Japanese Films at Tokyo FILMeX 2020 (October 30th to November 05th)

Tokyo FILMeX 2020 runs from October 30th to November 05th. It’s the placeTokyo Filmex Poster to see arthouse films but, due to Covid-19, organisers have decided to shorten the duration of the fest and have it run alongside the Tokyo International Film Festival, although it’s still a physical event. This move positions the festival in a way to make it akin to Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. You can read a statement here which explains more.

Anyway, the festival has quite a few titles from Japan or set in Japan that are worth checking out.

Click on a title to be taken to the festival page:


Love Mooning

愛のまなざしを Ai no manazashi o

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Kunitoshi Manda

Writer: Kunitoshi Manda, Tamami Manda (Script), Ko Nakamura (Original Novel)

Starring: Toru Nakamura, Takumi Saitoh, Kiki Sugino, Yuri Nakamura, Urara Matsubayashi, Bengal, Yusuke Manda,

This is the first film in a while for Kunitoshi Manda, director of the fine Eiko Koike x Etsushi Toyokawa drama The Kiss (2007).

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Synopsis: Takashi (Toru Nakamura) is a psychiatrist who runs a mental health clinic. Despite his wife Kaoru (Yuri Nakamura) being dead for six years, he is unable to move on and spends his days in deep sadness and self-medicating to control his mind. One day, Ayako Mizuno (Kiki Sugino) is admitted to his clinic as a patient. Their relationship goes beyond what is expected for a doctor and patient but Takashi cannot forget his wife which makes Ayako jealous…

Competition Films

A Balance      A Balance Film Poster

由宇子の天秤 Yuuko no Tenbin

Release Date: November 06th, 2020

Duration: 137 mins.

Director: Yujiro Harumoto

Writer: Yujiro Harumoto (Script), 

Starring: Kumi Takiuchi, Yumi Kawai, Masahiro Umeda, Yuuya Matsuura, Misa Wada, Ryo Ikeda, Hiroki Kono, Yota Kawase, Ken Mitsuishi,

Yujiro Harumoto made waves with his feature debut Going the Distance. He has a great cast of actors for his latest, a social drama as seen through the eyes of a documentarian played by an actreess who is really coming into her own in recent years, Kumi Takiuchi (Greatful Dead, Kamata Prelude, It Feels So Good). 

Synopsis: Yuko returns to her hometown as a documentary filmmaker determined to examine an instance of school violence that resulted in suicides three years ago while she was teaching classes at her father’s cram school. Yuko discovers a hidden truth that makes her become deeply involved in the lives of the families of the stuents and also causes a shock that upends her own life. 

Any Crybabies Around?    Any Crybabies Around Film Poster

泣く子はいねぇが Nakuko wa ineega

Release Date: November 20th, 2020

Duration: 95 mins.

Director: Takuma Sato

Writer: Takuma Sato (Script), 

Starring: Taiga Nakano, Riho Yoshioka, Kanichiro, Takashi Yamanaka, Yoki Miko, Toshiro Yanagiba, Kimiko Yo

Website IMDB

Takuma Sato has four films to his name so far, all original stories, with two released last year (link to a trailer post), and he has worked with Taiga Nakano (Au revoir l’ete, Harmonium, Japanese Girls Never Die). For this film, he draws upon the Namahage festival that takes place in Akita Prefecture and uses this ancient tradition to tell a story depicting young adults in contemporary society.

Synopsis: Tasuku (Taiga Nakano) isn’t the best husband around, as proven by the fact that it is New Year’s Eve and he is out drinking with his friends while his wife Kotone is pregnant and about to give birth. Deciding to turn over a new leaf, he declares he will go home. But not before a last sip of sake. This sends him over the edge and he tears off his clothes and tears out into the street. This being Oga, it is the time of Namahage – an ancient tradition where men wear costumes and go door-to-door to scare kids. A naked Tasuku crashes this event and it is caught on television. This shameful moment causes a national uproar that causes Kotone to divorce him and Tasuku to flee to Tokyo.

Two years later, Tasuku returns after he discovers that Kotone is now working in a red-light district and raising their daughter alone but the situation is more difficult than he anticipates…

The Blue Danube

きまじめ楽隊のぼんやり戦争 Kimajime gakutai no bon’yari sensou

Release Date: March, 2021

Duration: 105 mins.

Director: Akira Ikeda

Writer: Akira Ikeda (Script),

Starring: Ko Maehara, Hiroki Konno, Hiroki Nakajima, Naoya Shimizu, Manami Hashimoto, Hairi Katagiri,

This is the fourth feature film from Akira Ikeda whose work, Anatomy of a Paper Clip (2013) was a highly acclaimed award-winner of the jury nominated HIVOS Tiger Award at the 2014 Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the 2013 edition of the Vancouver IFF. It appears this was produced under the auspices of NDJC.

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Synopsis: In a fictional town where war with the neighbouring town across the river is ingrained into everyday life, people know that every day, 9 am to 5 pm, is the time for war. Rouki, a soldier in the town, becomes fascinated by music heard from across the water. Meanwhile, rumours of new weapons and troops coming to the town spread, and the citizen’s lives change.

Okinawa Santos

オキナワ サントス Okinawa Santosu

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Yoju Matsubayashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Okinawa Santos Film Image

Synopsis: This is the latest documentary from Yoju Matsubayashi, director of the award-winning The Horses of Fukushima (2013). He looks at the story of how and why, during World War II, many Japanese people immigrants in Santos, Brazil, were forced to move to another place, and draws attention to the fact that 60% of the migrants were from Okinawa. The film is based on testimonies from interviewees and aims to reveal the hidden historical relationship between Okinawa and Brazil.

Special Screenings


Minamata Mandala   

水俣曼荼羅 Minamata Mandara

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 371 mins.

Director: Kazuo Hara

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Kazuo Hara (The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On) follows up his last documentary, Reiwa Uprising (2019) with this look at the people affected by Minamata disease. The origins of this story were turned into a film starring Johnny Depp that was released at Berlinale earlier this year.

Synopsis: In 1932, life for the people of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, would change when a chemical company named Chisso began producing acetaldehyde and dumping methyl mercury in Minamata Bay. By 1956, cases of severe mercury poisoning were occurring amongst people since the locals would eat the sealife in the bay. The prefectural government and Chisso corporation did little to help the community who continue to be affected by the pollution in the bay and the people left with neurological problems stemming from Minamata Disease. Documentarian Kazuo Hara shows the lingering pain by following some of the people affected including an old man in his 90s who has battled in court for more than 20 years, a medical school professor striving to identify the cause of the disease, and a fisherman providing disease samples for medical examinations.


The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) Film Poster

Release Date: February 27th, 2020

Duration: 480 mins.

Director: C.W. Winter, Anders Edström

Writer: C.W. Winter, Diary entries by Tayoko Shiojiri (Script), 

Starring: Tayoko Shiojiri, Hiroharu Shikata, Ryo Kase, Mai Edström, Kaoru Iwahana

Website IMDB

This one was at Berlinale earlier this year where it was the winner of the Award for Best Film in the Encounters Competition.

Synopsis: Shot over a 14 month period in a village populated by 47 people in the mountains of Kyoto Prefecture, it is a depiction of the lives of farmers over five seasons. The film features many locals but also some professional actors like Ryo Kase.

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