The 2016 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme launches in two week’s time and lasts from February 05th until March 26th as it visits different venues across the UK. It starts at the ICA in London and visits various cities across England, Wales, and Scotland as cinemas from Edinburgh to Bristol play host to the Japan Foundation’s showcase of a selection of Japanese films which capture the lives of people across the generations. These various stories are a mixture of live-action and animation, drama and comedy and there are classics to some of the most contemporary titles.
Here’s the line-up:
ふがいない僕は空を見た「Fugainai Boku wa Sora wo Mita」
Running Time: 142 mins.
Director: Yuki Tanada
Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Misumi Kubo (Novel)
Starring: Tomoko Tabata, Kento Nagayama, Masataka Kubota, Mieko Harada, Takahiro Miura, Miharu Tanaka Takashi Yamanaka
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky is regarded as a really good drama but that should come as no surprise to anybody familiar with the director Yuki Tanada who has made a string of great films like One Million Yen Girl, Mourning Recipe and last year’s Round Trip Heart. It stars Tomoko Tabata (Blood and Bones, The Hidden Blade), Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), Masataka Kubota (13 Assassins), Takahiro Miura (Rolling), and Mieko Harada (Helter Skelter).
Synopsis: Anzu (Tomoko Tabata) is a depressed housewife who lives with a nagging mother-in-law and indifferent husband. When she attends an anime convention in cosplay she meets a teenager named Takumi (Nagayama). The two start an affair at Anzu’s home. At this point, those already in Takumi’s life go through emotional upheaval of their own as a classmate (Tanaka) confesses her love for him and his friend Fukuda (Kubota) finds himself at the mercy of a loan shark who has come to collect his mother’s debts. This is just the start of the emotional turmoil for all characters involved.
Yuki Tanada will be in the UK for Q&A’s and will attend the following screenings:
ジヌよさらば ~かむろば村へ~ 「Jinuyo Saraba ~ Kamuroba Mura e」
Running Time: 121 mins.
Director: Suzuki Matsuo
Writer: Suzuki Matsuo (Screenplay), Mikio Igarashi (Original Manga),
Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Fumi Nikaido, Sadao Abe, Takako Matsu, Toshiyuki Nishida, Hairi Katagiri, Seminosuke Murasugi, Suzuki Matsuo Shima Ise, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yuko Nakamura, Suzuki Matsuo,
Director Matsuo Suzuki and actor Ryuhei Matsuda have worked together on the hilarious otaku love-story Koi no Mon (2004) and they are back eleven years later with what looks like another funny film.
Synopsis: Takeharu Takami (Ryuhei Matsuda) worked as a bank teller until he became allergic to money. In an effort to avoid using money at all Takeharu moves to a small village in the Tohoku region. This place is peopled by some strange characters.
新大久保物語「Shin Ookubo Monogatari」
Running Time: 113 mins.
Director: Azuma Morisaki
Writer: Akune Tomoaki (Screenplay), Yuichi Okano (Original Manga)
Starring: Ryo Iwamatsu, Mitsuko Baisho, Naoto Takenaka, Kiwako Harada, Kensuke Owada, Toshie Negishi, Ryo Kase
I can remember writing about this back in November 2013 and not thinking much of the entertainment value but it has steadily wowed critics and earned its way onto various film festival programmes. It has turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit.
Synopsis: Laid-back baby boomer Yuichi (Ryo Iwamatsu) is a middle-aged manga artist and singer-songwriter when he isn’t at his salaryman day job or watching out for his elderly mother. Suffering from increasing dementia since her husband’s death, Mitsue (Harue Akagi) is a constant source of comic energy or annoyance for Yuichi, and he and his son must soon decide if they should put her in a home for the elderly. Jumping back in time, we see how Mitsue (Harada) tracked the tumult of the latter half of the 20th century, being raised as one of 10 brothers and sisters, surviving the war, and having to push her alcoholic husband (Kase) along in life.
