Feature-Length Fiction Films at Nippon Connection Film Festival 2017

Nippon Connection Logo

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. 

There are some really great films to be seen and a couple of head-scratchers based on the quality but there should be something for everyone. On top of the films, there are also many cultural events to be had at the festival which will be detailed below along with some brief information on the venues.

What is on the programme, then? This is a quick preview but there’s a lot. I’ll break it down into sections and you can view trailers and more details for each on the films by clicking on the links:

Parks        

parks-film-poster-2
parks-film-poster-2

パークス Pa-kusu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director:  Natsuki Seta

Writer: Natsuki Seta (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Mei Nagano, Shota Sometani, Shiro Sano, Reiya Masaki, Ryu Morioka, Shizuka Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Tokyo is home to many world famous parks such as Yoyogi and Ueno but when I lived in the mega-metropolis I developed a soft spot for Inokashira Park out in the fashionable area of Kichijoji. It may not be as big as the others but I found it an equally wonderful serene green space with lots of interesting features. It recently reached its 100th anniversary and the film “Parks” was commissioned to commemorate the special occasion.

Here’s my review.

 Synopsis: Divided into chapters, the story follows three friends trying to recover a love song recorded at Inokashira Park in the ‘60s. It all begins with a university student named Jun (Ai Hashimoto) who lives near Inokashira Park. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend and struggling to find the creativity to complete her university course, she muddles her way through life. When a high-spirited high scInokashira Park Bannerhool girl named Haru (Mei Nagano) knocks on her door, it seems things may change. Haru may be a stranger but she hasn’t appeared at random. She was searching through her late father’s personal effects when she discovered a letter from and photograph of an ex-girlfriend who lived in the exact same apartment that Jun lives in and, in the name of preserving her father in her memory, Haru wants to find out more about him from the ex-girlfriend.


 

 

 

Poolsidemanプールサイドマン,Dir:  Hirobumi Watanabe 117 mins.」 This was one of the hottest indie films at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The story involves a lonely man named Yusuke who lives a lonely life in a suburb north of Tokyo. He barely says a word to anyone except his computer screen as he sits listening to news of atrocities from around the world. Even when he is forced to drive his chatty co-worker Koji to a neighbouring pool, Yusuke just sits in total silence. Beneath this calm but cold exterior, however, there is something dark brewing within Yusuke. 

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blueyozora-wa-itsudemo-saiko-mitsudo-no-aoiro-da-film-poster

夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ Yozora wa Itsudemo Saiko Mitsudo no Aoiro da   

Running Time: 108 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Screenplay), Tahi Saihate (Original Poet)

Starring: Shizuka Ishibashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ryo Sato, Takahiro Miura, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Paul Magsalin, Tetsushi Tanaka,

Website   IMDB  

Yuya Ishii was one of the first directors I started tracking on my blog thanks to his films getting UK releases thanks to the bravery and good taste of Third Window Films. Sawako Decides (2010), Mitsuko Delivers (2012), and The Great Passage (2013). He has gone from indie kid to award-winning adaptations and kept a certain level of quality in his incisive look at human nature, regardless of genre and who the stars are. Here, he works with newbie actors like Shizuka Ishibashi and Ryo Sato. He pairs them up with the more experienced Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!), Mikako Ichikawa (Rent-a-neko), Tetsushi Tanaka (Exte, One Missed Call, Quirky Guys and Gals, Cure), and Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective, My Little Sweet Pea) who was the lead in The Great Passage. The actors all portray characters caught up in the brutal world of Tokyo, alienated, stressed, failing to cope and looking for relief from the everyday grind. It is shot with “lightness,” “enchanting visual ideas,” and “candour.” It’s only 108 minutes as well, so it shouldn’t drag. I’m definitely interested in this one.

Synopsis from the Berlin International Film Festival SiteMika (Shizuka Ishibashi) works as a nurse by day; by night she entertains covetous men at a girls’ bar. Shinji (Sosuke Ikematsu) is blind in one eye and ekes out a living as a construction worker. Young and grown-up at the same time, they both lead a lonely existence, but somehow their paths keep miraculously crossing under the Tokyo sky. Can loneliness be experienced together?

