A Preview of Nippon Connection 2020: Nippon Visions

 

The 20th Nippon Connection will take place from June 09th to the 14th and the organisers will take the event online for a Virtual Anniversary Edition. Over the course of six days, Nippon Connection Online will play a total of 70 feature-length and short films from a variety of genres to give a good overview of the trends in Japanese cinema. 

The films will each be available to view via the video on demand platform Vimeo in exchange for a small fee. The period of availability lasts for a full 24 hours from the moment they are purchased. They will all be available during the duration of the festival, although some titles will be region-locked, something I will detail below. There will also be the chance to get in contact with the filmmakers behind the titles since they will be in contact with the audience via video messages, discussions and live broadcasts. There will also be a variety of online events, including workshops, lectures, performances, and concerts and a virtual marketplace which will present a wide range of offers related to Japan.

Many of these films will be available for audiences to watch around the world.

I have a highlight post which gives an overview of the festival and a post focusing on the classics and the mainstream releases. This preview covers the indie films.

Nippon Visions

This section is a space for new talents and experiments with indie films and genre cinema getting represented through shorts and some hefty features (one clocking in at 154 minutes). The subjects vary but they all intrigue. There are so many highlights, so please check the Nippon Connection website.

Infinite Foundation    Mugen Foundation Film Poster

無限ファンデーション Mugen Fande-shon

Release Date: August 24th, 2019

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Akira Osaki

Writer: N/A (Script),

Starring: Sara Minami, Nanoka Hara, Rin Onoka, Kosame Nishiyama, Nanami Hidaka,

Website   IMDB

A youth movie in which Akira Osaki, director of Obon Brothers, spins out a tale based on teenage girls heading to the future. It’s an improvisational work based on the song “To the Future” by Cosame Nishiyama and it was produced as part of the 2018 run of MOOSIC LAB.

This one is available to watch worldwide

Synopsis: One day, a shy high school girl named Mirai who is not good at socialising, is led by a clear singing voice she hears to a recycling facility where she meets a mysterious girl with pigtails who plays the ukulele (Cosame Nishiyama). The two quickly become friends and Mirai joins the theatre club where they work on creating a performance.

Extro    Extro Film Poster

Ekisutoro  エキストロ

Release Date: March 13th, 2020

Duration: 89 mins.

Directors: Naoki Murahashi

Writers: Hirohito Goto (Script), Mariko Kikuchi (Original Book)

Starring: Kozo Haginoya, Koji Yamamoto, Yuki Saito, Tatsumi Fujinami, Ryo Kato, Riho Kotani, Nobuhiko Obayashi,

Website

Naoki Murahashi makes his debut with this feature and it looks absolutely charming. It features Nobuhiko Obayashi who passed away earlier this year but who is represented at Nippon Connection with two of his features.

This one is available for global audiences to watch except in Japan and the UK

And here’s a music video:

Synopsis: This is a mockumentary that follows real-life bit-part player Kozo Haginoya (Kozo Haginoya), a man who works as an extra for drama series and movies. He is 64-years-old and while he works as a dental technician and part-time farmer in Ibaraki Prefecture,, his true passion is for acting. The camera follows him around the set of a period drama shot in a film studio and things go slightly awry when two cops on the hunt for a drug dealer go undercover in the same production.

Beautiful Goodbye    Beautiful Goodbye Film Poster

ビューティフル、グッバイ Byu-teifuru, Gubbai

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Eiichi Imamura

Writer: Eiichi Imamura (Script), 

Starring: Yusuke Takebayashi, Bi Yo, Koki Nakajima,

This is a beautiful zombie road movie according to what I’ve read and it won the Special Jury Award at the 2019 PIA Film Festival.

This one is available for people to watch around the world

Synopsis: Shinoda goes on the run after stabbing a man and during his escape he hits a young woman. While it seems like he is racking up the kills, it’s alright! She turns out to be a zombie. Not only that, she is a good looking zombie! She was revived by her ex-boyfriend but escaped. The two decide to escape together but… where does their journey end?