天国からのエール「Tengoku kara no eru」
Running Time: 114 mins
Director: Makoto Kumazawa
Writer: Masaya Ozaki, Kimiko Ueno (Screenplay),
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Nanami Sakuraba, Shuhei Nomura, Masato Yano, Rino Higa, Mimura, Hitomi Kyan,
This is a film from 2011 and it is based on the true story of Hikaru Nakasone who spent the last days of his life to helping youngsters.
Synopsis: Hikaru (Hiroshi Abe) owns a bento shop and he uses it to allow some high-schoolers to practice their music. He goes further and builds a studio under his store. The kids grow fond of Hikaru but he has kept his terminal illness a secret from them, his family and friends.
Running Time: 107 mins
Director: Akira Ogata
Writer: Akira Ogata, Takuji Suzuki (Screenplay), Kiwa Irie (Original Manga)
Starring: Manami Konishi, Yoshinori Okada, Rio Sasaki, Jun Murakami, Sayaka Yamaguchi,
This is one for food lovers and stories of independent women. It’s all about a middle-aged lady who kicks her useless husband to the kerb and opens up a restaurant.
Synopsis: Komaki (Manami Konishi) is a 31-year-old woman who leaves her jobless husband behind and move back to the working class neighbourhood she grew up in with her daughter Non-chan. Money is tight but when the ‘noriben’ lunch box (a “bento” featuring toasted “nori” (seaweed) on rice) that she packed for Non-chan becomes a huge hit at school, Komaki sees opening her own bento shop as a way to secure her independence.
日本の悲劇「Nihon no higeki」
Running Time: 116 mins
Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Writer: Keisuke Kinoshita (Screenplay),
Starring: Yuko Mochizuki, Yoko Katsuragi, Masami Taura, Keiko Awaji, Nadao Kirino, Shinichi Himori, Tanie Kitabayashi,
This one comes from 1953 and was directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, a contemporary of Akira Kurosawa. Kinoshita’s legacy has seen a resurgence over the last few years since his filmography has been restored and toured the festival circuit. It is a haha-mono, a story based on the struggles of a mother who sacrifices everything for her ungrateful children and it paints what the website describes as “a bleak portrait of post war Japan through the story of a mother’s self-sacrifice.”
Synopsis: Having lost her husband in the war, Haruko (Yuko Mochizuki) struggles to bring up her ungrateful materialistic-minded son and daughter. Despite her countless sacrifices, including selling her land and even her body, her now grown-up children reject their mother, driving her to despair.
江分利満氏の優雅な生活「Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu」
Running Time: 102 mins
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Writer: Toshiro Ide (Screenplay), Hitomi Yamaguchi (Original Novel)
Starring: Keiju Kobayashi, Michiyo Aratama, Eijiro Tono, Jerry Ito, Michino Yokoyama, Tadao Nakamura, Akemi Kita, Hiroko Minami, Keiko Yanagawa,
The Elegant Life of Mr Everyman is from the 1960s and adapted from a magazine series/novel from Hitomi Yamaguchi and is one of Toho’s salaryman comedies, entertainment and a commentary on Japanese society. The director is Kihachi Okamoto who is famous in the West for directing Sword of Doom. It looks inventive not least because it plays with the medium of film and features “animation and audacious editing, this idiosyncratic and inventive film is a timeless treatment of life in postwar Japan.”
Synopsis: Eburi (Keiju Kobayashi) is drunk on the town and mouthing off which two magazine editors find entertaining and so they get Eburi to promise them two articles on his middle class. The next day, Eburi wakes up and remembers that he owes the journalists articles but he comes to a conclusion that his everyday middle-class life is not all that interesting…
太秦ライムライト 「Uzumasa Laimulaito」
Running Time: 103 mins
Director: Ken Ochiai
Writer: Hiroyuki Ono (Screenplay),
Starring: Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda,
This film has been picked up for distribution by Third Window Films and it will be released on home video formats later this year. Expect a review soon.
Synopsis: A moving, nostalgic portrait of the men behind the golden age of chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films), Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre for which Japan is famous. A professional extra named Kamiyama (real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku in sword-fighting movies produced at Kyoto’s Uzumasa Studios. A master of the art, he lives to die–or more exactly “to be cut”–and show a beautiful, spectacular death on screen. Now an elderly man, Kamiyama lives very modestly but has earned immense respect from his peers, some of them movie stars. When the studio where he works decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, Kamiyama finds himself at a loss. Hope arrives in the form of a young girl named Satsuki, who soon becomes Kamiyama’s disciple. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?