Happiness

ハピネス Hapinesu   

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: SABU

Writer: SABU (Screenplay)

Starring: Masatoshi Nagase, Orakio, Hiroki Suzuki, Tetsuya Chiba, Arisa Nakajima,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A mysterious man named Kanzaki (Masatoshi Nagase) arrives in a quiet small town. He brings with him a strange invention: an odd-looking helmet that he claims is a happiness machine. To prove it works, he uses the helmet on an elderly shopkeeper and as soon as he activates the device, the woman remembers long forgotten happy memories and becomes much more cheerful. The mayor becomes enthusiastic about the machine and asks Kazaki to stay. Soon, the entire town is allowed to experience the machine, but why does Kanzaki look so sad and what is his true agenda?

MR LONG 

ミスター・ロン Misuta- Ron   

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: SABU

Writer: SABU

Starring: Chen Chang, Sho Aoyagi, Yiti Yao, Runyin Bai, Masashi Arifuku, Taro Suwa, Tetsuko Okusa, Shiiko Utagawa, Yusuke Fukuchi, Tetsuya Chiba,

Website

When you mention the director SABU to me, I immediately think of his acting role in Ichi the Killer (2001) and the recently reviewed Don’t Look Up  (1996). I actually have some of the films he has directed but I have not reviewed them yet which is a shame because I’d like to talk more about his work which strings together crime tales like Dangan Runner and Monday with sentimental comedies like Usagi Drop. He’s versatile and a great director and this one is exciting since he’s working with Jet Tone/BLK 2 pictures, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai’s outfit. This one is described as, “Seamlessly stringing together the rugged vernacular of gangster films with the tender moments of a burgeoning love story, his new work combines perfectly choreographed outbreaks of violence with contemplative cooking scenes and surprising moments of slapstick comedy.

Tampopo   Tampopo Film Poster

タンポポ Tampopo

Release Date: November 23rd, 1985

Running Time: 115 mins.

Director: Juzo Itami

Writer: Juzo Itami (Screenplay),

Starring: Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Koji Yakusho, Ken Watanabe, Rikiya Yasuoka, Hideji Otaki, Fukumi Kuroda, Mariko Okada,

IMDB

Synopsis: Two truckers, Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) stop by a rundown ramen noodle store owned by a widowed woman named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). Her business is struggling and she has to look after her son. The two are harrassed by ne’er do wells in the local community who Goro takes on in a series of fights. Tampopo enlists Goro’s help for more important matters as she asks him to help her research the perfect noodle so she can rejuvenate the noodle bar. What ensues is a series comic vignettes as they try and succeed in their quest.

Tampopo Film Image

Bangkok Nites   Bangkok Nites Film Poster

バンコクナイツ 「Bankoku Naitsu

Running Time: 182 mins.

Director: Katsuya Tomita

Writer: Toranosuke Aizawa, Katsuya Tomita (Screenplay),

Starring: Subenja Pongkorn, Katsuya Tomita, Sunun Phuwiset, Chutlpha Promplang, Tanyarat Kongphu,

IMDB Website

Writer/director Katsuya Tomita has been busy working on the indie scene making a couple of films with Saudade (2011) being an award-winner (here’s an interesting review over at the Hollywood Reporter. He has a fascination with Thailand considering the influences the country and its people seem to exert on the story of that film and this current one which gets a German premiere involving the associate producer Terutaro Osanai.

Synopsis: Deep in Bangkok’s red-light district is a woman named Luck. She lives a lavish and luxurious lifestyle while also providing for her family in a rural province. One day she meets Ozawa, a Japanese ex-soldier with whom she once was in love and their worlds intersect again.

Dynamite Wolf   Dynamite Wolf Film Poster

おっさんのケーフェイ 「Ossan no Ke-fei

Running Time: 71 mins.

Director: Kohei Taniguchi

Writer: Natsu Hashimoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Yota Kawase, Yusuke Matsuda, Haruto Kobayashi, Susumu Noda, Shuriya Jinbo,

IMDB 

I saw this one at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and had a good time. It’s an easily accessible story that involves adults and children who dream of nothing but wrestling as a way of making sense of the world and it was filmed with support from the Dotonbori Pro Wrestling League – so real wrestlers and the real feel of pro-wrestling. Solidly shot, easily accessible in terms of story, and with entertaining performances from the cast (especially the children) this is an easy one to recommend.

