Japanese Films at the New York Asian Film Festival (June 29 – July 15)

The 17th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) will run from June 29 – July 15, 2018 and there are 14 Japanese films programmed for the event. There are many guests arriving in New York and a real variety of films which makes the Japanese content really exciting to see.

Indeed, the Opening Night film is the North American premiere of Tominaga Masanori’s Dynamite Graffiti, an earthy dramedy about the life of Suei Akira, who is described as “Japanese porn mag king”.

Dynamite Graffiti Film Image

OPENING FILM

Dynamite Graffiti   Dynamite Graffiti Film Poster

素敵なダイナマイトスキャンダル Suteki na Dainamaito Sukyandaru

Running Time: 138 mins.

Release Date: March 17th, 2018

Director: Masanori Tominaga

Writer: Masanori Tominaga (Screenplay), Akira Suei (Autobiographical Essay)

Starring: Tasuku Emoto, Atsuko Maeda, Toko Miura, Machiko Ono, Kazunobu Mineta, Yutaka Matsushige, 

Website IMDB

Q&A with director Masanori Tominaga and actor Tasuku Emoto

Synopsis: The autobiographical film of magazine editor and essayist Akira Suei documents his strange upbringing in which his mother and her younger lover killed themselves with dynamite in a forest, his life a little while later as he works at a factory during the day and studyies design at night school, and his battles against censorship as an erotic magazine editor.

The Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Harada Masato, a film critic turned actor and director who has worked in a variety of genres and addressed everything from historical epics to yakuza films, social issues surrounding immigration and teenage prostitution to female empowerment. Many will be familiar with Bounce Ko Gals amongst many other titles, three of which are screened at this festival.

Masato Harada will be present at the festival receive the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and take part in Q&As

Kamikaze Taxi 

Running Time: 134 mins.

Release Date: April 25th, 1995

Director:  Masato Harada

Writer:  Masato Harada (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Reiko Kataoka, Kazuya Takahashi, Mickey Curtis, Takeshi Caesar, Tomorowo Taguchi, Toshie Negishi, Chika Nakagami,

IMDB

Synopsis: Kantake (Koji Yakusho) is Peruvian-Japanese who has returned to Japan and makes a living as a taxi driver. He finds his ancestral homeland becomes hostile when he gets embroiled in a mob feud as his latest fare, a lowlife pimp named Tatsuo (Kazuya Takahashi), has had a hit placed on him by his boss Animaru (Mickey Curtis) and is on the run following an act of vengeance Tatsuo embarked on after the death of his only prostitute (Reiko Kataoka)…

Kakekomi   

Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko Film Poster
Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko Film Poster

駆込み女と駆出し男 「Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko」

Release Date: May 16th, 2015

Running Time: 143 mins.

Director: Masato Harada

Writer: Masato Harada (Screenplay), Hisashi Inoue (Original Novel),

Starring: Yo Oizumi. Erika Toda, Hikari Mitsushima, Rina Uchiyama, Misuzu Kanno, Hana Hizuki, Rei Otori, Jun Hashimoto, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kirin Kiki, Denden,

Website     IMDB

I’ve read a few reviews of this and it sounds entertaining historical dramedy. Certainly, the cast is appealing. I like Yo Oizumi’s presence after seeing him in Bolt from the Blue and I think he can pull off the main role with ease, and Hikari Mitsushima (Sawako Decides, Love ExposureGukoroku – Traces of Sin).

Synopsis: Did you know that the divorce rate during the Edo period was higher than it is now? One place that allowed people to get divorced was the Tokei-ji, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura that helped women escape from bad relationships and abusive husbands. Two women flee to the temple: Jogo (Toda) is tired of her feckless husband, Ogin (Mitsushima) wants to escape life as a concubine of a merchant. They both encounter a doctor named Nobujiro (Oizumi) who is staying at the temple. He aspires to be a writer and wants to help women establish new lives but one of these two new ladies in his life catches his feelings. Which one does he love?

Sekigahara   Sekigahara Film Poster

関ヶ原 Sekigahara

Running Time: 149 mins.

