Nara International Film Festival Pre-event 2019 (September 14-16)


The organisers behind the Nara International Film Festival (NIFF) have lined up a special event this weekend (September 14-16), or should that be, Pre-Event, as they host three days of films with highlights from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and the Short Short Film Festival and Asia (SSFF).

Opening on September 14th, the fest serves up Catalonian food and films with Franc Aleu’s documentary El Somni shows how creatives from various disciplines (sculptors, bonsai masters, dancers, actors, novelists) team up to create a meal of multi-sensory seduction that captures all five senses and not just the taste buds. Here’s a glimpse with the trailer:

This presages next year’s NIFF which will have a Catalonian feel but auds at the opening ceremony in Nara this weekend will get to go to a Spanish restaurant nearby.

The rest of the fest features the Berlinale and SSFF films on September 15th and 16th.

Berlinale have teamed up with NIFF to showcase their Generation strand by presenting four feature films which will be judged by the Youth Jury. Kids get to say which film is the best and the winner will be revealed at the award ceremony which will be held at the closing ceremony.

Here are the films:

Bulbul Can Sing    Bulbul Can Sing Film Poster

Release Date: 2018

Duration: 95 mins.

Director: Rima Das

Writer: Rima Das (Screenplay),

Starring: Arnali Das, Manoranjoan Das, Manabendra Das, Bonita Thakuriya, Pakija Begam


Rima Das is a self-taught film-maker from India’s Assam state who typically writes, shoots, and edits her own films (and more) and works with non-professional actors. Her award-winning films have been shot in her home state where she details village life of youngsters in contemporary rural India. Bulbul Can Sing has won numerous awards and toured the world, from Toronto to Berlin and Osaka. Here’s my review from VCinema.

Synopsis: Bulbul (Arnali Das) is teenager who lives with her mother, father and younger brother in Chaygaon, a rural town in Assam. Her closest friends are Bonny (Banita Thakuriya), whose mother runs a cafe, and Sumu (Manoranjan Das), a teenage boy who doesn’t conform to the traditional masculine behaviour as expected by their community. The relationship between the three is chain that keeps the film moving as their lives are sketched out through school and home life, the secrets they share and games they play and also the way they support each other as they try to self-actualize personalities while those around them try to mould their characters. Their worlds come crashing down when they go beyond what is accepted behaviour in the village.


Stupid Young Heart  Stupid Young Heart Film Poster

Release Date: October 12th, 2018

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Selma Vilhunen

Writer: Kirsikka Saari (Screenplay),

Starring: Here Ristseppa, Rosa Honkonen, Ville Haapasalo, Katja Kuutner, Pihla Viitala,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Lenni (Jere Ristseppä) is a wispy slip of a 15-year-old who loves skateboarding and his girlfriend Kiira (Rosa Honkonen), a dancer with her own troubled home life. When it turns out that she is pregnant, he will become a father and has to reckon with his future. He finds comfort with the leader of a racist gang faces an economically uncertain future and is lured in by comforting rhetoric of the extreme right who are scaring their working-class with racist rhetoric about Muslims as the local Somali community are blamed for taking jobs…

This looks like an eye-opening kitchen-sink drama about the travails of working-class communities across the west that shows how economic anxiety (and just plain stupidity and racism) leads to conflict.


A Colony    A Colony Film Poster

Release Date: February 01st, 2019

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Genevieve Dulude-De Celles

Writer: Genevieve Dulude-De Celles (Screenplay), 

Starring: Emilie Bierre, Robin Aubert, Irlande Cote, Noemie Godin-Vigneau, Cassandra Gosselin-Pelletier, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie,


Synopsis: 12-year-old Mylia (Emilie Bierre) lives in Centre-du-Québec and is taking her first tentative steps into adolescence as she navigates social cliques in high school and a fracturing family as she gets to know a boy named Jimmy (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie) of Abenaki descent who lives on the nearby First Nations reserve.

This award-winning sensitive portrayal of a naive girl hesitantly learning to form a personality touches on some of the prejudice Jimmy faces and Canada’s colonial history and expectations of girls in Canada.

My Extraordinary Summer with Tess    My Extraordinary Summer with Tess Film Poster

Release Date: July 03rd, 2019

Duration: 82 mins.

Director: Steven Wouterlood

Writer: Laura van Dijk (Screenplay), Anna Woltz (Novel)

Starring: Sonny Coops Van Utteren Josephine Arendsen, Jennifer Hoffman, Hans Dagelet, Tjebbo Gerritsma, Suzan Boogaerdt,


Synopsis: 10-year-old Sam (Sonny van Utteren) is with his family for a week-long holiday on a Dutch island, but things soon go awry as family-members are plagued by illness and accidents. With nobody to play with, the inquisitive Sam decides to do some  “aloneness training” to be prepared in case everyone but him dies. This is when Sam meets 11-year-old Tess (Josephine Arendsen), the daughter of a single mother, and he gets roped into her misadventures that have a background in emotional heartache she suffers.

Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus, this sounds like the perfect film for adults and young people alike as it focuses on notable performances from its young leads through the relationship between Sam and Tess with clarity and presents life lessons we can all recognise.

The selection of shorts from SSFF consists of five films from around the world and they will also be judged by a jury of children:

Imaginary Bullets (2018, Dir: Sean Oliver)

The Wonderful Flight (2015, Dir: Ian Allardyce, Bat-Amgalan Lkhagvajav)

Nagisa (2018, Dir: Toshiyuki Teruya)

Aya Goes to the Beach (2015, Dir: Maryam Touzani)

Shakespeare in Tokyo (2018, Dir: Genevieve Clay-Smith)

There are a lot of other things scheduled including the NIFF Youth Movie Production Workshop which shows the result of NIFF’s initiative of allowing junior high school students the experience filmmaking during their summer vacation with the advice of professional staff. There is also NARAtive2020, which shows a film which was shot earlier this year that will be premiered at Nara International Film Festival 2020 plus the previous film, The Taste of Rice Flower, last year’s International Competition Winner, will be screened again.

For more information, please visit the site.

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