Japanese Films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016

Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 Header
Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 Header

There are a lot of film festivals in Japan and despite this being a Japanese film blog I never report on them (unless you count a few half-hearted attempts at Yubari). Anyway, I want to tackle the Osaka Asian Film Festival because Osaka has become one of the more interesting focal points of Japanese filmmaking with the university producing directors and writers who are creating films like Dressing Up which get great plaudits from film critics. So what about the film festival itself?

The Osaka Asian Film Festival is in its 11th year and focusses on Asian films. It takes place from March 04th to 13th and East Asian territories such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The programme is large and full of many great films (all easily laid out on the website).

The Main Competition section which has thirteen films with a team of international jurors choosing the winner of two awards, Grand Prix and Most Promising Talent. There is only one Japanese film in this section:

 

Tsumugu   

Tsumugu mono Film Poster
Tsumugu mono Film Poster

つむぐものtsumugu mono

Release Date: March 19th, 2016

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kazutoshi Inudo

Writer: Yusuke Moriguchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Saburo Ishikura, Kim Kkot-bi, Riho Yoshioka, Yojin Hino, Chika Uchida, Yuki Morinaga, Shohei Uno,

Website  IMDB

Synopsis: Takeo (Saburo Ishikura) is a widower who lives in Fukui Prefecture. He works as a traditional paper maker who lives and works alone. He has a brain tumour which causes him to fall and be incapacitated. He needs help but he is unwilling to open his heart to anyone.

A Korean girl named Yona (Kim Kkobi) is in Japan on a working holiday and works with Takeo. Despite his abusive language and prejudice, she is determined to help Takeo.

They may be from different countries, different generations, and have different genders but their hearts and souls learn to communicate.

There are specific sections of the programme dedicated to the cinematic output of individual countries/territories: Vietnamese Cinema in Bloom, Taiwan: Movies on the Move 2016, Special Focus on Hong and New Action! Southeast Asia which showcases action films from Southeast Asia. The greatest concentration of Japanese films is in the Indie Forum and [12th CO2 Grant-recipient Film] sections where there is a gang of female filmmakers and students fresh from university making their debuts.

I Am a Weapon Film Image

Eriko, Pretended   

見栄を張るMie wo haru

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 93 mins.

Director: Akiyo Fujimura

Writer: Yusuke Moriguchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Mei Kanami, Keiko Koyanagi, Yoka Kubo, Miki Nitori, Atsuya Okada, Masahiro Saito, Masami Shinozaki, Nagiko Tsuji, Yoko Tsuji,

Website  IMDB

Eriko, Pretended is part of the 12th CO2 Grant-recipient Film section and was in a crowd-funding campaign (in the West and Japan) which ended this month. It features a group of experienced crew who have worked on other films.

Synopsis: Eriko (Haruka Kubo) moved to Tokyo to become an actor but after ten years of trying she hasn’t quite made it. When her sister dies, Eriko returns home to attend the funeral where she delivers a eulogy. After the event she has to answer awkward questions about her acting career but, more importantly, she states that she will care for her sister’s ten-year-old son Kazuma…

 

I Am a Weapon

私は兵器Watashi wa heiki

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Akihiro Mima

Writer: Akihiro Mima (Screenplay)

Starring: Ibuki Tsuji Hideki Tamai, Yuka Hirahara, Takeshi Yamamoto, Kensho Tachibana, Shun Sugata,

Website  IMDB

Director Akihiro Mima made the 2013 film Utopia Sounds but has been silent since then. He’s back in the 12th CO2 Grant-recipient Film section.


Synopsis: Moto Maruse (Ibuki Tsuji) is the son of a violent man who beat someone to death and he is afraid of repeating history. With a hatred for violence and a fear of people who might make him a monster, he avoids relationships with other people and becomes a piano tuner. It’s a hard thing to keep up and when Moto meets a boy named Shaku Fujii, he sees someone similar to himself and starts teaching him piano. It goes further because Shaku’s mother Itsuka has an ex-husband named Seiichiro who is a journalist investigating puzzling random incidents of violence. At the same time, Moto is drawn into a mysterious organization for acting revenge, “Messengers.” However, Seiichiro starts to expose the existence of the organization…

 

The Man Who Was Eaten

食べられる男Taberareru otoko

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Keisuke Kondo

Writer: Akihiro Mima (Screenplay)

Starring: Chikara Honda, Mahiro Sugiyama, Tomomi Ishikawa, Haruka Nakano, Soichiro Yoshimoto, Riku Tokimitsu, Shingo Kawaguchi, Yoshio Shin,