Synopsis: Hiroto lives in the quiet city of Izumi in Osaka prefecture. He has no particular hopes or dreams unlike his classmates and this causes him to feel a deep sense of crisis. Consider the crisis over when he sees a wrestling match with popular masked fighter named Dynamite Wolf. Hiroto becomes a mega-fan and discovers that even Dynamite Wolf has failed dreams and he can help out.

Going the Distance

かぞくへ 「Kazoku he

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Yujiro Harumoto

Writer: Yujiro Harumoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Shinichiro Matsuura, Masahiro Umeda, Yumi Endo, Nobu Morimoto, Koji Mitsumizo,

IMDB Website

The reviews for this one generally seem good. German premiere with the director/writer Yujiro Harumoto and one of the lead actors, Masahiro Umeda.

Synopsis: Asahi is a boxing trainer in Tokyo. He grew up in an orphanage but now he is going to start a family with Kaori because they plan to marry soon despite the fact that Kaori’s mother looks down on her prospective son-in-law because of his background and job. When Asahi’s best friend Hiroto is scammed by a shady businessman he has to make a difficult choice between the two closest people in his life. 

At the Terrace   At The Terrace Film Poster

Terasu ni te テラスにて

Release Date: October 2016 (Tokyo International Film Festival)

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director: Kenji Yamauchi

Writer: Kenji Yamauchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Kei Ishibashi, Kami Hiraiwa, Ryuta Furuta, Kenji Iwaya, Hiroaki Morooka, Takashi Okabe, Atsushi Hashimoto,

JFDB   IMDB  Website

Playwright and director Kenji Yamauchi premiered his film At the Terrace during the 2016 edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival where it garnered positive buzz from critics for its mix of sensuous and caustic comedy of manners. Based on one of his plays, Trois Grotesques, Yamauchi refuses to cleave away too far from his source and keeps things simple with a film shot in a single location with a cast of seven actors, all of whom were players in the preceding play itself which explains why their comic performances are so perfect. The film opens at a lavish house somewhere in the suburbs of Tokyo. The house is owned by Mr Soejima (Kenji Iwaya), the director of a company, and his wife Kazumi (Kei Ishibashi), both of whom are hosting a night-time party which drags on for a small group of guests because the more they drink the more they feel the need to linger behind and explore some bitter feelings and bad behaviour bubbling away underneath their polite Japanese exteriors.

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle    

The Bride of Rip Van Winkle Film Poster
The Bride of Rip Van Winkle Film Poster

リップヴァンウィンクルノ花嫁  Rippu van winkuru no hanayome 」 

Running Time: 179 mins.

Director: Shunji Iwai

Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay/Novel),

Starring:  Haru Kuroki, Gou Ayano, Cocco, Soko Wada, Nana Natsume, Hideko Hara,

Website   IMDB

Shunji Iwai has made many films across many genres but many of them deal with loneliness and this one is little different as it details the situation of a painfully shy teacher who finds her life becomes intertwined with actors who people hire to play family and friends. It was a great character piece which I reviewed on VCinema. I had the good fortune to see Shunji Iwai at the Tokyo International Film Festival at a screening of his film, Vampire, and the Q&A that followed.

Synopsis from the Festival Site: Nanami is a shy and lonely school teacher who meets Tetsuo online. The pair decide to get married, but Nanami’s lack of friends or relatives proves a source of frustration for her husband-to-be. She is put in touch with Amuro, who runs a business which offers ‘extras’ to pose as friends and fill out crowds at social events. Even though that allows the wedding to proceed, it turns out to be a short-lived marriage, and soon Nanami finds herself alone again. She herself decides to become one of Amuro’s actors, and at one event befriends Mashiro. It’s a friendship that will open up a new world for Nanami, and she is surprised to find herself as an unexpected caretaker for a lavish but vacant mansion…

Daguerrotype   Daguerrotype Film Poster

ダゲレオタイプの女 Dagereotaipu no onna

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Cattherine Paille (adaptation) Eleonore Mahmoudian,