Release Date: August 26th, 2017

Director:  Masato Harada

Writer:  Ryotaro Shiba (Original Novel), Masato Harada (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Junichi Okada, Jun Hashimoto, Mitsu Dan, Akiko Enji, Masahiro Higashide, Kasumi Arimura, Ayumi Ito, Kenichi Matsuyama,

Website    IMDB

Synopsis: The Battle of Sekigahara marked the period when the Sengoku period ends and Japan will experience an unprecedented era of peace. Two mighty warrior generals aim to be the one to walk away the winner. Leading the Western Army is Mitsunari Ishida (Junichi Okada). Leading the Eastern Army is Ieyasu Tokugawa (Koji Yakusho). Working away in the middle of their conflict are samurai and ninja such as Hatsume (Kasumi Arimura) who is spying on Ishida and Hideaki Kobayakawa (Masahiro Higashide) who is conflicted as to where his loyalties will lie.

NYAFF will then screen a wide variety of titles from sci-fi actioner Inuyashiki to low-budget horror One Cut of the Dead and a series of youth dramas such as Liverleaf, The Hungry Lion, and Smokin’ on the Moon:

The Scythian Lamb   The Scythian Lamb Film Poster

羊の木 Hitsuji no ki

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: February 03rd, 2018

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Writer: Masato Kagawa (Screenplay), Tatsuhiko Yamagami, Mikio Igarashi (Original Manga),

Starring: Ryo Nishikido, Fumino Kimura, Kazuki Kitamura, Yuka, Mikako Ichikawa, Shingo Mizusawa, Min Tanaka, Ryuhei Matsuda, Tamae Ando,

Website IMDB
Daihachi Yoshida of The Kirishima Thing fame us back with this interesting looking murder mystery which is supposed to have equal doses of drama and comedy. 

Synopsis: Thanks to a government program, the small seaside town of Uobuka gets six strangers into the community. They include a scary fisherman (Kazuki Kitamura), a methodical cleaning woman (Mikako Ichikawa), and a simple-minded deliveryman (Ryuhei Matsuda). All are under the supervision of local government official Hajime Tsukisue (Ryo Nishikido) who gets reports of suspicious behaviour. When he finds out who these people are and their criminal backgrounds, a body is discovered in the harbour and Tsukisue suspects one of the newcomers committed murder… 

The Blood of Wolves      The Blood of Wolves Film Poster

孤狼の血 Korou no chi

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: May 12th, 2018

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Junya Ikegami (Screenplay), Yuko Yuzuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tori Matsuzaka, Yoko Maki, Tomoya Nakamura, Pierre Taki, Shido Nakamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Renji Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

For the record, I’m a big fan of lead actor Koji Yakusho’s mostly thanks to his work with Kiyoshi Kurosawa but his performance in The World of Kanako was some next level stuff. This film is directed by Kazuya Shiraishi who made two lacklustre crime films, The Devil’s Path and Twisted Justice. His Roman Porno, Dawn of the Felines was okay.

Synopsis: It is the summer of 1988 in the fictional city of Kurebara, Hiroshima. The disappearance of an employee of a financial company leads to squeaky-clean cop Shuichi Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka) getting paired with veteran detective and rumoured-to-be corrupt cop Shogo Ogami (Koji Yakusho) just as a war between yakuza clans heats up.

One Cut of the Dead Kamera wo tomeru na! Film Poster

カメラを止めるな! 「Kamera wo tomeru na!

Running Time: 96 mins.

Release Date: November 04th, 2017

Director:  Shinichiro Ueda

Writer: Shinichiro Ueda (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazuki Nagaya, Manabu Hosoi, Tomokazu Yamaguchi,

Website

Great to see the ENBU Seminar guys are still going. Seven years on and there are two this weekend. The first looks like the Romero film Diary of the Dead. It will be released in the UK later this year thanks to Third Window Films.

Synopsis: A film crew shooting a zombie movie in the mountains finds that their work turns real when honest to goodness zombies start showing up and chowing down on the crew. Does the director stop? Hell no! He keeps on shooting.