Website  IMDB

One of the great things about Twitter is that filmmakers can easily get in contact with you and when you are tweeting about Japanese films like I do you attract Japanese filmmakers. Alas, I’m a small one-man operation with little time so when the guys and gals behind The Man Who Was Eaten followed me, I followed them back and… that was it – I did send them a message but didn’t push the issue. I wish I’d made more of an effort to get in contact or asked someone to do that for me because this cynical sci-fi comedy in the 12th CO2 Grant-recipient Film section has come from a production team composed of current students from Osaka University of Arts and the Europa Kikaku and the story looks potentially interesting.

Synopsis: Following an alien invasion, humanity has been turned into cattle for the invaders to devour and children are educated from an early age about how much it is an honour to be chosen as food for aliens. Miserable middle aged divorcee Murata Yoshio is an isolated loner but when he is selected for alien food he is given a week-long heroes send-off which makes him ponder the question, “Do you think I am delicious?”

5 to 9 Film Image
5 to 9 Film Image

The Indie Forum features eleven Japanese films, some shorts and some features:

RUMAH (ルマ, Dir: Yosep Anggi Noen 20 mins.) comes from Indonesian filmmaker Yosep Anggi Noen who travelled to Okinawa to make this film which stars Erika, lead actor in the wonderful Hirokazu Koreeda film After Life. This is a story about a woman named Ayumi (Erika) who works as an information centre operator. With the internet available, nobody calls her and Ayumi is only asked a few questions a day by older people. One day, she along with her colleagues, is soon told they will be fired. Ayumi returns to her parent’s home and waiting for her is her father who she has not spoken to in years…

 

Somewhere in My Memory (想い出の中で, 30 mins. Dir. Keihiro Kanyama) stars Chiharu Konno as career woman who lives in Tokyo named Tomoe. She returns to her hometown at a time when everyone is preparing for the traditional annual fire festival. Tomoe reunites with her estrange parents and some old childhood friends but she has an announcement to make… she is now divorced.

KISARAZU (7 mins. Dir: Toshimichi Sato) stars Chen Shourong and Futaro Kashiwagi and it’s all about the exploitation of foreign workers in Japan as told through the story of a Chinese girl named Li-hong who fights against terrible working conditions and sexual harassment. Her boss tries to get her expelled from the country… The festival site describes it as “Based on a true event from 2006, the film paints the true reality of this system. An actual Chinese trainee who was involved in the system and is now protected plays the part of Li-hong.”

Here’s the trailer which is less than a minute long but gives an idea of the creepy boss:

The director’s website has more of his shorts films.

Town of Whales Image

Keiko Tsuruoka is a new voice who I first came across when her film The Town of Whales played at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013. Now new voices don’t always find the support to carry on but she has soldiered away making more and more films and there are two of her latest ones at the Osaka Asian Film Festival.

A Light in the Distance

あの電燈Ano dentou

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 53 mins.

Director: Keiko Tsuruoka

Writer: Keiko Tsuruoka (Screenplay)

Starring: Mariko Kobayashi, Naoya Shimizu, Akaji Maro, Kaori Takeshita, Suzuna, Kazunari Yanagitani,

Website  IMDB

Synopsis: High school girl Mado (Mariko Kobayashi) wakes to an empty town and a tsunami incoming. She has been left behind while everyone else has evacuated. Everyone except her classmate Fujii (Naoya Shimizu) who refuses to leave. Mado finds herself press-ganged into searching the town for others who have stayed behind and encounter a group of people plus traumatic memories…

 

TOMO NI KATSUGEBA: ON OUR SHOULDERS

ともに担げば Tomo ni Katsugeba

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 64 mins.

Director: Keiko Tsuruoka

Writer: Keiko Tsuruoka (Screenplay)

Starring: Shohei Ueki, Haruki Takano, illy, Hina Yamazaki, Kenichi Saito, Takahiro Kato, Eiji Koshiya

Website

Synopsis: This story is all about the traditional metalworking techniques and craftsmanship and two hardworking men, Tsuyoshi and Seiichiro, who work in this industry and have been rivals since childhood. The breathe cities summer festival is cancelled puts celebrations at risk, the townspeople turn to Tsuyoshi and Seiichiro… Will they work together?

