The Nippon Connection Film Festival takes place from May 23 to 28, 2017 and it will be held in Frankfurt am Main. The organisers released details of the 100+ short and feature length films that will be screened and there are many top titles that audiences can see to get a perfect snapshot of the myriad of stories and talents that the Japanese film industry is producing. There are a whole host of premieres and these will be shown in the presence of many directors and actors who will introduce and talk about their work to the audience.
This post deals with documentaries that will be screened at the festival. They cover a wide variety of topics from the reactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in Abandoned Land and the evacuees to reclaim their hometown to Raise your Arms and Twist, in which the director Atsushi Funahashi observes the everyday life of the Japanese pop idol singers of the group NMB48. The director skillfully combines social and media critique without degrading the stars or their fans. Steven Okazaki’s Mifune: The Last Samurai portrays the life and work of legendary actor Toshiro Mifune, who has written film history through his cooperation with Akira Kurosawa whilein her film 95 and 6 to Go young American filmmaker Kimi Takesue explores the history of her Japanese ancestors who emigrated to Hawaii, taking the conversations with her grandfather as a starting point.
Here’s the line-up:
Running Time: 80 mins.
Director: Steven Okazaki
Writers: Stuart Galbraith IV, Steven Okazaki
Starring: Keanu Reeves (Narrator), Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Haruo Nakajima, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Koji Yakusho, Shiro Mifune,
Synopsis: Keanu Reeves narrates a documentary about one of the most famous, if not the most famous Japanese actor in the history of cinema: Toshiro Mifune. People who have watched him in Yojimbo and Throne of Blood will attest that he is a massive screen presence and we get to see what made him special through archive footage as well as enjoying the reminisces of collaborators and fans from around the world.
道頓堀よ、泣かせてくれ！DOCUMENTARY of NMB48「LOVE! LOVE! SING! Ikite itoshite utau koto gekijouban」
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Atsushi Funahashi
Starring: NMB48 Girls
The director is Atsushi Funahashi and he has directed films about the fallout from Fukushima like the drama Cold Bloom and two documentaries under the Nuclear Nation title. Atsushi Funahashi will present his film Raise your Arms and Twist, in which he observes the everyday life of Japanese pop idol singers of the group NMB48, the sister group of AKB48. NMB48 are based in Osaka but I never saw that much evidence of them while roaming around.
Synopsis: NMB48 is based in Namba, Osaka and it has been six years since their debut at Osaka Castle Hall. Atsushi Funahashi uses his skills as a documentarian to observe the everyday struggles, efforts, and successes of the idols and their fans and offers a critique of the whole social and media world that surrounds the group.
Running Time: 86 mins.
Director: Kimi Takesue
Starring: Tom Takesue
Director Kimi Takesue has made many documentaries and short films since the ’90s and this is her latest, an intriguing film that combines her family history with the filmmaking process.
Synopsis from the website: Filmmaker Kimi Takesue turns her camera on her resilient grandfather who has lived in Honolulu for nearly a century. As she captures the cadence of Grandpa Tom’s daily life he takes an interest in her stalled romantic screenplay and offers advice that is as shrewd as it is surprising. This advice turns into him sharing his story of immigration, love, love and endurance. Shot over six years, this intimate meditation on family and absence expands the vernacular of the “home movie” to consider how history is accumulated in the everyday and how sparks of humor and creativity can animate an ordinary life.
There will be the short film To Find the Day of the 21st
(Dir: Kieko Ikehata, Japan 2017, 13 min) screened with this film.
Sato ni kitara eeyan Film Poster
さとにきたらええやん 「 Sato ni kitara eeyan」
Release Date: June 11th, 2016
Running Time: 100 mins.
Artistic Director: Yoshiki Shigee
I lived in this area of Osaka for nearly four months so there’s a bit of nostalgia here for me. I wrote about the film the year before so I’m glad that it has travelled to a big festival like Nippon Connection.
Synopsis: Director Yoshiki Shigee studied at Osaka College of Visual Arts. After his graduation he worked for a video production company. In 2008 he was a volunteer at the “Children’s Village” in Nishinari and it was at this time that he started shooting this film, his directorial debut. this documentary is about a special children’s area called “Kodomo no sato” which is a home away from home for kids growing up in an environment where many people face poverty, unemployment, or even homelessness. Tomoko Shoho founded established the facility that evolved into Kodomo no Sato in 1977. As the executive director she sometimes has harsh words for the children, but she has remained their steadfast ally over the years. Shigee has accompanied the social workers, parents, and children with his camera for almost three years, painting a touching portrait of people who do not give up hope.
