Film fans who love Japanese cinema are spoiled for choice over the next month as Raindance will launch today and we have the BFI London Film Festival with a smattering of Japanese titles and then we have the London East Asian Film Festival.
The organisers announced their programme last week and there will be a lot of films to see from October 25th to November 04th and they have assembled an impressive line-up of titles from over 12 countries including Singapore, South Korea, and more. There are familiar titles from the international festival circuit plus a surprise collaboration with the Nara International Film Festival providing some indies. On a side note, I’ve seen a couple of the non-Japanese films and have even reviewed The Thieves (2012). There is a lot to watch!
Here is the festival’s trailer:
Here are the details:
予兆 散歩する侵略者 劇場版 「Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha Gekijoban」
Running Time: 140 mins.
Release Date: November 11th , 2017
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hiroshi Takahashi (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Stageplay),
Starring: Kaho, Shota Sometani, Masahiro Higashide, Ren Osugi, Taro Suwa, Yukino Kshii, Eriko Nakamura, Makoto Nakamura, Makiko Watanabe,
Yocho is an edited version of the WOWOW drama series Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha and boils down the five 40 minute episodes into a film that lasts 140 minutes. It was shown in cinemas for 2 weeks and was made as a tie-in for the film, Before We Vanish (2017).
Synopsis: When Etsuko Yamagiwa (Kaho) gets involved in what seems to be an emotional crisis faced by co-worker Miyuki Asakawa (Yukino Kishii), little did she expect she could be facing the end of humanity. One day, Miyuki tells Etsuko that she has seen a ghost in her father, that the way the sky seems to be different and even the way people’s behaviour is changing are all signs of something. Etsuko is worried and arranges for Miyuki to be sent to the psychiatric hospital where her husband Tatsuo (Shota Sometani) works. There, Miyuki receives a diagnosis that she lacks the concept of “family.” It is also there that Miyuki becomes disturbed by the presence of Dr. Jiro Makabe (Masahiro Higashide) and Etsuko also has misgivings because the strangely unemotional man is working with Tatsuo. The growing paranoia may not be unfounded because, one day, Etsuko hears Dr. Jiro Makabe state “I came to Earth to invade.” Before that takes place, he just needs to steal some concepts like “family” and “dignity”…
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,
Isao Yukisada has made a lot of films. Go is his 2001 teen action film which was nominated for over 50 international awards and is best-known by foreigners but his biggest film in Japan is Crying Out Love in the Center of the World which 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). This was at the Berlin Film Festival.
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.
十年Ten Years Japan 「Juunen Ten Years Japan」
Running Time:99 mins.
Release Date: November 03rd, 2018
Producer: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Three years ago, we had the award-winning indie omnibus film 10 Years Hong Kong (wikipedia) which offered some speculative fiction about the island territory’s future 10 years in the future. It was made at the time of student protests over the encroaching power of Mainland China so the stories have a mostly dystopian setting. Other Asian countries have got in on the act with Thailand and now Japan being up next.
Here, Hirokazu Kore-eda helps produce the stories of five young directors who bring different episodes together into one film that will be released in November.
The Air We Can’t See (Sono Kuki wa Mienai その空気は見えない)
Director: Akiyo Fujimura
Writer: Akiyo Fujimura (Screenplay)
Starring: Chizuru Ikewaki
Akiyo Fujimura was at the 2016 Osaka Asian Film Festival with Eriko Pretended (2016), a drama that got great reviews. I saw one of her short films recently and was impressed by the drama. Her story is about a girl named Mizuki who has been forced to relocate underground with the rest of the population of Japan due to pollution. She dreams of the surface world when one of her friends goes missing.
Four Our Beautiful Country (Utsukushii Kuni 美しい国)
Director: Kei Ishikawa
Writer: Kei Ishikawa (Screenplay)
Starring: Taiga, Hana Kino
Kei Ishikawa is probably famous for Gukoroku – Traces of Sin (2017), a disturbing crime drama. Here he is examining a Japan with conscription into the military is compulsory for everyone and the moral dilemma an advertising agency worker named Watanabe has when he is given the assignment of designing a poster.
Director: Chie Hayakawa
Writer: Chie Hayakawa (Screenplay)
Starring: Satoru Kawaguchi, Kinuwo Yamada, Kazue Mitani, Motomi Makiguchi,
This story takes place in a Japan struggling to cope with the elderly. The government implements Plan 75 whereby elderly people who are sick or poor are recommended for death by public officials. One man, Itami, struggles with this while his wife is dealing with her own mother who has Alzheimer’s.
Mischievous Alliance (Itazura Domei いたずら同盟)
Director: Yusuke Kinoshita
Writer: Yusuke Kinoshita (Screenplay)
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Seiya Okawa, Bako Tsujimura, Ryu Nakano,
A group of schoolboys living in an area that has been transformed into a special IT zone play a prank on an old horse that is about to be put down.
Director: Megumi Tsuno
Writer: Megumi Tsuno (Screenplay)
Starring: Hana Sugisaki, Tetsushi Tanaka, Oshiro Maeda, Masaki Miura,
A girl inherits the digital memories of her mother and discovers a different side to her.