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric,

Website IMDB

This one was Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s first feature-length film shot outside Japan takes place in France but he returns to the realm of the supernatural which his early work mined for great stories such as Cure, Seance, and Pulse. His lead actor is Tahar Rahim who got his big-break in film with A Prophet. He is supported by good actors like Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Synopsis: Jean (Rahim) is a Parisian who stumbles into a job in a crumbling manor on the outskirts of Paris as the assistant of reclusive photographer named Stephane (Gourmet). After the death of his wife, Stephane lives with his 22-year-old daughter, Marie (Rousseau), an otherworldly blonde who bears a spitting image of her mother. She poses for her father as he takes photographs of her using the daguerreotype process – models must spend hours standing still with the aid of metal bars behind their back and limbs to help her keep their body in place. As Jean falls for Marie, he discovers that her father is obsessed with taking life-sized daguerreotypes and it may be connected to resurrecting the spirit of his dead wife…

Destruction Babies   「ディストラクション・ベイビーズ , Dir:  Tetsuya Mariko, 108 mins.」 Destruction Babies is a disturbing and bleak film all about male

destruction-babies-film-poster
destruction-babies-film-poster

violence and the nihilism that develops when a society offers little future prospects to its young people. It offers no easy answers but packs fine performances such as the one given by lead actor Masaki Suda who is chilling as an amoral pugilistic devil stalking a small city rife with tough guys and scheming women. performance as a teen ready to destroy anything in his path. It stars award-winning actors Yuya Yagira (Nobody Knows), Nana Komatsu (The World of Kanako), Denden (Cold Fish), Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!) and Masaki Suda (The Light Shines Only There, Princess Jellyfish). The director will be at the screenings so audience members will be able to ask questions, many no-doubt surrounding the troubling philosophy and ending of the film and the director’s impressions of Japan’s future and the future of its youth. 

Harmonium harmonium-film-poster「深田晃司, Dir: Koji Fukada,118 minsis psychological mystery about a man freshly released from prison who calls upon an old acquaintance for a job and a place to stay. Ostensibly, that’s his reason but what develops is a dark and dangerous game as the intruder threatens his old pal, his fried’s wife and daughter. It has been featured on this blog so many times because it has toured the international festival circuit and accrued a number of awards such as the Jury Prize in the section “Un certain regard” at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It stars Kanji Furutachi (au revoir l’ete, The Woodsman & the Rain) and Tadanobu Asano (Watashi no OtokoVitalBright FutureSurvive Style 5+).

Her Love Boils Bathwater   Her Love Boils Bathwater Film Poster

湯を沸かすほどの熱い愛Yu wo wakasuhodo no atsui ai

Running Time: 125 mins.

Director:  Ryota Nakano

Writer: Ryota Nakano (Screenplay),

Starring: Rie Miyazawa, Hana Sugisaki, Taro Suruga, Aoi Ito, Tori Matsuzaka, Joe Odagiri, Yukiko Shinohara,

Website IMDB JFDB

This was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and reviews like this one paint a picture of a great family drama thanks to the actors Rie Miyazawa (Pale Moon, Twilight Samurai), Joe Odagiri (Bright Future, Mushishi), and Hana Sugisaki (Pieta in the Toilet).

Synopsis: Futaba and her daughter Azumi live in a house connected to their family-run bathhouse in a small town. Their used to be three people in their family but husband and father Kazuhiro left them for another woman and since then, the bathhouse has been closed. Everything changes when Futaba is diagnosed with terminal cancer, giving her only months to live. The approach of death fires her up to make the most of her remaining time. She develops a head of steam and becomes determined to reunite her family, reopen the bathhouse, and take care of her daughter. Her journey will uncover new friends and secrets as she makes peace with the world before leaving it.

The Long Excuse   The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Haru Kuroki, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa is one of the best directors working in Japan. Look at her filmography and you will find stand-out films like Wild Berries, Dear Doctor, Sway, and Dreams for Sale. Her latest one is on offer at Nippon Connection and it earned praised from critics.

“Writer-director Miwa Nishikawa’s somber reflection on the strains of marriage and parenthood is punctuated with beautiful existential undertones.” (Maggie Lee, Variety). The trailer works, it just has no thumbnail:

Synopsis: Sachio is a very successful but arrogant writer who is cheating on his wife Natsuko. During a trip away, Natsuko and her friend Yuki are killed in a bus accident. Sachio – whose celebrity status has led to media interest in the tragedy – initially finds himself unable to grieve. Ultimately, however, his life begins to fall apart as the reality of his wife’s absence hits him. During the public inquiries into the crash, he encounters Yuki’s husband Yoichi. Yoichi’s job as a truck driver has left him in a tight spot, unable to stay at home with his two young children. Sachio cautiously agrees to look after the kids while their father is out of town.