Mad Tiger (マッド タイガー, Dirs. Jonathan Yi, Michael Haertlein, 82 mins.) is a feature-length documentary about two Japanese men who were in the same band (Peelander-Z) and toured the US playing performance-art punk rock but when one of the men decides to quit, their friendship is tested severely.

Hakodate Coffee (函館珈琲, Dir: Hiroshi Nishio, 90 mins.) stars Masaya Kikawada and Reiko Kataoka and more as a group of young artists who live and work in an apartment where they make glass ornaments, teddy bears and more. The group keeps growing as they share their workspace and coffee.

If any film typifies the raison d’etre of the film festival, it’s 5 to 9 (ファイブ トゥ ナイン, Dirs: Tay Bee Pin, Daisuke Miyazaki, Vincent Du, Rasiguet Sookkarn, 80 mins.) which was filmed across Asia with an international cast portraying characters undergoing massive changes in their lives on the evening of the Brazil-Germany match at World Cup 2014. A couple parts in China and in Singapore there’s a couple who leave their future to the final result of the match, a porno-projectionist in Japan collects debts and a filmmaker in Thailand suspects his wife is cheating. This is a collection of short films and the stories take place between 5pm and 9am.

My Technicolor Girl Film Image

My Technicolor Girl

夢の女 ユメノヒトYume no onna Yume no Hito

Release Date: April 09th, 2016

Running Time: 71 mins.

Director: Rei Sakamoto

Writer: Futoshi Nakano (Screenplay)

Starring: Kazuhiro Sano, Kiyomi Itoh, Hanako Wada, Maki Nishiyama,

Website

Synopsis from the festival site: Nagano (Kazuhiro Sano) has spent 40 years in a mental hospital in Fukushima with only the memory of his first love on his mind (love sickness?). However, during the evacuation when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, knowing that he’s already completely healed, he makes his way back out to into the world and tracks down where his first love is… Tokyo, if you’re curious. She lives with her son and his wife and so Nagano mounts his bike and heads to Tokyo…  His story is like that of Urashima Taro, the Japanese fisherman who went beneath the sea as a young man and returned to an unfamiliar world. 

 

To See Mother

椿、母に会いにTsubaki, haha ni Ai ni

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 72 mins.

Director: Shunichi Takagi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Fumi Kumakawa, Tomoki Kimura, Keigo Tani, Yoko Takano,

Synopsis from the festival site: Tsubaki Higurashi is nearly 30, works part time as a sign holder, and always covers her face with a medical mask.  Her boyfriend works from home (and usually in the nude) and her estranged mother tries to visit her but Tsubaki avoids her. Tsubaki questions her choices in life and where future is heading. One day, a man pretending to be a professional entertainment scout approaches Tsubaki, and while she listens, thoughts of “Why me?” float around in her head, she gradually becomes interested. Each of her thoughts slip away in the streets of Osaka.

 

KENJI-KUN NO HARU

けんじ君の春Kenji-kun no Haru

Release Date: N/A

Running Time: 92 mins.

Director: Aki Morita

Writer: N/A

Starring: Fumi Kumakawa, Tomoki Kimura, Keigo Tani, Yoko Takano,

Synopsis: Kenji Sawaguchi is a womaniser and lives off others instead of getting a job. His favorite thing to say is, “Could you lend me some money?” His friend Shoichi and his older sister Haruka are always getting taken advantage of by Kenji and he owes money to all sorts of people and his ex-girlfriends hold gatherings at his place which is why he is usually on the run. When Kenji meets a college student named Ryoko, he falls in love with her. Will he be able to romance her?

This is actress MORITA Aki’s directorial debut on a feature film. Lead actor TOZUKA Junko, known for his role in “Kamen Rider Wizard” and his recurring role in the drama “Angelheart”, is expected to become one of the most promising young actors.

Hakodate Cafe Film Image
Hakodate Cafe Film Image

There is a Special Screening of Artist of Fasting, the latest film from left-wing firebrand Masao Adachi. It played at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival last month as part of a retrospective of Adachi’s work. This film is an adaptation of a Franz Kafka story and was filmed in a shopping arcade in Utsunomiya with local people taking part.

