Japanese Films at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film FestivalThe Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) launches soon and lasts from September 29th to October 14th and, as is usually the case, there are a heck of a lot of great films from East Asia with some top-notch Japanese content programmed. There is a strong line-up of films for the Japanese cinema specialist with titles new and old, some seen at festivals like Cannes and Nippon Connection and others that got their premiere at Toronto.

The VIFF website has had a facelift and you can track down the titles with a quick search or by selecting the relevant stream from the myriad of cool-sounding options.

Thanks go out to the programmers of the VIFF for picking a good selection of films and I hope you, dear reader, can find something that interests you!

Here’s the line-up!


This strand, better known as Dragons & Tigers, has feature-films and shorts from East Asia and the Japanese contingent is made up of titles that have been at Berlin and Cannes with festival favourites Koreeda and Fukada showing up. As is usually the case there are a number of short films from Japan and they play with the features. To find out more head to the festival site.

The Long Excuse   


永い言い訳 Nagai Iwake

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Original Story, Screenplay)

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Eri Fukatsu, Haru Kuroki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Keiko Horiuchi,

IMDB  Website

I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while but the last major set of films I reviewed came from Miwa Nishikawa who has established a career as a novelist and director. She started her career working on the films of Hirokazu Koreeda before making her debut with the excellent (I can’t praise it enough) Wild Berries. She followed it up with Dear Doctor and Sway. Her last feature-film was Dreams for Sale which came out in 2012. This one, her latest, is getting great reviews after showing up in the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ll be in Tokyo when it’s released in Japan!!!

Synopsis from IMDB: The writer Sachio Kinugasa (Masahiro Motoki) loses his wife Natsuko (Eri Fukatsu) in a bus accident. The couple didn’t love each other but he must act broken-hearted in public. Sachio begins to experience real emotions when he meets a truck driver named Yoichi Omiya (Pistol Takehara) who was also turned into a widower following the accident and has to support two kids. Sachio offers to help look after Yochio’s children seeing the despair the other man feels.


After the Storm   

After the Storm Film Poster
After the Storm Film Poster

海よりもまだ深く 「Umi yori mo mada fukaku

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Original Story, Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Isao Hashizume, Taiyo Yoshizawa

IMDB   Website

Hirokazu Koreeda (Kiseki) is one of the most consistently brilliant storytellers in modern Japanese cinema. His last film, Our Little Sister (2015) proved very popular and earned a worldwide release and followed up the also equally adored Like Father, Like Son.

Synopsis from IMDB: Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely pay child support. After the death of his father, his aging mother (Kirin Kiki) and beautiful ex-wife (Yoko Maki) seem to be moving on with their lives. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son (Taiyo Yoshizawa) – until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again.


Harmonium      harmonium-film-poster

深田晃司 「Fuchi ni Tatsu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,

IMDB   Website

Koji Fukada’s stars Kanji Furutachi (au revoir l’ete, The Woodsman & the Rain) and the awesome Tadanobu Asano (Watashi no OtokoVitalBright FutureSurvive Style 5+). This is a psychological mystery where audiences try to understand the characters.

Synopsis from IMDB: Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa) live a quiet life which is disrupted when Toshio hires old-friend Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) to work in his workshop. This old acquaintance, who has just been released from prison, begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life with a threat of violence but Tishio owes Yasaka a large debt.


While the Women are Sleeping    

While the Women are Sleeping Film Poster
While the Women are Sleeping Film Poster

女が眠る時「Onna ga nemuru toki」 

Running Time: 103 mins.

Director: Wayne Wang

Writer: Michael Ray, Shinho Lee, Mami Sunada (Screenplay) Javier Marias (Original Story)

Starring:  Beat Takeshi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Sayuri Oyamada, Lily Franky, Shiori Kutsuna, Makiko Watanabe, Hirofumi Arai,

Website IMDB

This is another film with a stellar cast – Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live), Beat Kitano (Hana-bi), Lily Franky (Like Father, Like Son), Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure– and it has an interesting story which I think you can read on the New Yorker magazine website. The trailer looks great and the story involves obsession, lust, love, danger and all those good things that make thrillers. Ghosts, too, apparently!