The Emperor in August    「日本のいちばん長い日, Dir: Masato Harada, 136 mins.」 This is the story of the chaotic and potentially calamitous days after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the nation was gripped by the high drama and extremely tense politics that went into the final decision of the surrender of Japan to Allied Forces. The question of what to do with the Emperor seems quaint when it is placed against the drama that a cadre of army officers were prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions by refusing to surrender while some in the civilian government was desperate to bring the conflict to a conclusion.  This year’s Nippon Honour award winner Koji Yakusho (Cure, Charisma) will be present at the screening to talk about what the festival organisers describe as “one of the most captivating performances of his long career” as he plays the Minister of the Army, General Korechika Anami, a man trying to decide whether to follow his loyal and passionate men or avert the death of many civilians.

 

I Am a Hero    

I am a Hero FIlm Poster
I am a Hero FIlm Poster

アイアムアヒーロー「Ai amu a hi-ro-

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Akiko Nogi (Screenplay), Kengo Hanazawa (Original Manga)

Starring: Yo Oizumi, Masami Nagasawa, Kasumi Arimura, Miho Suzuki, Yu Tokui, Yoshinari Okada, Nana Katase,

Website    IMDB

I Am a Hero is a Tokyo-based zombie story that was first published in 2009 and in the years since it was launched it has over 4 million copies in print, a spin-off set in Osaka and growing international recognition. I am one of the many fans around the world. My review of the manga shows how much I like it and here’s a preview I wrote for the film. There are lots of reviews that paint this as an entertaining film:

“Just hyperkinetic enough to create suspense yet willing to slow things down to allow the characters to breathe, the pic is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.” (Elizabeth Kerr, Hollywood Reporter)

“I Am A Hero” careens along in a giddy, bloodsoaked, immensely pleasurable rush, propelled by an enthusiasm as infectious as a bite from the undead, that makes even the hoariest beats of the plot seem dipped in bright, bloody newness.” (Jessica Kiang, Variety)

Synopsis: Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) is a manga artist assistant who is struggling to get his own manga made. As he struggles with life a mysterious virus spreads throughout Japan and the rest of the world. People with the virus are known as ZQN and they turn into zombies with super speed and strength and attack other people. One of the victims of the virus is Hideo’s girlfriend Tetsuko (Nana Katase) who comes down with the virus and attacks him. Hideo flees Tokyo and heads out into the country.

During his escape he meets a high school girl named Hiromi Hayakari (Kasumi Arimura) but she has been bitten by a ZQN, a baby without teeth, so her infection isn’t as bad. During their escape they head to a mall where a group of survivors lead by NEETs are hiding on the roof. There they meet Nurse Yabu (Masami Nagasawa) who hopes she can draw an antibody from Hiromi.

 

Shin Godzilla 「シンゴジラ, Director: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi, 120

shin-gojira-film-poster
shin-gojira-film-poster

mins.I am the one person on the planet that hasn’t seen Shin Godzilla, despite being in Tokyo when the big beast came back for the record-breaking box office reboot of Toho’s kaiju classic. It looks great based on the trailer, an update set in present-day Japan with a cast of great actors. The story follows the original for the most part: an unexplained seismic event has occurred off the coast of Shinagawa, causing destructive effects all the way to the capital. Ministers scramble to figure out what’s going on but only cabinet secretary Rando Yaguchi (and the audience) knows the truth: Godzilla has returned and Tokyo faces destruction unless its peoples pull together. It was directed by Hideaki (Neon Genesis Evangelion) Anno and Shinji Higuchi (recent live-action Attack on Titan films)

The Projects 「団地, Dir: Junji Sakamoto, 103 mins」showed up at various

Danchi Film Poster
Danchi Film Poster

film festivals last year including Japan Cuts and it has impressed critics. The cast are mostly veteran performers and they seem to work well with Junji Sakamoto (A Chorus of Angels, Human Trust). The story involves Hinako (Naomi Fujiyama) and Seiji Yamashita (Ittoku Kishibe), an elderly married couple who once owned a store where they sold traditional Chinese herbal medicine but they retired and moved into the local housing complex after the death of their son. Old customers come calling and it provides something for Seiji to do, otherwise, he barely leaves their apartment. Things change when he runs in an election to select the next president of the housing complex but due to various misunderstandings with his neighbours, he shuts himself away under the floorboards of the apartment out of embarrassment and soon rumours spread that he has been killed by Hinako! Here’s a review at the Japan Times and the Asahi Shimbun.