Artist of Fasting   

Artist of Fasting Film Poster
Artist of Fasting Film Poster

断食芸人Dnjiki geinin

Release Date: February 27th, 2016

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Masao Adachi

Writer: Masao Adachi (Screenplay), Franz Kafka (Original Short Story)

Starring: Hiroshi Yamamoto, Daizo Sakurai, Tomorowo Taguchi, Sakurako Kaoru, Juri Ihata, Takatsugu Iwama, Sankichi Kawamoto,

Website  IMDB

Synopsis: A nameless man sits down in a busy shopping street and says nothing. People are intrigued and interpret his silence in different ways and soon a crowd begins to gather. This crowd includes people handing him cash and food which yakuza steal, monks who see some religious aspect to his actions and pray by his side, the Street Performers’ Association who want him to join them and suicidal youths feel soothed in his presence; the press wants to know if he’s a victim of Abenomics. Eventually, the man is caged and given an army guard…

There is a Special Presentation of a documentary all about chambara – Japanese sword-fighting. There is a resurgence of interest in this type of Japanese film thanks to foreign and female fans finding things to love and flocking to screenings. Indeed, I reviewed a chambara film of sorts called Uzumasa Limelight (2014) which gave a behind-the-scenes view of the Japanese film industry and the state of chambara films. Two of its stars, Seizo Fukumoto and Chihiro Yamamoto appear in this documentary.

CHAMBARA: THE ART OF JAPANESE SWORDPLAY

時代劇は死なず ちゃんばら美学考Jidaigeki wa shinazu: Chanbara bigakukou

Release Date: October 18th, 2015

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director: Sadao Nakajima

Starring: Seizo Fukumoto, Shogo Kimura, Hiroki Matsukata, Sadao Nakajima, Chihiro Yamamoto,

Website  IMDB

Jidaigeki wa shinazu Chanbara bigakukou Film Image
Jidaigeki wa shinazu Chanbara bigakukou Film Image

Synopsis: Kyoto has been at the centre of the development of period drama films and “Chambara (sword-fights)” is one of the most popular types of film with classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s such as 13 Assassins proving good enough to get a recent update and Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf & Cub continually on the top ten lists of cult movie fans around the world. This documentary looks at the appeal of the films while including interviews with critics, actors, and “tate-shi (sword-fight choreographers)”. As a finale, a genuine “chambara” scene will be presented.

The Closing Film for the festival is Mohican Comes Home which is directed by Shuichi Okita (The Story of Yonosuke, The Woodsman and the Rain) and stars Ryuhei Matsuda (The Great Passage, My Little Sweet Pea) and Atsuko Maeda (Seventh Code).

Mohican Comes Home   

Mohican Comes Home Film Poster
Mohican Comes Home Film Poster

モヒカン故郷に帰るMohikan kokyo ni kaeru

Release Date: April 09th, 2016

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Shuichi Okita

Writer: Shuichi Okita (Screenplay)

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Akira Emoto, Jun Miho, Miu Tomita, Yudai Chiba, Masako Motai,

Website  IMDB

Synopsis: Eikichi Tamura (Ryuhei Matsuda) left his hometown of Hiroshima and headed for the bright lights of Tokyo in the hopes of being a rock musician. While he made it as the lead singer of a death metal band, fame didn’t happen. Eikichi returns home several years later and tells his mother Haruko (Masako Motai) and father Osamu (Akira Emoto), that his girlfriend Yuka (Atsuko Maeda) is pregnant. His parents are simultaneously upset over the lack of preparation and excited to have a grandchild but things get difficult when Osamu collapses and is taken to hospital…

The Mohican Comes Home Film Image

9 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016

  1. Interesting to see Kim Kkobi back in Japan again and Ryuhei Matsuda and Atsuko Maeda teaming up after Maeda worked with Matsuda’s brother Shota in Initiation Love.

    1. Kim Kkobi/Kim Kkot-bi is one of those Korean actors quite at home on the Japanese indie movie scene. The projects always look interesting so I’m intrigued as to what motivates her… other than the work!

      I still haven’t watched Initiation Love and avoided reviews. I want to see how Atsuko Maeda has progressed in acting terms!

      1. Ah…that explains why there were no comments from you on my review of “Initiation Love”😉

        Maeda’s very good in it, playing a cutesy role with a slight ambiguous edge to it. You should shift it up your “to watch” list!😛

  2. There’s a lot of interesting film pieces here especially interested in the generational dynamic pieces such as 5 to 9. Hakodate Coffee sounds short but sweet.

    1. It was interesting getting a look into the careers of indie film directors. I have blogged long enough to have seen some of these guys tour their works around the world and it’s good to see the ones with interesting ideas are still making films. Now, if only it were easier to find a way to watch them!

      1. Agreed too bad their isn’t a streaming service that can offer these titles for indie film reviewers like yourself. Say a social media network to connect to the streaming outlet.

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