Forgiven Children    Forgiven Children Film Poster

許された子どもたちYurusa reta kodomotachi

Release Date: June 01st, 2020

Duration: 131 mins.

Director: Eisuke Naito

Writer: Eisuke Naito, Tetsuo Yamagata (Script), 

Starring: Yu Uemura, Yoshi Kuroiwa, Takuya Abe, Akana Ikeda, Yukino Nagura,

Website

Eisuke Naito has come a long way from Puzzle (which also stars Kaho) with a filmography full of titles looking at delinquent kids like Liverleaf and this one looks pretty bleak as he looks at the death of a child from the perspective of children, their parents and the mediastorm around them.

This one is only available for audiences in Germany

Synopsis: Kira Ichikawa is the leader of a group of high school delinquents who take their bullying of their classmate Isuki Kuramochi too far when they accidentally kill the boy with a crossbow. The case is a nationwide scandal but due to a lack of evidence, Kira gets off with the crime. A backlash ensues that swallows up both the children and the adults…

F Is For Future      F Is For Future Film Poster

ミは未来のミ Mi wa mirai no mi

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 60 mins.

Director: Teppei Isobe

Writer: Teppei Isobe, Kazuo Nagai (Script), 

Starring: Yasuyuki Sakurai, Hiroki Sano, karen, Kei Nakado, Chido Matsumoto

Website IMDB

Despite the theme of death, this one is cute.

This one is available for to watch for people across Europe

Synopsis: Instead of worrying about his future, Takuya aimlessly spends his time with his high school classmates. After a tragic accident, he decides to keep a promise that he made a long time ago: His friend’s porn collection must disappear before his parents find it! With his feature film debut, Teppei ISOBE created a heartwarming and authentic coming-of-age story. His young cast delivers a great performance as a group of youths who are on the brink of adulthood.

Flowers and RainHiganbana in the Rain Film Poster

花と雨  Hana to Ame

Release Date: January 17th, 2020

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Takafumi Tsuchiya

Writer: Takafumi Tsuchiya, Takahiro Horieta (Screenplay), Takafumi Tsuchiya, SEEDA (Original Album/Work)

Starring: Sho Kasamatsu, Ayaka Onishi, Chihiro Okamoto, Ozuno Nakamura, Kyohei Mitsune

Website

The rapper SEEDA’s life and his 2006 album Flowers and Rain forms the basis of this work which uses his music as the score. You can hear SEEDA’s work on this webpage dedicated to Japanese hip-hop. Rising stars Sho Kasamatsu and Ayaka Onishi (Randen) take the lead roles.

This one is available for people to watch around the world

Synopsis: When Yoshida and his family return to Japan after living in London, he finds it hard to fit in. However, hip-hop offers a refuge and soon a way of life as he becomes an emcee. Going under the name of SEEDA, he starts to rap and deals drugs to make music and survive in Tokyo…

Minori, on the BrinkOjo-chan Film Poster

お嬢ちゃん  Ojou-chan

Release Date: September 28th, 2019

Duration: 130 mins.

Director: Ryutaro Ninomiya

Writer: Ryutaro Ninomiya (Screenplay),

Starring: Minori Hagiwara, Rieko Dote, Misaki Mireho, Sanae Yuuki, Yuki Hirose,

Website

Ryutaro Ninomiya is back with another original film following Sweating the Small Stuff (2017). It’s a female-led drama made with Enbu Cinema and set in the seaside town of Kamakura. Why are seaside towns so depressing?

This is available to view worldwide except Japan and Italy

Synopsis: Minori lives in Kamakura and has a part-time job. She also has a lot of stress due to the nature of her relationships with people who refuse to express their feelings but have no problems taking advantage of each other. Minori decides to fight back against ignorance whenever she encounters it, whatever the consequences might be.

Tamaran Hill

たまらん坂 Tamaranzaka

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: Tadasuke Kotani

Writer: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura (Script), Kanako Nishi (Original Novel)

Starring: Hinako Watanabe, Makiko Watanabe, Kanji Furutachi, Mayu Ozawa,

This one was inspired by a real novel. It features a great set of character actors like Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure) and Kanji Furutachi (Harmonium).