 

 

Eriko, Pretended   Eriko, Pretended Film Poster

見栄を張るMie wo haru

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 of the 2016 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival and has since gone on to tour the international film festival circuit. It was the subject of an international crowd funding campaign and 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…

Death Note – Light Up the New World デスノート Light up the NEW Death Note Light Up the New World Film Posterworld デスノート Light up the NEW world, Dir: Shinsuke Sato, 135 mins.   Website IMDB The Death Note franchise continues ten years after the original when a new Death Note has been found on Earth and it has been used to orchestrate mass murders in New York and Japan. Its emergence coincides with mysterious cyber terrorist attacks. A new generation of detectives led by Tsukuru (Higashide) and Ryuzaki (Ikematsu) will have to use their deduction skills to stop the person behind this new threat.

Tony Takitani   Tony Takitani Film Poster

トニー滝谷  Toni- Takitani   

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Jun Ichikawa

Writer: Jun Ichikawa (Screenplay) Haruki Murakami (Original Short Story)

Starring: Issei Ogata, Rie Miyazawa, Shinohara Takahumi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yumi Endo, Miho Fujima, Miki Hayashida, Shizuka Moriyama, Hiroshi Yamamoto

IMDB

Synopsis from the festival siteTony TAKITANI, a middle-aged man, has long been used to living alone, but his whole life changes after falling in love with a beautiful young woman, Eiko. She evokes long-lost feelings in him, and he asks for her hand in marriage. Their life together couldn’t be more perfect, until he discovers Eiko’s extreme fondness for expensive designer clothes.

Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Film Poster

恋とさよならとハワイKoi to sayonara to Hawai

Running Time: 94 mins.

Director:  Shingo Matsumura

Writer: Shingo Matsumura (Screenplay),

Starring: Aya Ayano, Kentaro Tamura, Momoka Ayukawa, Risa Kameda, Aoi Kato

Website IMDB Eiga

I saw this one as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival and found it charming enough to write a review. Other critics have lavished praise on it.

This might sound like damning a film with faint praise but, Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is a nicely shot simple tale about a woman slowly coming to the realisation that a relationship with her ex-boyfriend may well and truly be dead and she faces the decision of whether to resurrect it or move on.

The aforementioned woman is Rinko (Ayu Ayano), a bespectacled twentysomething who works in an office. She has been living with her ex-boyfriend Isamu (Kentaro Tamura), a graduate student, for three years. Indeed, the two have chosen to live together even after they broke up because their situation is comfortable. Although they separate their shared bedroom with a rack of clothes and sleep in different futons on opposite sides of the room, they interact with each other like a regular couple.

The short film The Lost Breakfast (Dir: Q-Rais, 7 min, 2015) will be shown with this feature. Love and Goodbye and Hawaii

Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Film Image 1 Rinko

Yamato (California)   Yamato California Film Poster

大和(カリフォルニア)  Yamato (Kariforunia)   

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Screenplay)

Starring: Nina Endo, Hanae Kan, Reiko Kataoka, Mayumi Kato, Shuya Nishiji, Haruka Uchimura,

IMDB

Synopsis from the Osaka Asian Film Festival SiteSakura is a moody teenage girl living close to the US military base in the city of Yamato, a town north of Tokyo. She wants to become a musician like the American rappers she admires, but is held back by stage-fright when faced with performing in front of a live audience. Then she meets Rei, the half-Japanese half-American daughter of her mother’ s American soldier boyfriend. Rei has flown from California to visit for the summer. Sakura dislikes her immediately, but Rei’ s familiarity with American Hip Hop becomes a bridge between the two girls as they spend an unforgettable time together exploring, arguing over and bonding through the mix of Japanese and American culture in the unique landscape of Yamato. Though their adventures and quarrels may lead Sakura into danger, they may also let her face her fears and participate in the city’s music competition.

