The Japan Foundation has announced their Touring Film Programme for 2015 and for the 12th festival the title is, “It Only Happens in the Movies?”
The festival runs from January 30th to March 26th and it aims to provide “an exciting programme of films under the narrative framework of ‘encounters’.” Each film has characters who experience “unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas.”
The film line-up has a huge variety of styles, genres, and tones covered from comedy to serious drama and films from various eras with an adult drama set in1950s Japan all the way to one about teens in uni falling in love in contemporary Japan.
Here are the films, scroll down for trailers and more details (the English titles are the links to the pages so click on them for more info):
- Wood Job!
- The Light Shines Only There
- The Handsome Suit
- Short Peace
- Scattered Clouds
- Nobody to Watch Over Me
- My Little Sweet Pea
- Carmen from Kawachi
- Bolt from the Blue
- Blood and Bones
- All About Our House
- A Letter to Momo
Wood Job! (ウッジョブ） 神去なあなあ日常
Director: Shinobu Yaguchi, Writer: Shinobu Yaguchi(Screenplay), Shion Miura (Original Novel), Starring: Shota Sometani, Masami Nagasawa, Hideaki Ito, Yuka, Naomi Nishida, Makita Sports, Ken Mitsuishi, Akira Emoto
Running Time: 116 mins
This one comes from a novel written by Shion Miura (Mahoro Eki Mae Bangaichi, The Great Passage), so expect a light-hearted comedy.
Shota Sometani (Himizu), stars as Yuki Hirano (Sometani), a high school grad who has failed his university entrance exams and expects to spend the near future working a part time job but sees a brochure with an attractive girl for a year-long forestry training scheme and soon he’s in a remote mountain village called Kamusari. Never mind the job, he wants the girl, so he heads out to the village which has none of the amenities of Tokyo but immense beauty and warm-hearted locals and meets the beautiful young woman on te brochure named Naoki (Nagasawa). He just has to survive his rough and ready instructors like Yoki (Ito).
The Light Shines Only There (そこのみにて光輝く)
Director: Mipo O, Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel), Starring: Gou Ayano, Chizuru Ikewaki, Masaki Suda, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Hinom Hiroko Isayama
Running Time: 120 mins.
I saw this one at the Raindance Film Festival and I found it an intensely moving drama about emotionally damage people and also very beautiful. I’m tempted to see this one again because I was so impressed – I just need to finish the review. It is based on a novel published in 1989 by an author who lived a tragic life and was updated for the screen by the director Mipo O (most famous in the UK for Quirky Guys and Gals) and the writer Ryo Takada (one of the writers on the tough drama The Ravine of Goodbye). It stars Gou Ayano (Rurouni Kenshin, The Story of Yonosuke) and Chizuru Ikewaki (Shokuzai). It’s a film full of despair but ends on a little bit of hope. This is Japan’s entry for the next Academy Awards.
Tatsuo Sato (Ayano) quits his job and does little with his days until he meets Takuji Oshiro (Suda), a rough around the edges kid recently released from jail, at a pachinko parlour and strikes up a friendship. Takuji invites Tatsuo back to his home where he lives with is sick father, mother and older sister Chinatsu (Ikewaki). Tatsuo becomes attracted to Chinatsu, who shines even in their difficult situation.
The Handsome Suit (ハンサム★スーツ）
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa, Writer: Osamu Suzuki (Screenplay), Starring: Tanihara, Muga Tsukaji, Keiko Kitagawa, Mayumi Sada, Nozomi Sasaki, Yusuke Yamamoto
Running Time: 115 mins
Making fun of unattractive actors by pointing out how unattractive they are and then giving them a magical suit/ring that replaces them with a handsome actor is a genre in Japan where many men and women are tormented by this bitter genre. I’m hoping this one will be funny. Diner chef Takuro is kind-hearted man but has never been popular with the opposite sex. After discovering a magical suit which transforms him into a good-looking male model, Takuro must work out whether to keep the suit on forever.
Short Peace (ショート ピース)
Directors: Katsuhiro Otomo, Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki, Starring: Saori Hayami, Yuki Midori, Takeshi Kusao, Fuka Haruna, Ryotaro Okiayu, Akio Otsuka,
Running Time: 68 mins.
