Japanese Films at the BFI London Film Festival 2014

BFI London Film Festival Logo

The BFI London Film Festival launches next month and lasts from October 08th to October 19th. It takes place over 12 days in 17 venues and there are 248 films getting screened.

All but one of the films have been released in Japan, played at different festivals around the world and have UK distribution deals in place. Of the films playing, The World of Kanako is the one I’m gunning to see and own on DVD while I’m very intrigued by The Furthest End Awaits, an interesting choice for the festival since it has zero buzz around it in terms of cast/staff and awards and hasn’t been released in Japan yet.

Enough of the preamble, here are the films:

The World of Kanako       The World of Kanako Film Poster

Japanese Title: 渇き

Romaji: Kawaki

Running Time: 118 mins

Release Date: June 27th, 2014 (Japan)

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima (Screenplay), Akio Fukamachi (Novel),

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Nana Komatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Joe Odagiri, Fumi Nikaido, Ai Hashimoto, Miki Nakatani, Jun Kunimura, Asuka Kurosawa,

This is my most anticipated film of the festival because one look at the Japanese trailer and the collection of actors assured me that it was going to be a blast thanks to a story filled with action, violence and thrills!

The director is Tetsuya Nakashima and he has won a lot of fans thanks to his work on Confessions (2010), and Kamikaze Girls (2004), and Memories of Matsuko (2006).  I’ve seen two of the three and enjoyed them tremendously but what makes me excited is seeing the film’s lead actor let off the leash! Koji Yakusho is my favourite actor currently working in Japan and his performances in Cure, and The Woodsman & the Rain, and even a bit part in Tokyo Sonata, are all memorable for me. Here he is allowed to be a, in the festival site’s words, “psychopath on the rampage: drinking, snorting and pillaging with abandon”. Hell,yeah! I wanna see that! He’s supported by great actors like Satoshi Tsumabuki (Judge!For Love’s Sake), Fumi Nikaido (HimizuWhy Don’t You Play in Hell?) and Ai Hashimoto (The Kirishima ThingAnother).

This is getting a release in the west thanks to Third Window Films next year.


An alcoholic ex-detective named Akikazu (Yakusho) investigates the disappearance of his teenage daughter Kanako (Komatsu), a girl who seemed to be a model student. What he finds leads him into a disturbing situation…


Tokyo Tribe   Tokyo Tribe Film Poster

Japanese: トーキョー トライブ

Romaji: To-kyo- Toraibu

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay), Santa Inoue (Original Manga)

Starring: Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais, Nana Seino, Ryuta Sato, Riki Takuechi, Denden, Shota Sometani, Shoko Nakagawa, Yosuke Kubozuka, Takuya Ishida, Shunsuke Daito, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano,

Apparently, this is smashing all sorts of records in Japan and I’m not surprised. After years grinding away in the wilds of Japanese cinema producing strange and twisted tales like Suicide Club (2002) and Strange Circus (2005), he is transitioning firmly into the mainstream. Last year saw him make an incredibly funny yakuza wars comedy film called Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and Tokyo Tribe looks like more of the same, another intense entertainment film with a yakuza hip hop musical. Tokyo Tribes is a film based upon a seinen manga created by Santa Inoue and serialised in the urban fashion magazine Boon from 1997 to 2005 and it got an anime. The film is apparently told completely in rap verse and the festival site states that it is, “loud and vibrant assault on the senses, sometimes crass, often violent, and always able to take you completely by surprise.”

Eureka Entertainment will release this in the UK.

The film takes place in the future and five years have passed since the Shibuya riots and different clans called “Tribes” exist in Tokyo. Kai Deguchi is a member of the Musashino Saru tribe led by Tera. When Tera dies at the hands of Bukuro Wu-RONZ tribe leader Mera,   Kai finds himself facing off against a former best friend.

