Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2019

The Berlin International Film Festival launches at the end of this week and runs from February 07th to the 17th. There are a decent number of features and a couple of shorts for fans of Japanese cinema to watch out for. Two of the features seems brand new to me, as in, I haven’t seen it at places like Rotterdam but one was winning major buzz at Sundance last month. The others I have seen at Glasgow. Anyway, here are the Japanese films playing at the festival:

37 Seconds   37 Seconds Film Poster

Running Time: 115 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director:  Hikari

Writer: Hikari (Screenplay),

Starring: Mei Kayama, Makiko Watanabe, Yuka Itaya, Shunsuke Daito, Misuzu Kanno,

Website IMDB

This one looks really interesting. It is a drama about people with cerebral palsy that is stacked with good actors like Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure) and it goes a step further by having people with the condition portray characters. It mixes drama and humour and the 37-second teaser promises it will be worth watching.

Synopsis from the festival site: Yuma is a 23-year-old woman from Tokyo. When she commutes by train to her job in a manga studio, her face is at hip height to the other passengers standing up. Yuma uses a wheelchair on account of cerebral palsy. Her deformed limbs only allow her to crawl – and to hold a pencil. The fact that her boss, a successful comic artist and blogger named Sayaka, who has a penchant for garish Fairy Kei attire, passes Yuma’s drawing ideas off as her own, dismays the talented ‘mangaka’. Even worse, her overprotective mother hardly lets her out of her sight and refuses to talk about her father. As Yuma attempts to live a more independent life, she stumbles across adult comics – manga porn – and toys with the idea of drawing some herself. The publisher advises her to gain some personal experience first. But what happens when a woman in a wheelchair asks a tout in Tokyo’s red light district to fix her up with a sex date?

Kimi no tori wa utaeru   Kimi no tori wa utaeru Film Poster

きみの鳥はうたえる Kimi no tori wa utaeru

Running Time: 119 mins.

Release Date: September 01st, 2018

Director: Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Novel)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Tasuku Emoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Makiko Watanabe, Ai Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

A film based on a novel by Yasushi Sato is usually something to take notice of after a series of good to great adaptations. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence is good, while Sketches of Kaitan City by director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, and Mipo Oh’s The Light Shines Only There are great. The three are set in the author’s native city of Hakodate in the north of Japan but this film was originally set in Tokyo before being relocatedone has been The Japan Times review sounds like this film doesn’t quite fly. That’s a shame because there’s a great cast with Shota Sometani (Himizu), Shizuka Ishibashi (The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue), and Tasuku Emoto (Dynamite Graffiti).

Synopsis: The unnamed protagonist (Tasuku Emoto), simply referred to in the credits as “Boku” is a slacker who works at a bookstore while sharing an apartment with his unemployed friend, Shizuo (Shota Sometani). “Boku” begins dating his co-worker Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi) and she gets roped into his hang-about life, but Shizuo soon gets involved and a love triangle develops…

We Are Little Zombies   We Are Little Zombies Film Poster

ウィーアーリトルゾンビーズWi a Ritoru Zonbizu

Running Time: 120 mins.

Release Date: June 2019

Director:  Makoto Nagahisa

Writer: Makoto Nagahisa (Screenplay),

Starring: Keita Ninomiya, Satoshi Mizuno, Mondo Okumura, Sena Nakajima, Masaaki Akahori, Eriko Hatsune, Sosuke Ikematsu, Rinko Kikuchi, Yuki Kudo, Seiko Ito, Akito Inui, Nobue Iketani, Chai,

Website IMDB

This has won awarda and plaudits at Sundance and it is at Berlin. It has an otaku aesthetic with 8-bit computer games being a big influence. Some really great actors are in this one and it has a lot of buzz from people who have seen it.

Synopsis: When their parents are die, four 13-year-olds, Hikari, Ishi, Yuki and Ikuko, find they cannot cry. What do you do in such a situation? Well they make a rock band to search for their emotions. While doing that, they meet the far-our residents of a junk yard and hit the big time!


コンプリシティ Konpurishitei

Running Time: 116 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Kei Chikaura

Writer: Kei Chikaura (Screenplay),

Starring: Yulai Lu, Tatsuya Fuji, Sayo Akasaka, Kio Matsumoto, Fusako Urabe,


This China-Japan co-production seems to be a continuation of the director’s short film Signature which also stars Yulai Lu. That short featured him playing a Chinese immigrant wandering around Shibuya.

Synopsis: A Chinese man named Chen Liang (Lu Yulai) left China and his ill mother and elderly grandmother to live in Japan. He wanted to escape his responsibilities and have a new life but he finds himself experiencing the hardships that come with living illegally in Japan but it looks like things might change for the better when he takes a phone call meant for someone else and accepts a job at a traditional Japanese soba restaurant run by an elderly chef (Tatsuya Fuji). He takes to learning the art of soba-preparation, however, his illegal status could put things in jeopardy.

There are also two shorts, one made by an American named Shelly Silver – A Tiny Place That is Hard to Touch – whch takes place in Tokyo and has an American woman and a Japanese woman examining Japan’s declining birthrate and getting into disagreements which take on sci-fi overtones. Then there’s Leaking Life by Shunsaku Hayashi. I’ve watched two of his films in the past and they are real trips. Here’s a teaser:

Here is past coverage I have offered on the festival:

Berlin Film Festival 2018

Berlin Film Festival 2017

Berlin Film Festival 2016

Berlin Film Festival 2015

Berlin Film Festival 2014

Berlin Film Festival 2013

Berlin Film Festival 2012 Competition Results

2 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2019

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