Short Peace is an omnibus film which collects four short films directed by four different directors. The biggest name is Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy) who also directed Mushishi. Other directors attached to the project include Shuhei Morita who was director on the rather good adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul which is about to have a second season launch in a month’s time. Morita’s part is called Possessions and won an Oscar earlier this year for best animated short.
The stories all have the overarching theme of Japan and stretch from a tale of a controversial marriage that ends in a fiery blaze in Edo era Japan to the tale of a man lost deep in the mountains who encounters Mononoke, a terrible demon during the Sengoku period. The other stand out looking tale is a sci-fi one set in Tokyo in the near future where a platoon of soldiers encounter a mysterious weapon.
Scattered Clouds (乱れ雲)
Director: Mikio Naruse, Writer: Nobuo Yamada (Original Novel/Screenplay), Atsuko hashibe (Screenplay), Starring: Yoko Tsukasa, Yuzo Kayama, Mitsuko Kusabue, Mitsuko Mori, Mie Hama
Running Time: 116 mins
Classic time as the director Mikio Naruse’s final film is presented in beautiful colour Tohoscope. It tells the tale of impossible love between a widow and the driver who accidently killed her husband. From my brief research, this looks to be highly regarded.
Nobody to Watch Over Me (誰も守ってくれない)
Director: Ryoichi Kimizuka, Writer: Ryoichi Kimzuka, Satoshi Suzuki (Screenplay), Atsuko hashibe (Screenplay), Starring: Koichi Sato, Mirai Shida, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Kuranosuke Sasaki
Running Time: 118 mins
This one looks really good which is why I have included a short teaser and not a trailer. Don’t spoil the twists!
The Funamura family becomes the target of mass media attention after the 18-year-old son comes under suspicion of committing a horrendous murder. Detective Katsuura’s job is to protect the offender’s younger sister, a 15-year-old girl. Despite his reservations he follows his orders and shields the girl from the paparazzi in the fast paced information-orientated society.
My Little Sweet Pea (麦子さんと)
Director: Keisuke Yoshida, Writer: Keisuke Yoshida, Ryo Nishihara (Screenplay), Starring: Maki Horikita, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kimiko Yo, Sayaka Tashiro, Amane Okayama, Eri Fuse, Yoichi Nukumizu
Running Time: 95 mins.
Rising star Maki Horikita is one actor I picked out of a morass of J-horror casts a few years ago and it seems her hard work is paying off as she is paired up with superstar Ryuhei Matsuda famous for Gohatto, The Great Passage, and Nightmare Detective. Due to the anime otaku nature of the lead character Mugiko, the film has anime clips which were animated by Production I.G, an animation house which will be mentioned again!
Mugiko (Horikita) is a girl who has lived with her older brother Norio (Matsuda), an undependable gambler, ever since their mother Ayako (Yo) abandoned the family and their father died. She dreams of being a voice actress in the anime industry and it has been a long time since she has thought about her mother but one day Ayako returns. Mugiko is uncertain about her mother but Ayako is hiding the fact that she is ill…
Director: Naoto Kumazawa, Writer: Yukiko Manabe, Naoto Kumazawa (Screenplay), Starring: Kurumi Shimizu, Kento Yamazaki, Hyomin, Kazuya Takahashi, Sanae Miyata
Running Time: 122 mins.
A harmless romantic comedy or more? I don’t know too much about this one.
Kurumi Shimizu (The Kirishima Thing) and Kento Yamazaki (Another, Control Tower) star as university students Kaede and Yusuke, two people who are in love with each other but they are so quiet and reserved they cannot express their feelings to each other. Enter South Korean exchange student Ji-Ho (Hyomin, member of K-pop group T-ara) who knows of their plight and gets them together through a Korean style romance.
