Japanese Films at The London International Animation Festival 2015

The London International Animation Festival takes place at the Barbican Cinema and lasts from December 04th to 13th. 200 animated short and feature films have been selected from the 2,400 entries that were submitted to the festival and there are many from Japan. The festival organisers have programmed the Japanese films in several categories including the International Competition Programmes. Here’s a glimpse of what’s on offer:

The Marvellous Animation section, especially curated to have a range of fun films chosen for children of 8 and older, features one Japanese short and another inspired by recent events in Japan. The first is 1234 (5’35, 2014) by Shiro Ichige and is a colourful adventure in a dream world. Tsunami (7’10, 2015) is by Sofie Nørgaard Kampmark and she hails from Denmark. It has a Japanese link because its story is about a man named Haru who returns to his hometown which has been hit by the tsunami. It is here amidst the loss that he meets a Sea Spirit who helps him cope.

Tsunami Image by Sofie Nørgaard Kampmark

The Abstract Showcase is where the more experimental animation is located. Open-mindedness is a must with this section but in my experience with this type of film I find it can be a lot of fun especially in a cinema because these films are precision made to touch on all of the senses during a limited time and with a big screen and great sound system you can be wowed by the director through inventive and mesmerising use of colour, shape, and sound. Banquet of Love (6’30, 2014) is by Haruka Mitani and Michael Lyons and it fits the bill with it’s strange patterns and weird sounds that are derived from found footage of a forest. The trailer shows more. There is also Locus of Everyday Life (6’55, 2014) by Sawako Kynd, which looks to feature swirls of colour. It’s described as “A work of astounding beauty and visual complexity, rising over its course to an apex of movement and ongoing adaptive alteration.”

Locus of Everyday Life by Sawako Kynd

This is what I have in mind when I talk about touching on senses.

We also get a Japanese animator at the festival thanks to the Crafty Women + Q&A section which will bring London-based freelance animation director Noriko Okaku together with fellow UK artists Jo Lawrence and Elizabeth Hobbs to talk about filmmaking, storytelling, and animation. They will elaborate on the different animation techniques they use – hand-made, craft-based techniques such as collage, classic illustration, animated puppetry, watercolour, ink blots and rubber-stamping – and some of their award-winning material will play. Noriko Okaku is showcasing Allegory of Mrs.Triangle (2011, 6’30) Joyz ‘Electropia’ (2011, 4’40). Noriko Okaku’s website features more of her work including some of her latest efforts: http://www.norikookaku.com/

Although there are many Japanese shorts scattered across the programme, the greatest concentration is in New Japanese Shorts – Beyond Anime which takes place on Monday December 07th at 9pm. It features animators that are gaining fame around the world. I have written about them when they have had their works screened at international film festivals like Vancouver, Annecy, Kotatsu, Cannes, and Berli. The artists here are the latest in a wave of very, very talented independent animators with names like Yoriko Mizushiri and Mirai Mizuie coming up quite frequently on the international film festival circuit over the years. The two provide highlights with Genius Expo (4’00, 2015) from Mirai Mizuie looking like a gorgeous mix of colours and shapes that the festival site describes as a ‘visual firecracker.’ Having seen some of his previous works this statement sounds about right and audiences will be in for a treat.

Maku (5’25, 2014), by Yoriko Mizushiri, is all about boundaries between two bodies being breached while relaxing music by Shuta Hasunuma plays. It’s initially a calming experience as the animation and music gently play out but it grows tense as the proximities between the two bodies are touched, probed, breached, and changed, before settling back down into calmness. I saw it at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and I enjoyed it. Here’s the trailer:

Master Blaster (4’00, 2015) by Sawako Kabuki sounds very cheeky (pardon the pun) as it features a focus on the rear ends of two lovers. The story revolves around a girl who would like to be together forever with her sweetheart. A focus on twisting bodies splitting up and joining together as a jazz track by Shinsuke Sugahara plays makes this a fun and erotic video. I wrote about her last year when she was at the Vancouver International Film Festival with her short Anal Juice which sounds icky but won awards.

Another highlight has to be Way Back to the Sea (9’25, 2014) by Kaori Iwase which is beautiful in its elegiac and detailed way (woodgrain on the planks of the boathouse, ripples on water). The story is described thusly: “A big catfish is stuck on a riverbank, where he lives quietly with a little catfish in a boat packed with memories from back home.”

War Back to the Sea Kaori Iwase Film Image

There are many more shorts featured in this programme and they all look good. Some of the full versions are on the artist’s video channels on various sites so if you can’t make the festival and want to look around you can find them. Personally, I’d go see them in a cinema and help make this festival thrive and because shorts like these ten to be exciting and fun. If you only have ten minutes or less to make a point, I’m sure you would want to wow the audience as well!

To find out more about the films and the festival, head to the festival site and follow it on Twitter.

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