Synopsis: Kenji (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and Aya (Sayuri Oyamada) are spending a week at a hotel over the summer and they encounter a strange couple amongst the other guests. There is the considerably older man, Doctor Sahara (Beat Takeshi), and a there is a younger woman, Miki (Shiori Katsuna). Sahara records Miki every night with his video camera and while the women are asleep, he discusses Miki’s life and death with Kenji who is sucked into Sahara’s weird fantasies and concerned about Miki’s safety. Is it all a game or something deadlier?


Suffering of Ninko       


仁光の受難Ninko no junan

Running Time: 70 mins.

Director: Niwatsukino Norihiro

Writer: Niwatsukino Norihiro (Screenplay)

Starring: Masato Tsujioka, Miho Wakabayashi, Hideta Iwahashi, Yukino Arimoto, Tomoko Harazaki, Qyoko Kudo,

IMDB  Website

End on a high! This one looks highly entertaining. Take a gander at the trailer and see what respected film critic Tony Rayns has to say!

To see the trailer, head here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuKQ-zvgumU

Synopsis from the festival site: We’re in the ancient Japan of the Hyaku-monogatari (the classical ghost-story anthology The Hundred Tales), but you’ve never seen a Japanese period movie like this before. Ninko is a virtuous Buddhist monk who’s embarrassed to discover that he’s irresistible to many women (and some men). After a particularly troubling encounter with a masked woman, he undertakes a journey to “purify” himself, hoping that this will equip him to rebuff sexual advances. He meets the samurai Kanzo and hears of a village decimated by the rapacious mountain goddess Yama-onna, who kills men to absorb their energy. Finally Ninko has a quest to fulfill…

Niwatsukino’s wildly enjoyable debut is crammed with humour and visual surprises. At a time when 95% of Japanese indies are about the emotional and sexual-identity problems of young people, it is (to say the least) refreshing to find a movie that goes for broke with a subject that blows genre conventions apart while offering gutsy storytelling, vivid performances and a fabulous sense of cinema’s possibilities. Buddhists will love it, but so will most everyone else.


This strand of the festival focuses on the intersection of music, art, and design in a mixture of fiction and documentary films which seek to harness exhibitions and live performances to highlight their subjects. Two Japanese or, to be more exact, films with Japanese subject-matter are here!


We are X   


Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Stephen Kijak

Starring: Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Hiroshi Morie, Sugizo, Gene Simmons, Wes Borland,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: This is a rock documentary about X-Japan, one of the biggest bands working today. The group started out as childhood friends who formed a musical unit in 1982 and survived over thirty years of hard rock, death, cults, and stratospheric fame to continue today. With a worldwide fan-base, their rock music has captivated audiences worldwide thanks to the awesome music and their stylish costumes and stage sets and the doc ends with a show at Madison Square Garden. Yoshiki, leader of the band, guides us through the history.


Yohji Yamamoto   Dressmaker     


Running Time: 79 mins.

Director: Ngo The Chau

Starring: Yoji Yamamoto, Fumi Yamamoto, Masao Nihei, Tadashi Kubo, Alan Blizerian,

Website IMDB

To see the trailer, head here: youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHaciTcVx4s

Synopsis: Yohji Yamamoto is a fashion designer and tailor based in Paris and Tokyo and at 73 years of age he is internationally famous for a long career based on unique designs combining Japanese design aesthetics and imaginative use of shape and texture which create strange but stylish clothes for both men and women. This documentary gives us a behind-the-scenes look at his studio and interviews with the man himself so we understand his design philosophy. His clothes were featured in the Takeshi Kitano film Dolls so it will be interesting to see if he mentions the creative process behind them.

5 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival

  1. Good selection of films!!! Miwa Nishikawa’s The Long Excuse looks very good!!! I also want to see the new Koreeda film.
    “Harmonium” will be released in the UK. Can’t wait to see it! I’ve seen his last film “Au Revoir L’ete” and loved it! Very good film with Fumi Nikaido.
    “While the Women are Sleeping” looks great. I bought the japanese bluray but have not seen it yet.

    1. I agree!

      I’ve been out of the loop for some time so I’m happy to step back in with this great line-up especially with the new Nishikawa. I’m eager to see all of them and trust that there will be some kind of UK release for Koreeda’s latest. Harmonium I might watch during the Tokyo International Film Festival.

  2. Pingback: Japanese Films at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival | Otaku Updates

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