Survival Family   Survival Family Film Poster

サバイバルファミリ  Sabaibaru Famiri   

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi

Writer: Shinobu Yaguchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Fumiyo Kohinata, Eri Fukatsu, Yuki Izumisawa, Wakana Aoi, Masashi Arifuku, Mickey Curtis, Norika Fujiwara

Website   IMDB

Synopsis from the festival siteFrom one moment to another the world goes dark in a catastrophic power outage. The Suzuki family decides to leave the struggling megalopolis of Tokyo and learns to survive in the Japanese countryside. Shinobu YAGUCHI’s charming film effortlessly mixes comedy, drama, and adventure genres while at the same time asking serious questions about the way we live.

Good/bye

さよならも出来ない  Sayonara mo dekinai」    

Running Time: 76 mins.

Director: Izumi Matsuno

Writer: Cinema College Kyoto Work Shop (Screenplay)

Starring: Yoshimune Nozato, Rieko Dote, Takako Hinaga, Toshimitsu Nagao, Yoshiha Tatsumi,

Website IMDB

Synopsis from the Osaka Asian Film Festival siteKaori and Tamaki broke up three years ago but continue to live together, not as family, friends or lovers, just together. They live in the same house but it is split by a boundary with clearly defined rules. One day, Tamaki is asked out to dinner by her colleague Hiroshi while Kaori receives a lascivious look from his colleague Kimi. Tamaki’ s aunt and uncle visit them to see what is going on. The time to decide whether they have truly split up has arrived, but they begin to examine what it means to separate.

The Sower

種をまく人  Tane o maku hito」    

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Yosuke Takeuchi

Writer: Yosuke Takeuchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Kentaro Kishi, Suzuno Takenaka, Tomomitsu Adachi, Arisa Nakajima, Ichika Takeuchi,

IMDB

Synopsis: Mitsuo was one of those brave souls who answered the call for volunteers to clear out the debris left behind by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. The strain of the task proved to be too much and he spent three years in psychiatric care. Upon his release, Mitsuo finds solace in reuniting with his brother and his nieces Chie and Itsuki. But a tragic accident soon disrupts the newly found happiness when the two girls are left in his care and Itsuki is killed. Though he had no direct involvement in the incident, Mitsuo is blamed and he must deal with the burden of guilt and the struggle for atonement.

The short film Jungle Taxi (Dir: Hakhyun Kim, 8 min, 2016) will be shown with this feature.

Innocent 15   Innocent 15 Film Poster

イノセント15  Inosento 15」    

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Kai

Writer: Hirokazu Kai (Screenplay)

Starring: Riku Hagiwara, Sara Ogawa, Shoichi Honda, Takeshi Yamamoto, Keitaro Nakamura,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Narumi and Gin are seemingly ordinary middle school students but there home lives are anything but regular. Narumi is a girl whose abusive mother forces her to do all of the housework and beats her while Gin has just found out that his father has fallen in love with a man and he is confused about his own feelings after he rejects Narumi’s confession of love. When Narumi finds out that her mother is about to sell her into prostitution, she decides to flee to Tokyo and Gin joins her. The two leave their hometown to search for a better future but will they find it?

The short film Hidden In Plain Sight (自販機の光にふらふら歩み寄り ごめんなさいってつぶやいていた, Dir: Kiyoshi Sugita, 37 min, 2017) will be shown with this feature.

Synopsis: Kyoko, a jogging enthusiast working part-time at a gas station finds her love life twists and turns as she comes into contact with her co-worker Takayuki and a musician named Shotaro.

Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow   Satoshi A Move for Tomorrow Film Poster

聖の青春  Satoshi no Seishun」    

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Yoshitaka Mori

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Yoshio Osaki (Original Novel),

Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Masahiro Higashide, Shota Sometani, Lily Franky, Tokio Emoto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis from the film festival siteThis film tells the true story of Satoshi Murayama, who devoted his life to his two greatest struggles: against shogi (Japanese chess) master Yoshiharu Habu and against an incurable disease. Through his love of shogi he developed an astonishing strength of will, but ultimately, it cost him his life.