Still the Water    Still the Water JApanese Film Poster

Japanese Title: 2つ目の窓

Romaji: Futatsume no Mado

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Naomie Kawase

Writer: Naomie Kawase (Screenplay),

Starring: Nijiro Murakami, Jun Yoshinaga, Tetta Sugimoto, Miyuki Matsuda, Makiko Watanabe, Jun Murakami, Hideo Sakaki, Fujio Tokita

Described as “one of the year’s most ravishing films,” Still the Water did attract a lot of attention for its visuals when it played at the Cannes film festival. Naomie Kawase’s film is one from the heart because she draws upon her own childhood and recollections of stories her grandmother told her and it gives a look at an island culture and traditions far removed from the bright lights of Tokyo. Stunning poster and a beautiful trailer! This film has been picked up by Soda Pictures for distribution in the UK.

It is the full-moon night of August and on Amami-Oshima traditional dances take place. A 14-year-old boy finds a dead body floating in the sea. With the help of his girlfriend, the two set about trying to solve the mystery. As they investigate the two grow into adults by experiencing the interwoven cycles of life, death and love.

Giovanni’s Island Giovanni's Island Film Poster 2

Japanese Title: ジョバンニの島

Romaji: Giovanni no Shima

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Mizuho Nishikubo

Writer: Yoshiki Sakurai (Screenplay),

Starring: Kota Yokoyama (Junpei Senou), Junya Taniai (Kanta Senou), Masachika Ichimura (Tatsuo Senou), Yukie Nakama (Sawako), Polina Ilyushenko (Tanya)

Giovanni’s Island has a good rep amongst film critics and even won the award for Special Distinction at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In a industry that is pumping out magical battle anime, cute school girl stories and pandering to the nichest of niches (I know nichest isn’t a word), it’s a refreshing, mature breath of fresh air. The story deals with the immediate aftermath of World War II and two brothers trying to find their place in the world amidst a Soviet invasion. It has been compared to Grave of the Fireflies and that is heady praise. One does not invoke that film lightly. It must be really dark and emotional.

Anime Limited have picked up UK distribution rights and have already announced some pretty beefy releases for it.

Junpei and his younger brother Hirota live on a peaceful island of Shikotan with their father Tatsuo and grandfather Genzo. The island lies north of Japan and close to the Soviet Union. They get their names from the Kenji Miyazawa novel “Night on the Galactic Railroad” which their late mother enjoyed reading. Then on August 15th, 1945, Soviet troops arrive. The boys glimpse the chaos and fear an army occupation brings but they also feel love for a Russian girl named Tanya.

The Furthest End Awaits      The Furthest End Awaits Image 2

Japanese: さいはてにて−かけがえのない場所−

Romaji: Saihate nite – Kakegae no Nai Basho

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Chiang Hsiu-Chiung

Writer: Nako Kakinoki (Screenplay),

Starring: Hiromi Nagasaku, Nozomi Sasaki, Hiyori Sakurada, Masatoshi Nagase, Sakurada Hiyori, Kaisei Hotamori, Asami Usuda, Issei Ogata, Jun Murakami, Masatoshi Nagase, Miyoko Asada

The Furthest End Awaits

The shock surprise for the festival is the inclusion of The Furthest End Awaits. This film has not been licensed by a UK distribution and has not yet been released in Japan yet. Taiwanese director Chiang Hsiu Chiung creates a drama about grief and nostalgia which the festival says has “a deceptive simplicity reminiscent of Ozu.” Drama! No trailer, though.

Misaki Yoshida (Nagasaku) runs a coffee shop in Tokyo. When she finds out that her father has disappeared, she heads back to her family’s hometown in the Noto Peninsula, on the Sea of Japan. She finds that he has left an old family boathouse and a lot of debts. In order to clear the debts Misaki decides to turn the boathouse into a café and it attracts many locals such as Eriko Yamazaki (Sasaki), a single mother with two children and a cabaret singer. The two women forge a friendship with each other.

2 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the BFI London Film Festival 2014

  1. wow, great line up indeed. I also am very much interested and intrigued with Kanako – great cast and an amazing director. The young main character was reported to be new but watching the trailer, she appears to be perfect for the role. She also seems quite competent and has great screen presence.

    Tokyo Tribe will definitely be a big crowd drawer! 🙂

    1. Yeah, this is her first role in a movie but she looks good from what we see of her in the trailer. I cannot wait to see it! 🙂

      I suspect Tokyo Tribe will have a decent turn out. The screening for Why Don’t You Play in Hell? I attended was pretty full.

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