Running Time: 121 mins
Director: Jiro Sono
Writer: Teruo Abe, Yukako Shimizu (Screenplay), Keigo Higashino (Original Novel)
Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Kazue Fukiishi, Tetsuji Tamayama, Erika Sawajiri, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Mitsuko Ishii,
The film comes from the 2003 novel of the same name by the best-selling writer Keigo Higashino (his books like The Devotion of Suspect X have been published in the UK). It’s billed as a tear-jerker since its story is about two brothers, one a convicted killer and the other a student, their struggle to make better lives for themselves and the obtacles they face. It shows how Japanese society can punish not just the criminal but the criminal’s family through things like shame.
Synopsis: Tsuyoshi and Naoki are two brothers who have always looked out for each other since they lost their parents. When older brother Tsuyoshi becomes unemployed, he is driven to commit a robbery in order to help Naoki with his university tuition fees and accidently murders. Undergoing a rough life as the brother of a murderer, Naoki begins to despise his sibling for the trouble he caused.
きみはいい子「Kimi wa iiko」
Running Time: 121 mins.
Director: Mipo O
Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Hatsue Nakawaki (Original Novel)
Starring: Kengo Kora, Machiko Ono, Chizuru Ikewaki, Michie Kita, Mei Kurokawa, Kazuya Takahashi,
Mipo O is a director/writer mentioned here, first in 2010 with Quirky Guys and Gals and lately with The Light Shines Only There which was one of my favourite films of 2014/5 and it made its way into my top ten. Her latest film is the adaptation of the book Kimi wa ii ko (You’re a Good Kid). The book is by Hatsue Nakawaki which won the 2012 Tsubota Jōji Literature Award. The book is a collection of five stories about child abuse and people trying to prevent it, each story occurs in the same town and on the same rainy afternoon. The film adapts two stories into one: Santa no konai ie (The House where Santa Doesn’t Come) and Beppin-san (Pretty Girl).
Synopsis: Tasuku (Kengo Kora) is a new primary school teacher struggling to deal with his class who is constantly on the receiving end of concerns from the children’s overly-protective parents. Despite feeling out of his depth, when he discovers that one of his pupils is being abused by their parents, he decides that he must do something to help. Meanwhile in the same city, Masami (Machiko Ono), a woman who appears to be a good mother, can’t help lashing out at her own child.
百日紅 ～Miss HOKUSAI～ 「Sarusuberi ～Miss HOKUSAI～」
Running Time: 93 mins.
Director: Keiichi Hara
Writer: Miho Maruo (Screenplay), Hinako Sugiura (Original Creator),
Starring: Anne Watanabe (O-Ei), Yutaka Matsushige (Tetsuzo/Katsushika Hokusai), Shion Shimizu (O-Nao), Kumiko Aso (Sayogoromo), Kengo Kora (Utagawa Kuninao), Gaku Hamada (Zenjiro/Keisai Eisen), Jun Miho (Koto),
Miss Hokusai is an award-winning film I wrote about last year in a trailer post packed with information and links. The film is directed by Keiichi Hara who has worked on the Japan Academy Prize-winnerSummer Days with Coo (2007), a film about a kappa and the suburban family he lives with, and Annecy double winner (Jury’s Special Distinction and the Audience Award) Colorful (2010) , a dark but ultimately life-affirming story about suicide and the afterlife.
Synopsis (adapted from the filmmaker’s website): The time: 1814.
The place: Edo, now known as Tokyo. One of the highest populated cities in the world, teeming with peasants, samurai, townsmen, merchants, nobles, artists, courtesans, and perhaps even supernatural things.
A much accomplished artist of his time and now in his mid-fifties, Katsushika Hokusai can boast clients from all over Japan, and tirelessly works in the garbage-loaded chaos of his house-atelier. Short-tempered, utterly sarcastic, with no passion for sake or money, he lives with the third of his four daughters, outspoken 23-year-old O-Ei. She has inherited her father’s talent and stubbornness, and very often she would paint instead of him, though uncredited. Her art is so powerful that sometimes leads to trouble. “We’re father and daughter; with two brushes and four chopsticks, I guess we can always manage, in a way or another.”