Festival Focus: Nara Internatioal Film Festival
At the time of writing this post, the Nara International Film Festival has reached it’s penultimate night.
NIFF is a film festival that takes place every two years. It was set up by Naomi Kawase to boost filmmaking in her home prefecture. Under her direction, it screens films with the historical backdrop of Nara and its shrines and temples adding some magic to proceedings. The festival welcomes filmmakers from around the world to screen their works and take part in workshops. Some of these filmmaker on to make films in the prefecture. Japanese filmmakers sometimes get their start here and crop up with films.
Reflecting this background, LEAFF has a selection of Kawase’s films and some works from new talent, the Nara-Wave, if you will.
Running Time: 40 mins.
Release Date: 1992
Director: Naomi Kawase
Starring: Naomi Kawase, Uno Kawase,
Synopsis: A documentary about Kawase’s search for her father, the man who left her when she was a small child and never attempted to make contact. She tracks down a person who she has never seen and reveals how his non-presence created parts of her identity, her dreams and imagination, and how she regards the world. Kawase uses the power of cinema to access these realms.
Running Time: 40 mins.
Release Date: 1994
Director: Naomi Kawase
Synopsis: Katatsumori is a film about Kawase’s grandmother, the woman who stepped in to be her foster mother. Kawase uses the camera to capture their close relationship, the love, loss, and loneliness between them as Kawase begins to find her own place in the world. In a surprising move, the old lady gets in on the act as they connect through cinema…
EMERGING TALENT AT NARA
The Wind From Persia
ペルシャからの風 「Perusha kara no kaze」
Running Time: 35 mins.
Release Date: N/A
Director: Misaki Matsui
Synopsis: I had the pleasure of meeting Misaki Matsui at the 2014 edition of the Raindance Film Festival where she showed a music video, White Sea, that screened before a feature film and since then she has done some documentary and fiction shorts and photography work. She has work at NIFF with a making-of documentary that tracks the work that went into another film at NIFF, The Nikaido’s Fall, which was shot by the Iranian film director, Ida Panahandeh, the first woman to win the Golden Shika Award at the 2016 Nara International Film Festival.
グッド・アフタヌーン 「Guddo Afutanu-n」
Running Time: 30 mins.
Release Date: N/A
Director: Akira Yamamoto
Writer: Yohei Yamazaki (Screenplay/Book)
Starring: Io Haiki, Kyoko Kudo, Shoichi Okano, Nairu Masaki, Supika Yufune, Masana Hirabuki, Naruaki Onishi,
Born in Hiroshima in 1991, Akira Yamamoto entered Tokyo Zokei University to study film. After graduating, he directed Cycling, which was filmed in his hometown and whose character was his grandfather. Cycling won a prize in the Pia Film Festival (PFF) and was screened in Hong Kong. After that he went to study at the Tokyo University of the Arts for a Master’s degree, majoring in Film, studying under Nobuhiro Suwa and Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Synopsis: A junior high school girl in Yokohama travels with her family to a reunion during Obon. They meet her aunt’s family and everything seems friendly at first, but when the conversations turn to who will take care of the grandfather, relations start to break down…
昔の恋人 「Mukashi no Koibito」
Running Time: 28 mins.
Release Date: N/A
Director: Saki Michimoto
Director Saki Michimoto is a graduate of the Osaka Visual Arts College and has a film entered into this year’s Pia Film Festival.
Synopsis: Mami doesn’t get along with her mother who won’t talk to her at all. There’s her father, but he is totally wrapped up in his wife. Until he dies. This twist marks the moment that Mami bails out on home and goes in search of an ex-girlfriend her father talked fondly about in the hope of finding something she is missing.
Running Time: 39 mins.
Release Date: N/A
Director: Ayane Nakasu
Writer: Ayane Nakasu (Screenplay)
Starring: Momona, Naoko Takaki, Natsumi Mori,
Ayane showed this at the Kanazawa Film Festival and Nara.
Synopsis From Nara’s festival site because it’s interesting and polite: I’ve never had a feeling of being in love with another person in the twenty years that I ‘ve lived. I have loved only my mother, who works and lives for me, and I have also lived for my mother. I have depended on the person who loves me for nothing. The film is about a woman reflected in another woman’s eyes. It is ugly, confused and frantic, and it has only an impulse. Please come and see the film.
Running Time: 89 mins.
Release Date: March 29th, 2018
Director: Erik Khoo
Writer: Erik Khoo (Screenplay),
Starring: Takumi Saitoh, Seiko Matsuda, Mark Lee, Tsuyuoshi Iharam Jeanette Aw, Tetsuya Bessho, Beatrice Chien,
Synopsis: Masato is a young ramen chef in the city of Takasaki in Japan who has just lost his emotionally distant father. His Singaporean mother died when he was ten and he has no idea about his family history so he is completely adrift. After he discovers a red notebook – filled with musings and old photos – left behind by his mother, he decides to head to Singapore and uses it to track down his missing background. With the help of Miki, a Japanese food blogger and single mother, he discovers a whole side of his family including his grandmother Madam Lee who is still alive know more about the story of his parents. Through the power of cooking, Masato gets in touch with his Singaporean family and his own history.
Quite the line-up!