LET’S GO, JETS! FROM SMALL TOWN GIRLS TO U.S. CHAMPIONS?!    LET_S GO, JETS FROM SMALL TOWN GIRLS TO U.S. CHAMPIONS Film Poster

チア☆ダン~女子高生がチアダンスで全米制覇しちゃったホントの話~  Chia☆Dan ~Joshikosei ga chia dansu de zenbei seiha shichatta honto no hanashi~」    

Running Time: 121 mins.

Director: Hayato Kawai

Writer: Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Suzu Hirose, Ayami Nakajo, Yuki Amami, Miu Tomita, Hirona Yamazaki, Mackenyu, Saki Minamino,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: In the USA, cheerleaders are true high school stars. In Japan, however, they reside at the bottom of the pecking order. The demanding teacher Kaoruko plans to change that and wants her cheer-dancing team, led by new arrival Hikari, to win the U.S. championship. From the producers of FLYING COLORS comes the ultimate teenage comedy with laughs, great choreography, and pom poms. Guaranteed to make you feel happy!

Gukoroku – Traces of Sin   Gukoroku Film Poster

愚行録  Gukoroku」    

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Kei Ishikawa

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Tokuro Nukui (Original Novel),

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Keisuke Koide, Asami Usuda, Yui Ichikawa,

Website IMDB

Synopsis from the film festival siteSeveral years after the brutal, unsolved murder of a Tokyo family, ambitious reporter Tanaka attempts to find the perpetrators of the crime. Step by step, he comes close to discovering what really happened.

Up next are two films by Nobuhiro Yamashita. I’m a fan despite having only reviewed The Drudgery Train (2012). They were on in cinemas the month after I arrived in Tokyo but I never watched them. A friend of mine did and he said that they were great:

Over the Fence    Over the Fence Film Poster

オーバー・フェンス  O-ba- fensu」    

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel),

Starring: Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, Shota Matsuda, Yukiya Kitamura, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Shinya Tsukamoto, Yuka,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Shiraiwa (Odagiri) is a recently divorced man and newly arrived in Hakodate, Hokkaido. He attends a vocational college to learn carpentry to continue receiving unemployment benefits. He is trapped in a routine and he is not along as there are other students who are in the same boat as he. This connection leads his classmates to invite him to join them at a hostess club where Shiraiwa meets a strange woman who is passionately imitating the courtship dance of an ostrich. It turns out that she likes Shiraiwa and although he is irritated with her at first, he begins to like him. Her name is Satoshi (Aoi) and the two fall in love.

Boku no OjisanBoku no Ojisan Film Poster

ぼくのおじさん  Boku no Ojisan」    

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Yasushi Sato (Screenplay), Morio Kita (Original Novel),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Riku Ohnishi, Midoriko Kimura, Kankuro Kudo, Yoko Maki, Susan Mathewson, Shinobu Terajima, Erika Toda, Shigeyuki Totsugi,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Yukio’s uncle is a part-time philosophy professor and a full-time freeloader. He lives with his brother’s family and spends his days loafing around when he isn’t working on a long drawn-out doctoral thesis but when he meets a beautiful Japanese-American named Eri, his life is thrown off course. This momentous occasion happens when his nephew Yukio has been given a school report to write on a particular family member. The two soon go on an adventure to Hawaii…

I think that’s about it. It’s a good line-up yet again. I hope these guides have helped you in some way!

Venues

The events and screenings will take place at the following locations:

Künstlerhaus Mousonturm

Theater Willy Praml in der Naxoshalle

Mal Seh’n Kino

German Film Museum

Die Käs

Ausstellungsraum Eulengasse

Atelierfrankfurt

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.

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4 thoughts on “Feature-Length Fiction Films at Nippon Connection Film Festival 2017

  1. My goodness! This post alone is hard work! Thank you for all the information.

    I am very excited about Kurosawa’s new film and he cast such amazing actors. Tahar Rahim was excellent in A Prophet, from one of France’s most distinguished filmmakers, Jacques Audiard who also helmed personal favorites The Beat that My Heart Skipped and Read My Lips.

    First time to discover the film – Innocent 15.

    Plenty to look forward to, especially people like me outside Japan.

    1. I really loved The Beat that My Heart Skipped!

      Thanks for the kind words. It took me longer than I thought it would but hopefully people can choose films to watch based on some of what I wrote!

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