Decades later, Europe was going to discover the immense talent of Tetsuzo. He was to become best known by one of his many names: Katsushika Hokusai. He would mesmerize Renoir and van Gogh, Monet and Klimt.
However, very few today are even aware of the woman who assisted him all his life, and greatly contributed to his art while remaining uncredited. This is the untold story of O-Ei, Master Hokusai’s daughter: a lively portrayal of a free-spirited woman overshadowed by her larger-than-life father, unfolding through the changing seasons.
心が叫びたがってるんだ。「Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterun Da.」
Running Time: 119 mins.
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Writer: Mari Okada (Script),
Starring: Inori Minase (Jun Naruse), Kouki Uchiyama (Takumi Sakagami), Sora Amamiya (Natsuki Nido), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Daiki Tazaki),
Director Tatsuyuki Nagai and writer Mari Okada specialise in telling coming-of-age stories in anime and their greatest collaboration is arguably anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Reviews for this one have been very good and it has been picked up for UK distribution by All the Anime.
Synopsis from the official English-language website: Jun is a girl whose words have been sealed away. She was once a happy girl, but because of a [certain thing] she said when she was very young, her family was torn apart. One day, the egg fairy appeared in front of her and sealed away her ability to talk in order to stop her from hurting anybody else. Since this traumatic experience, Jun lives in the shadows away from the limelight. But, one day she is nominated to become an executive member of the “community outreach council.” On top of that, Jun is also appointed to play the main lead in their musical…
ある 精肉店 の はなし「Aru Seiniku-ten no Hanashi」
Running Time: 108 mins.
Director: Aya Hanabusa
Synopsis: the Kitades and their family-run butcher shop in Osaka are the focus of this documentary. It is the place where they have been raising and slaughtering cattle, and selling the meat for over 100 years. Due to their trade they are Buraku people and thus discrimated against. When the film gets to the family, they have made the decision to shut down the slaughterhouse. This one is not for the faint of heart since animals are shown being slaughtered.
俺はまだ本気出してばいだけ「Ore wa Mada Honki Dashite nai Dake」
Running Time: 105 mins.
Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Writer: Yuichi Fukuda (Screenplay), Shunju Aono (Original Manga)
Starring: Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ai Hashimoto, Katsuhisa Namase, Takayuki Yamada, Gaku Hamada, Renji Ishibashi
This is a laid back slacker comedy given legs by Shinichi Tsutsumi being a remarkably lazy father and the various amusing reactions he gets for his lackadaisical ways. The drama part of the film isn’t so nearly as engaging as the more comedic parts and the film ultimately has a middle-of-the-road feel. It’s based on Shunju Aono’s manga and it has a fine cast from Shinichi Tsutsumi (One Missed Call, Why Don’t You Play in Hell), Ai Hashimoto (Another, The Kirishima Thing), Takayuki Yamada (Thirteen Assassins), Gaku Hamada (Foreign Duck,See You Tomorrow, Everyone) and Renji Ishibashi (Ninja Kids!!!).
Synopsis: Middle-aged Daikoku (Shinichi Tsutsumi) is a bit of a sad-sack father whose high school daughter Suzuku (Ai Hashimoto) has given up on him. Living with his father Shiro (Renji Ishibashi) he decides to follow the slogan “Find your true self!” and quits his job at a company to become a manga artist. In reality, he becomes a part-time warrior, playing video games and working at a fast-food place. He will achieve his goal, but it will just take a while…
The festival starts in London and lasts from February 05th to March 26th and will visit various venues across the UK which are listed here:
– ICA, London
– Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
– Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth
– Watershed, Bristol
– Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT), Belfast
– QUAD, Derby
– mac birmingham, Birmingham
– Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), Dundee
– Filmhouse, Edinburgh
– Showroom Cinema, Sheffield
– Phoenix, Leicester
– Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria
– Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
Each cinema offers different times and prices which you can check when you search for the films.