Inuyashiki   Inuyashiki Film Poster

いぬやしき Inuyashiki

Running Time: 127 mins.

Release Date: April 20th, 2018

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto (Screenplay), Hiroya Oku (Original Manga)

Starring: Noritake Kinashi, Takeru Satoh, Kanata Hongo, Fumi Nikaido, Yuki Saito, Yusuke Iseya, Mari Hamada, Ayaka Miyoshi, Nayuta Fukuzaki,

Website IMDB

This is based on a manga series by Hiroya Oku, the guy who created the super-disturbing horror sci-fi Gantz. Inuyashiki was turned into an anime that turned out to be pretty good. The live-action version looks like it should be fun. Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin and Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno) stars as the bad guy.

Synopsis: Ichiro Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashi) is a salary-man on his way out. Unappreciated at work and at home and freshly diagnosed with cancer, his life looks miserable but things take a drastic turn when he is involved in an explosion. When he regains consciousness, he discovers that he has been transformed into a cyborg. Far from freaking out, he has a new lease of life and decides to use his powers to help those in need. Meanwhile, Hiro Shishigami (Takeru Satoh), a high school student, was also involved in the very same explosion and has gained the very same the powers. He just wants to see the world burn. Two super-powered people do battle in Japan!

The Hungry Lion    The Hungry Lion Film Poster   

飢えたライオン Ueta Raion

Running Time: 78 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Takaomi Ogata

Writer: Takaomi Ogata, Fujio Ikeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Urara Matsubayashi, Atomu Mizuishi, Mariko Tsutsui,

Q&A with director Takaomi Ogata

Takaomi Ogata has been around since the early 2010s and he has always dealt with tough social issues. I watched three of his early feature films but only reviewed one, Sunk Into the Womb, a brutal story of a woman who abandons her children. This one has a story that looks equally harrowing since it portrays an innocent person having their reputation murdered by the media, the lies and scandals that people mindlessly consume. It was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and Rotterdam this year.

Synopsis: When Hitomi’s homeroom tutor is taken away by the police for suspected child prostitution and child pornography she has no idea that her life will also be affected. A sex video is leaked and a rumour starts that Hitomi is the girl in the video. It’s all a lie, but it spreads like wildfire and Hitomi kills herself. This is griss for the scandal mill that is the media and reporting intensifies, creating a false image of Hitomi.

 

Midnight Bus  Midnight Bus Film Poster

ミッドナイト・バスMiddonaito Basu

Running Time: 157 mins.

Release Date: January 27th, 2018

Director:  Masao Takeshita

Writer: Masato Kato (Screenplay), Yuki Ibuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Taizo Harada, Mirai Yamamoto, Kyozo Nagatsuka, Manami Konshi, Ko Nanase, Wakana Aoi,

Website IMDB

Director Masao Takeshita will be in attendance

This is a film adaptation of Yuki Ibuki’s novel of the same name, which was nominated for the 151st Naoki Prize. It sensitively depicts the moving story of a family struggling to find their way to begin again.

Synopsis: Toshikazu Takamiya is the driver of a late-night high-speed bus which travels back and forth between Niigata and Tokyo. It’s a long distance and that was how he met his wife Miyuki, who journeyed from Tokyo to Niigata to take care of her injured father. They have a son, Rieji, and a daughter, Saiki, but the family have drifted apart. As the years elapsed, the distance grew but there’s always a way to turn a relationship around and head down a road to a happier future. They just have to face each other and then try.

Liverleaf   Liverleaf Film poster

ミスミソウ Misumisou

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: April 07th, 2018

Director: Eisuke Naito

Writer: Miako Tadano (Screenplay), Rensuke Oshikiri (Original Manga)

Starring: Anna Yamada, Hiroya Shimizu, Rinka Otani, Rena Ohtsuka, Aki Morita, Kenshin Endo, Arisa Sakura, Minori Terada,

Website IMDB

Q&A with director Eisuke Naito

Rensuke Oshikiri is the creator of the popular manga Hi Score Girl, a fun comedy. This one is decidedly more serious. A revenge drama using the theme of school bullying, it is directed by Eisuke Naito, the guy who did Puzzle .

