saw in 2012”. It was originally a live performance where he provided the music but is now on the big screen.

Experience in Material 52: Dubhouse sounds like a daunting title but the 16 minute short has an intriguing intent as it aims to mix film and architecture, light and dark and the 3/11 disaster.

3 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 Part 2

    1. It really does look like a lot of fun. It was released back in November/December. It notched up some good reviews and stayed in the charts for a good while. What I want to know is will Third Window Films pick it up?

  1. Pingback: 贖罪 (Shokuzai) – One of the best miniseries I have ever seen | Polychrome Interest

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