Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019 (05th-15th September)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Post Header

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 05th to the 15th and they have announced their selection of films. There is a great slate of titles from some of the big hitters in the industry with both live-action and anime getting represented. Yes, it’s an auteur-driven selection although Contemporary World Cinema has an award-winning indie drama by newbie director Hikari. It’s joined in that strand by a drama by Koji Fukada which was at Locarno along with a film in the strand Masters which has Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest, To the Ends of the Earth. Wavelengths 2 features a short film collection, SUN RAVE, which has a short from Japan by director Tomonari Nishikawa. Special Presentation has Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth. There are Japanese inclusions in the documentaries Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema and Dads and Midnight Madness features Takashi Miike’s latest work!


First Love  Hatsukoi Early Film Poster

初恋 Hatsukoi

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 108 mins.

Director:  Takashi Miike

Writer: Masaru Nakamura (Screenplay)

Starring: Becky, Masataka Kubota, Jun Murakami, Nao Omori, Sakurako Konishi, Sansei Shiomi, Seiyo Uchino, Shota Sometani,


There are reviews out for this one from when it played at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes but I’m avoiding them so I can go into the film fresh. The actors include Masataka Kubota, who worked with Miike on 13 Assassins (2010), Nao Omori, the titular Ichi in Miike’s classic Ichi the Killer (2001), Shota Sometani, who appeared in Miike’s As the God’s Will (2014) and Lesson of the Evil (2013). Forget those recent films, from the details and the trailer this one looks to harken back to his late 90s/early 2000s output of the man. Here is the trailer and some extracts:

Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Director’s Fortnight)

Synopsis: Leo (Masataka Kubot) is a boxer whose career and life have hit the rocks. Losing fights and with a developing brain tumour, he is almost out for the count but then he meets his ‘first love’ Monica, a call-girl and an addict who is unwittingly caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme. Fate places them at the centre of a night-long chase where the two are pursued by a corrupt cop, a yakuza, his nemesis, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese Triads.

37 Seconds   37 Seconds Film Poster

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 115 mins.

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. That was my blurb from the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year and, guess what… it won the Berlinale Audience Award.

Synopsis from Berlinale: 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?


A Girl Missing        A Girl Missing Film Poster

よこがお  Yokogao

Release Date: July 26th, 2019

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada, Kazumasa Yonemitsu (Screenplay),

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Mikako Ichikawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Hisako Okata, Ren Sudo, Miyu Ogawa,

Website     IMDB

Back in March when I was in Japan I posted a clutch of reviews for Koji Fukada’s films:

Human Comedy Tokyo (2008)

Hospitalite (2010)

Au revoir l’ete (2013)

Sayonara (2015)

Harmonium (2016)

The latter won the Prix du Jury in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival of that year. It stars Mariko Tsutsui who has been doing stellar work as seen in Jam (2018) and Antiporno (2016) and she returns here with a bonkers cast including Mikako Ichikawa (Rent-a-cat (2012)), Mitsuru Fukikoshi (Cold Fish (2011)) and two newbies both in NDJC 2019 films, Ren Sudo (Last Judgement) and Miyu Ogawa (Quiet Hide-and-Seek). This has awards potential as it lets Tsutsui off the leash and looks like it has decent direction but Fukada will have to present a reigned-in story!

Synopsis: Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui) is a visiting nurse who has earned the trust of her patients. She has been helping Motoko (Mikako Ichikawa) study for the purpose of becoming a care worker. Ichiko is the only person with whom Motoko is open with. One day, Motoko’s younger sister Saki (Miyu Ogawa) disappears. A week later Saki returns home unharmed, but the person arrested for her kidnapping is an unexpected person and Ichiko is suspected of being involved in the abduction. This causes Ichiko to collapse…


To the Ends of the Earth      To the Ends of the Earth Film Poster

旅のおわり世界のはじまり  Tabi no Owari Sekai no Hajimari

Release Date: June 14th, 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay),

Starring: Atsuko Maeda, Ryo Kase, Shota Sometani, Tokio Emoto, Adiz Rajabov,

Website     IMDB

Kiyoshi Kurosawa teams up with a great cast to make a movie which is a co-production between Japan and Uzbekistan to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Two of the leading actors have worked in his films, Atsuko Maeda being the lead in Seventh Code and Shota Sometani having a supporting role in Real.

Synopsis: Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) is a reporter for a TV variety program and her assignment is to find a mythical fish in a huge lake in Uzbekistan, a country that once flourished as the centre of the Silk Road. Things don’t quite go according to plan for Yoko and her crew and, one day, drawn by a mysterious voice, she departs from their company and loses herself in the wonders of the country…


The Truth    The Truth Film Poster

真実  Shinjitsu

Release Date: October 11th, 2019

Duration: 106 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Screenplay),

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, Clementine Grenier, Ludivine Sagnier,

Website     IMDB

Following on from his win of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival with Shoplifters, Kore-eda graces the Competition Section of this year’s Venice Film Festival with a film based in France and starring some of the luminaries of French cinema with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ludivine Sagnier as well as Ethan Hawke, a truly talented American actor. This is the director’s first work set outside Japan but it features the sort of family narrative he is famous for as a clan is reunited in Paris and go through a cycle of lies, resentment, love and reconciliation.

Synopsis:  Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) is a star of French cinema with the power to charm the men around her. When she publishes her memoirs, her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) returns from New York to Paris with her husband (Ethan Hawke) and their young child and a reunion between mother and daughter kicks off a confrontation that leads to truths being told, accounts settled, loves and resentments confessed.

Weathering With You    Weathering With You Film Poster

天気の子  Tenki no ko

Release Date: July 19th, 2019

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Writer: Makoto Shinkai (Screenplay/Original Creator), Kyoko Nakajima (Novel)

Starring: Nana Mori (Hina Amano), Kotaro Daigo (Hodaka Morishima),

Animation Production: CoMix Wave Films

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: “This is a story about the world’s biggest secret. The secret that only she and I know.” The story centres around a boy and a girl choosing their own way to live through the twist and turns of fate in the world where the climate is losing its balance.

That’s it for now. I’ll update it if any other films are added.

Here is past coverage:

Toronto International Film Festival 2011

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Toronto International Film Festival 2013

Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Toronto International Film Festival 2015

Toronto International Film Festival 2017

Toronto International Film Festival 2018

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