Synopsis: Haruka Nozaki (Anna Yamada) has moved from Tokyo to a school in some backwater town. She is the victim of bullying which escalates to her house being burnt down and her family being burnt alive. She has an emotional breakdown and takes revenge…

 

The Third Murder    The Third Murder Film Poster

三度目の殺人Sandome no Satsujin

Running Time: 124 mins.

Release Date: September 09th, 2017

Director:  Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay),

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Koji Yakusho, Suzu Hirose, Yuki Saito, Kotaro Yoshida, Mikako Ichikawa, Izumi Matsuoka,

Website IMDB

Hirokazu Koreeda’s murder mystery sees him bring together a great cast, some of whom he has worked with before. Suzu Hirose was the eponymous little sister in Our Little Sister and Masaharu Fukuyama was one of the fathers in (Like Father Like Son) and there’s also the masterful Koji Yakusho who has worked with most of the great modern directors like Juzo Itami (Tampopo), Takashi Miike (Thirteen Assassins), and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure) and Tetsuya Nakashima (director of the still totally mind-blowing film The World of Kanako. There is also the wonderful underused actor Mikako Ichikawa who took the lead in the utterly charming Rent-a-neko!

Synopsis: Shigemori (Fukuyama) is a hot-shot lawyer on a mean winning streak but when he is compelled to take on defending a man named Mikuma (Yakusho) he finds the first case which could cause the wheels to fall off his career.

Mikuma is accused of a murdering the president of a company and setting fire to the corpse. It looks like an open and shut case since Mikuma has confessed and he was convicted of a murder that took place 30 years ago. The death penalty is almost a certainty but the more Shigemori investigates and the more he talks to Mikuma, the less certain he becomes of the man’s guilt and the case itself.

The truth lies with the daughter of the murdered president, Sakie (Hirose)…

River’s Edge   River's Edge Film Poster

リバーズ・エッジ Riba-zu Ejji

Running Time: 118 mins.

Release Date: February 16th , 2018

Director:  Isao Yukisada

Writer: Isao Yukisada (Screenplay),

Starring: Fumi Nikaidou, Ryo Yoshizawa, Aoi Morikawa, Shuhei Uesugi, Sumire, Shiori Doi,

Website   IMDB

Isao Yukisada is a familiar face to appear at Berinale since this is his fourth film to appear in the Panorama section. His feature film debut was Sunflower which won the Fipresci Prize at the 2000 Busan International Film Festival. Go is his 2001 teen action film which was nominated for over 50 international awards but his biggest film in Japan is Crying Out Love in the Center of the World ) reached an audience of 6.2 million, making it Japan’s most commercially successful film of 2004. I’ve reviewed two of his works, Parade (2010) and Aroused by Gymnopedies (2016).

Synopsis: This is a film told from a variety of perspectives, all linked up to show a generation and their experiences with extreme emotions. Stories consist of a bulimic model who gorges herself on food every night, a gay highschooler who is bullied by classmates who discovers something gruesome in a polluted river, a girl who pushes the boundaries of rough sex to frightening levels, and an introvert who reads her pregnant sister’s diaries.

Smoking on the Moon    Niwatori Star Film Poster

ニワトリ★スター Niwatori Suta-

Running Time: 135 mins.

Release Date: March 17th, 2018

Director: Kanata Urofu / Kanata Wolf

Writer: Kanata Wolf, Kiyotaka Inagaki (Screenplay), Kanata Wolf (Original Work)

Starring: Arata Iura, Narita Ryo, Eiji Okuda, Kanji Tsuda, Ryohei Abe,

Website

Q&A with director Kanata Wolf

Synopsis: Blonde-haired, tattooed twenty-something Rakuto moves from Okinawa to Tokyo. He leaves behind a daughter and and makes friends with his roommate Sota, an older guy who sells weed to pay the rent on a room in a dilapidated apartment building run by a nymphomaniac landlady. They are surrounded by other misfits who lead aimless lives and rebel against Japan but when the yakuza murder one of their number, Rakuto and Sota realise they must change their lives…

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