Carmen from Kawachi (河内カルメン)
Director: Seijun Suzuki Writer: Katsumi Miki, Toko Kon (Novel), Starring: Yumiko Nogawa, Ruriko Ito, Chikako Miyagi, Michio Hino, Masakazu Kuwayama
Running Time: 89 mins
Straight from the Japan Foundation website: An experimental and kaleidoscopic film by iconoclastic director Seijun Suzuki about Carmen, a young lady who escapes her miserable life at home to travel to Osaka and becomes a hugely popular nightclub singer with men falling at her feet. Sounds like a blast
Bolt from the Blue (青天の霹靂)
Director: Gekidan Hitori, Writer: Gekidan Hitori (Original Novel/Screenplay), Atsuko Hashibe (Screenplay), Starring: Yo Oizumi, Kou Shibasaki, Hitori Gekidan, Seiya Kimura
Running Time: 96 mins
This one was released earlier this year and stars Yo Oizumu (The Detective at the Bar) and Kou Shibasaki (Battle Royale,One Missed Call, 47 Ronin) in what I have heard is a rather powerfully emotional film. The story is about a poor magician named Haruo who wants to be the best in his field. With no parents for support he wonders why his life has turned out this way and then he travels back in time by around 40 years and discovers the secret of his birth…
Blood and Bones (血と骨)
Director: Yoichi Sai, Writer: Sogil Yan (Original Novel) Yoichi Sai, Wui Sin Chong (Screenplay), Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Hirofumi Arai, Tomoko Tabata, Joe Odagiri, Kyoka Suzuki,
Running Time: 144 mins
Apparently based on a true story it begins when Kim Shun-Pei (played by Takeshi Kitano – Battle Royale, Sonatine, Boiling Point), a Korean emigrant to 1920s Japan, arrives in Osaka to make a new life for himself but finds discrimination and hard labour waiting for him. With strength and determination he works hard to open up opens a kamaboko (steamed fish cake) factory but finds his lust for money and power overwhelming and soon creates a small criminal empire.
All About Our House (みんなのいえ)
Director: Koki Mitani, Writer: Koki Mitani (Original Novel/Screenplay), Starring: Toshiaki Karasawa, Kunie Tanaka, Naoki Tanaka, Akiko Yagi, Tsuyoshi Ihara
Running Time: 116 mins
Koki Mitani is a director who is highly rated for him comedies (especially Welcome Home, Mr McDonald) and you can see him in the trailer where he introduces his story of a married couple, Naosuke and Tamiko, who decide to build a new house from scratch. They recruit a young interior designer to plan, and Tamiko’s carpenter father to build, only to find themselves playing piggy in the middle as the two men vie for dominance on the project.
A Letter to Momo (ももへの手紙)
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura, Writer: Hiroyuki Okiura, Starring: Karen Miyama, Cho, Toshiyuki Nishida, Takeo Ogawa
Running time: 120 mins.
A Letter to Momo is film I had intended to see upon its original release in 2012 but never got around to. I was excited by it because it is animated by Production I.G, a favourite studio of mine.The writer/director Hiroyuki Okiura was the director on a favourite film of mine, the magnificent Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The animation and background has been handled by former animators for Ghibli Masashi Ando (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) and Hiroshi Ono (Kiki’s Delivery Service) respectively and the project has animators from a myriad of other high-profile titles like Evangelion, The Sky Crawlers, and Tokyo Godfathers, other films I really like. A Letter to Momo has quality written all over it and it was no surprise when it received excellent reviews and was compared to Studio Ghibli’s works. Of all the films listed this one takes priority for me. Here’s the trailer:
Momo is a young girl who grew up in a big city. However, following the premature loss of her father, she has to move with her mother to the old family house on a remote island. Here, time seems to have stopped: old wooden buildings, holy shrines surrounded by trees, fields painstakingly carved out from steep hills… and no shopping mall.
Needless to say, Momo is not too enthusiastic about this new environment and finds it difficult to makes friends. Most of all, her heart is still feeling uneasy about an unfinished letter left by her father. A letter that contained only two words: “Dear Momo…”
What was dad going to say?
One day, exploring the attic of her new big house, Momo finds a dusty and worn out book. And from that moment, something really unexpected starts happening around her thanks to three mysterious creatures…
That’s an interesting line-up of films and it’s great to see anime get continued exposure. The Japan Foundation has listed the following 11 venues as hosts for the festival:
– ICA, London
– Watershed, Bristol
– Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT), Belfast
– QUAD, Derby
– mac birmingham, Birmingham
– Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), Dundee
– Filmhouse, Edinburgh
– Showroom Cinema, Sheffield
– Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne
– Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria
– Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
At the present moment information on the festival such as dates and times and who the guest will be are unavailable but keep checking the Japan Foundation website which will be updated soon. As soon as that is updated, this will be, too!