This one is available for people to watch around the world

Synopsis: Hinako is a student with a rocky relationship with her father so when she comes across the novel “Tamaran Hill”, she is intrigued because “tamaran” (intolerable) is her father’s favourite swear word. The bookseller gives her the book and Hinako starts reading it. She finds her life reflected in the story and imagines herself inside the book’s story where she meets the real-life author Senji Kuroi. The film reflects the process of understanding that Hinako undergoes as she reads, bouncing between the novel and the real world.

Yan    Tsubame Yan Film Poster

Yan Tsubame Yan

Release Date: June 05th, 2020

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: Keisuke Imamura

Writer: Noriko Washizu (Script),

Starring: Long Mizuma, Takashi Yamanaka, Yo Hitoto, Ryushin Tei, Mitsuru Hirata, Yoji Tanaka, Satomi Nagano,

OAFF Website

Keisuke Imamura is a cinematographer but he made his feature-length directorial debut with Yan which I saw at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 where I reviewed it and interviewed him. It’s a beautiful film about rediscovering family history and intercultural relations.

This one is available for people across Europe to watch

Synopsis: 28-year-old Tsubame Hayakawa (Long Mizuma) has seemingly achieved everything. He has his dream job at an architectural firm, a girlfriend and lives comfortably in Tokyo. Yet on the inside, he has a history of self-doubt, which is revealed when he is asked by his father to hand-deliver a document to his older brother Ryushin (Takashi Yamanaka) in Taiwan. Tsubame is reluctant. It has been 23 years since they last saw each other after their mother, Toshie (Hitoto Yo) disappeared with Ryushin one night and left Tsubame behind. He has never forgiven them for leaving him but his father’s request is a final and so Tsubame reluctantly accepts this task and heads to Taiwan to search for Ryushin.

Kinta and Ginji    Kinta and Ginji Film Poster

金太と銀次 Kinta to Ginji

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura

Writer: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura (Script),

Starring: Takuya Dairiki, Takashi Miura

Available to watch worldwide except in America

Synopsis:A sci-fi roadmovie with a weird atmosphere where Kinta and Ginji, a tanuki and a robot, roam forests and fields. They sometimes like each other, some times hate each other, but always get back on course and chat in their Kansai dialect. As the two friends explore their environment, they encounter other talking entities and situations.

Shell and Joint    Shell and Joint Film Poster

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 154 mins.

Director: Isamu Hirabayashi

Writer: Isamu Hirabayashi (Script) 

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Keisuke Horibe, Kanako Higashi, Aiko Sato, Hiromi Kitagawa, Kaori Takeshita,

Website IMDB

This one is available for audiences around the world to watch

Synopsis: Nitobe and Sakamoto have been friends from childhood and they now work together at the front desk of a capsule hotel. Nitobe has a particular fondness for philosophy and crustaceans. Sakamoto, meanwhile, is fixated on suicide. The capsule hotel draws a variety of guests, including a Finnish mother who has lost her child, a fugitive woman, and a researcher studying Daphnia. None of their lives ever intersect. Nor do any of the lives out of it for that matter. They exist, but never cross, like cells in a capsule hotel. With crustaceans as leitmotif, the themes of life and death are explored through a fragmentary view of the characters’ lives.

Mrs. Noisy    Mrs. Noisy Film Poster

ミセス・ノイズィ  Misesu Noizi

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Chihiro Amano

Writer: Chihiro Amano (Screenplay), 

Starring: Yukiko Shinohara, Yoko Ootaka, Takuma Nagao, Chise Niitsu, Masanari Wada, Yoriko Doguchi, Raiki Yanemoto,

Website

This one is only available for audiences in Germany

Synopsis: Maki Yoshioka is a novelist and mother. She’s suffering a slump in her work and things get worse when her neighbour, Miwako, begins harassing her by beating her futons at all hours of the day. After an argument, Maki gets inspiration and makes Miwako a character in her novel but that causes the fight between the two to spiral out of control as the media and internet get involved…

Me & My Brother’s Mistress   Me & My Brother’s Mistress Film Poster

おろかもの Orokamono

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Takashi Haga, Sho Suzuki

Writer: Masataka Numata (Script), 

Starring: Nanami Kasamatsu, Yui Murata, Satoshi Iwago, Hachi Nekome,

Website IMDB

This one is cute. The chief delight is exploring how the mistress is more complex than first perceived and the relationship she develops with the main character.