ギ・あいうえおス 他山の石を以って己の玉を磨くべし 「Gui aiueo:S Tazan no ishi o motte onore no tama o migakubeshi」
Running Time: 86 mins.
Director: Go Shibata
Writers: Ushirohiko Matsunaga, Yusuke Noguchi, Go Shibata,
This European premiere will happen in the presence of the director and of the producer Eijun Sugihara.
Synopsis: Go Shibata and the members of the band GUI AIUEO:S travel the land and on their journey, they search for UFOs, meet odd hermits, and are introduced to the sustainable toilet. During their journey, the gang use their sound and film equipment like musical instruments and create an audiovisual work of art.
There will be the supporting short film The Interpreter (Dir: Noriko Okaku, UK, 2015, 6 min).
残されし大地 「Nokosareshi daichi」
Running Time: 73 mins.
Director: Gilles Laurent
Writers: Gilles Laurent
Starring: Naoto Matsumura, Joe Moross, Yayoe Sato, Tomotsu Sato, Hiroko Aihara, Toshiko Hangai, Yasutaka Matsumara, Kazuko Iga, Takako Yamada,
Gilles Laurent (IMDB profile) worked as a sound engineer for numerous documentary and feature film productions. This film is his directorial debut. Unforutnately, his life was cut short when he died in the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016.
Synopsis: The town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture was evacuated after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 but one resident named Naoto Matsumura refused to leave. Years later, people are returning and the former inhabitants of Tomioka revisit their houses in preparation for their move back to their hometown. This is a snapshot from a couple of years ago of a town that refuses to die.
There will be the supporting short film What Happens Before War? (Dir: NOddIN, Japan 2015, 8 min).
スタートライン 「Suta-to rain」
Running Time: 112 mins.
Director: Ayako Imamura
Ayako Imamura was born deaf and that has informed her filmmaking. After studying sign language at Aichi University as well as film and deaf culture at California State University, she has been shooting documentary films about the everyday life of deaf people in Japan. Her mission is to raise awareness about the discrimination of deaf people in Japan through lectures and film screenings. She also teaches sign language at Japanese universities. She has made many documentaries but this is the first where she is the subject.
Synopsis: Facing profound grief and despair following the death of her mother and grandfather, director Ayako Imamura decided to overcome those feelings by combining cycling and communication in one film. She travelled with her cameraman across Japan from Okinawa to Hokkaido, a total of 3,824 kilometers in 57 days, by bicycle over the course of the summer of 2015. Her goal was to confront and record issues deaf people face when communicating with hearing people and problems she felt that she had in this regard. While exploring her country she also discovered elements of herself and proceeded to grow as a person which can be seen in this documentary road movie.
There are three films and a talk and admission to each of these events is totally free:
What You Taught Me About My Son (Dir: Takuya Maruyama, 2014, 59 min) is an award-winning documentary about a Japanese boy with severe autism who wrote one of the most extraordinarily candid books on life with the condition.
Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (Dir: Kaku Arakawa, 2017, 70 min) is an observational documentary following Studio Ghibli co-founder and all-around animation genius Hayao Miyazaki, a man whose work is never-ending. He recently came out of retirement to work on his first-ever CG film.
The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families (Dirs: Tomohiko Yokoyama, Ryo Urabe, 2016, 49 min) is all about a telephone booth known as the “Phone of the Wind” which stands on a hill in northern Japan. It is not connected, but many people go there to “call” their loved ones lost in the 2011 tsunami.
Boys for Sale 「売買ボーイズ , Dir: Itako, 76 mins. Website」 is a documentary produced by the American Ian Thomas Ash all about the world of gay prostitution in Tokyo. The crew travelled to Shinjuku 2-chome, a neighborhood is considered to be “the gay center of Asia” and a place with a connection to prostitution since the 17th century. Here you can find the highest density of establishments catering to homosexual customers in the world, a place where many young and mostly straight boys sell their bodies. The documentary looks at a number of subjects and gets their backgrounds, how they were recruited, and how they live now.
The events and screenings will take place at the following locations:
The festival’s website gives more information on locations and there’s the Google Maps service which is super useful in finding your way around town.
For more, go to the festival website: www.NipponConnection.com.