Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2017

Vancouver International Film Festival 2013 Logo

On the day the Toronto International Film Festival launches, we get word from another great Canadian film festival! The Vancouver International Film Festival takes place from September 28th to October 13th and the organisers launched the programme today. The festival has long had a great love of East Asian cinema and supported various filmmakers both indie and mainstream and it continues to do so with this selection of films.

A Beautiful Star Film Image

Close-Knit   karera-ga-honki-de-amu-toki-wa-film-poster

彼らが本気で編むときは、  Karera ga Honki de Amu toki wa   

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Naoko Ogigami

Writer: Naoko Ogigami (Screenplay),

Starring: Rinka Kakihara, Toma Ikuta, Kenta Kiritani, Mimura, Eiko Koike, Mugi Kadowaki, Lily, Kaito Komie, Shuji Kashiwabara, Misako Tanako,

Website   IMDB

Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan’s interesting female directors, quietly working away making good films and many people are familiar with them. Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004), Kamome Diner (2006), Glasses (2007), and Rent-a-Cat (2012) could be described as quirky dramas that pack a powerful emotional punch but Close-Knit is a lot more serious as Ogigami looks at LGBTQ issues in Japan, a country that is still conservative in some ways.

Close-Knit may be serious but it features many well-rounded characters that will suck you into the world of the characters and show you that love is everything when it comes to family and through this you will definitely get you to understand the issues. Here’s an interview involving Naoko Ogigami which goes through the film a bit more. Expect a review soon.

SynopsisEleven-year-old Tomo is pretty much left to her own devices by a mother who is flighty, to say the least. Unwashed dishes are piling up in the sink and supermarket onigiri are all she has to eat. Tomo’s single mother usually comes home late, and drunk. When she leaves her daughter for good one day the girl has to rely on help from her uncle, who takes in Tomo to live with him and his girlfriend Rinko. At their first meeting Tomo is flabbergasted to discover that Rinko is a transsexual. Rinko immediately sets about taking care of Tomo; not only does she lovingly prepare meals but she also succeeds in creating a new home for the girl. But before long cracks appear in their perfect nest.


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

This mystery unfolds slowly and moves at a sedate pace as a tale of class and abuse unfolds on the screen with shocks and twists sure to stun audiences.

Synopsis: Several years after the brutal, unsolved murder of a Tokyo family, an ambitious tabloid magazine reporter named Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) attempts to find the perpetrators of the crime. He investigates the father, a seemingly innocent salaryman, the mother, a highly educated woman, and step by step, he comes close to discovering what really happened…


Running Time: 96 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Starring: N/A

IMDB Unifrance

Not a Japanese film but there is a Japanese person at the heart of this documentary, Issei Sagawa, a man infamous around the world for killing and then partially eating fellow student Renee Hartevelt at the Sorbonne in 1981. Due to his father’s intervention with a lot of money and a top lawyer, he managed to avoid jail time and was declared insane. He may have avoided one type of prison but he lives in another: having to live his life with everyone knowing he is a cannibal. Since nobody wants to work with him in a regular job, he can only get work recounting his horrific crime in manga, pink films, and magazine article. He claims that it is a terrible fate. This documentary doesn’t condone his deeds or the media-circus around him but seeks to explore his life, especially his connection with his brother Jun, who now acts as a carer of sorts. I’ve added this to various film festival posts because I read a really good review of it – very well-written.

Here is a clip and an interview with the filmmakers:

The film won the SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE at the Venice Film Festival

Sweating the Small Stuff

枝葉のことEdaha no koto

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director:  Ryutaro Ninomiya

Writer: Ryutaro Ninomiya (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryutaro Ninomiya, Yuki Hirose, Tomoki Kimura, Yuki Miyoshi, Yasumi Yajima, Tetsuo Ninomiya, Daiki Matsumoto,


The last time I wrote about indie director Ryutaro Ninomiya was when his film, The Charm of Others was at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013. He’s back with another film that stars himself and Shinji Imaoka, the pink film director. This was at the Locarno Film Festival. Ninomiya has appeared at this festival in the past and won a Dragons & Tigers award for The Charm of Others. This film is his sophomore feature and he takes the lead role. No trailer.

Sweating the Small Stuff Film Image

Synopsis: Ryutaro is a 27-year-old guy who works as a mechanic in a garage in Yokohama. We follow his life over a single weekend where we witness him hanging out with useless friends, hooking up with a waitress, getting beat up and visiting Ryuko, the mother of an old friend, who is dying from Hepatitis C. His existence is not pretty and he is bubbling away with anger…

The Departure   The Departure Film Poster

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director:  Lana Wilson

Writer: Lana Wilson, David Teague (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

IMDB Website

This is an American documentary about a Japanese subject. It is Lana Wilson’s second film following one about abortion clinics that have come under attack in America.

Synopsis: Ittetsu Nemoto is a Buddhist priest with an interesting past. He was a punk rocker who used to work at a Tokyo McDonald’s. Despite taking on priestly vows, he still loves Prince, his motorcycle and dancing in clubs. He has become famous in Japan for his extraordinary success in inspiring suicidal men and women to keep on living but when a crisis hits Nemoto, will he be able to take his own advice and keep on living?

A Beautiful Star    A Beautiful Star Film Poster

美しい星Utsukushii Hoshi

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director:  Daihachi Yoshida

Writer: Daihachi Yoshida, Seitaro Kai (Screenplay), Yukio Mishima (Original Novel)

Starring: Lily Franky, Kazuya Kamenashi, Tomoko Nakajima, Ai Hashimoto, Yuichi Haba, Yurie Midori,

IMDB Website

Daihachi Yoshida is a director of many fine dramas and dramedies. I can think of two examples that I’d urge you to see: The Kirishima Thing is an ensemble piece that gently probes the feelings of a group of teens in school, Permanent Nobara is a fantastic look at different forms of love experienced by a group of close friends in a nowhere town in Japan and there are others. This is his latest and it’s based on a book by Yukio Mishima. It came out earlier this year and this is the film’s North American premiere.

Synopsis: The Osugi family could be considered pretty normal until they start believing they are aliens. It strikes the father, a weather forecaster named Shigeichiro (Lily Franky), first when he claims to be from Mars. The mother, Iyoko (Tomoko Nakajima), soon claims to be from Jupiter. Their freeter son Kazuo (Kazuya Kamenashi) is apparently from Mercury and their student daughter Akiko (Ai Hashimoto) says she is from Venus. They have one mission: to save mankind from nuclear weapons. Things get even crazier when they set out to achieve their goal…

Check back closer to the festival launch for more information and any updates.

Here’s my coverage of Vancouver from previous years:

Vancouver 2016

Vancouver 2015

Vancouver 2014

Vancouver 2013

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