Available to watch worldwide except in Japan

Synopsis: High schooler Yoko has been looked after by her older brother Kenji since their parents died. He is about to get married so Yoko is trying to deal with a new normal but when she spies her brother dating another woman, she begins to investigate. A confrontation turns to understanding as Yoko finds this other woman more relatable and figures she is a better match for Kenji. But, guilt remains over the love triangle…

Nippon Visions: Shorts features six films including…

What A Wonderful World    What A Wonderful World Film Poster

すばらしき世界  Subarashiki Sekai

Release Date: July 15th, 2019

Duration: 41 mins.

Director: Tatsuya Ishii

Writer: Tatsuya Ishii (Screenplay),

Starring: Haruya Dan, Supika Yufune, Keitoku Ito, Nene Kaneko,

Website

Tatsuya Ishii made this film as his graduate work from Toho Gakuen Film College. I covered it in this trailer post which features another of his films.

Synopsis: A 16-year-old boy named Yu (Haruya Dan) lives with his mother but when his father remarries and demands Yu live with him, the boy faces heartbreak and responds with anger over the selfishness of his parents.

Pia Film Festival Shorts

This looks like it is available for people to watch around the world. It’s part of a subtitling project that allows students to get experience.

The Wandering Plants

散歩する植物 Sanposuru Shokubutsu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Yurina Kaneko

Writer: Yurina Kaneko (Script), 

Starring: Michi Tachiwaki, Takashi Ide, Hiro Miwachi, Aida Yamada,

Synopsis: A new kind of story about friendship that grows from a meeting in a botanical garden.

When the Rain Stops When the Rain Stops Film Poster

雨のやむとき Ame no yamutoki

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 28 mins.

Director: Yui Yamaguchi

Writer: 

Starring: Takumi Takita, Yuma Karino, Yuri Osawa,

Synopsis: Junior high-schoolers Rikako and Kouta are having trouble fitting in with others. They become friends and find their own place at a riverside.

NHK TV

A Stranger in Shanghai    A Stranger in Shanghai Programme Image

ストレンジャー~上海の芥川龍之介~  Sutorenja- Shanhai no Akutagawa Ryunosuke

Release Date: December 28/29th, 2019

Duration: 80 mins. (2 episodes, 40 minutes each)

Director: Taku Kato

Writer: Various (Screenplay), Ryunosuke Akutugawa (Shanghai Yuki)

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Takashi Okabe, Kim Scar, Yuri Nakamura, Nao,

Website

This drama, mingles Akutagawa’s Shanghai Yuki (a newspaper report on his trip to the city) with the writer’s literary universe. Ryuhei Matsuda (The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan) takes on the role of the famous writer.

Ryuhei Matsuda plays Ryunosuke Akutagawa in this historical piece from long-time director of NHK dramas, Taku Kato. He helmed KURARA -the Dazzling Life of Hokusai’s Daughter which won the Grand Prize of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs Arts Festival and was screened at fests like Nippon Connection.

Synopsis: Ryunosuke Akutagawa worked as a reporter for the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun and, at the age of 29, travelled to report on a city which was dominated by western powers after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Turmoil, poverty, exploitation and revolution are in the air as Akutagawa tries to navigate the environment of a fallen world power and understand its culture through his own sensitive and intelligent analysis.

More information and our complete program will be available on the festival homepage: NipponConnection.com

Previous coverage of Nippon Connection:

Nippon Connection 2015

Nippon Connection 2016

Nippon Connection 2017   Anime    Shorts   Features    Documentaries    Preview     Roman Porno

Nippon Connection 2018

Nippon Connection 2019

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