Japan Cuts runs from August 20th-September 2nd for its 2021 edition. It is a hybrid event with in-person screenings and online screenings via a virtual cinema. There are 8 features that will be screened in a theatre and 21 features and 12 shorts that will screened online across 14 days.
The selection is good as it covers indie and studio features, shorts, both live-action and animated, and a grip of modern classics. This highlight has been split up into the following sections with each of the films and their details. I hope it will help people decide what they want to see:
In Theatre | Experimental Spotlight | Documentary Focus |Feature Films | Shorts | Classics | Next Generation
あのこは貴族 「Ano ko wa Kizoku」
Release Date: February 26th, 2021
Duration: 124 mins.
Director: Yukiko Sode
Writer: Yukiko Sode (Script), Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel)
Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Kiko Mizuhara, Kengo Kora, Shizuka Ishibashi, Rio Yamashita, Yukiko Shinohara, Kei Ishibashi,
Based on Mariko Yamauchi’s novel of the same name, it follows two women with different lives who live in Tokyo.
Synopsis: Hanako Haibara (Mugi Kadowaki) is in her late twenties and is from a well-to-do background (perhaps cloistered) in Tokyo and is looking for a man to marry. After getting dumped by her boyfriend Koichiro (Kengo Kora), she hits the dating scene but she questions her path in life. Meanwhile, Miki Tokioka (Kiko Mizuhara) is from a less affluent background having come from Toyama prefecture but studied and worked hard to get to into a prestigious university and, after tough times where she questioned the meaning of everything, she now works at an IT company but is also uncertain about life. These two different women are brought together by Koichiro.
サマーフィルムにのって 「Sam- Firumu ni notte」
Release Date: August 06th, 2021
Duration: 97 mins.
Director: Soushi Matsumoto
Writer: Naoyuki Miura, Soushi Matsumoto (Script),
Starring: Marika Ito, Daichi Kaneko, Yumi Kawai, Kirara Inori, Shunya Itabashi, Mahiro Koda,
ALSO AVAILABLE ONLINE
Naoyuki Miura, of the theatre troupe Lolo, and director Soushi Matsumoto made a science-fiction coming-of-age film about three high school girls obsessed with Japanese period drama and a mysterious boy who may be from another time period. This project re-teams Matsumoto with lead actress Marika Ito, a former member of Nogizaka46, after they worked on the Tokyo MX drama ガールはフレンド. It played at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and has since toured at a variety of international fests.
Synopsis: High school student Hadashi (Marika Ito) loves historical films, but the film club she belongs to only makes only glittering youth films. She is desperate to make a period drama but it seems unlikely until a mysterious boy named Rintaro appears out of nowhere. He is perfect for the role of a samurai and it feels like destiny that they meet so a newly inspired Hadashi gathers unique schoolmates to start making a movie for the school festival. However, what none of the crew knows is that Rintaro has travelled back in time from the future…
Release Date: December 13th, 2019
Duration: 129 mins.
Director: Masayuki Suo
Writer: Shozo Katashima (Screenplay)
Starring: Ryo Narita, Yuina Kuroshima, Masatoshi Nagase, Kengo Kora, Mao Inoue, Naoto Takenaka, Eri Watanabe, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yutaka Takennouchi, Shoji Masui, Motoi Sasaki, Takao Tsuchimoto, Kazuhito Amano,
Synopsis: It is the era of the silent movies and benshi (narrators who appear live in the cinema) are in demand. Shuntaro lives in a small town and he has had dreams of becoming a benshi ever since he was a child and his dreams are about to come true just as (it gets better) he is also reunited with his first love. He is, however, tasked with pleasing tough crowds as well as doing the chores and he also gets involved in a police case where they are tracking thieves and political activists…
The Great Yokai War: Guardians
妖怪大戦争 ガーディアンズ 「Youkai Dai-sensou Ga-dianzu」
Release Date: August 13th 2021
Duration: 118 mins.
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Yusuke Watanabe (Script),
Starring: Kokoro Terada, Hana Sugisaki, Takao Osawa, Nao Omori, Yuko Oshima, Kenichi Endo, Sumire, Akira Emoto, Sakura Ando, Kazuki Kitamura, Nanako Matsushima, Rei Inomata,
Takashi Miike follows his 2005 yokai movie, The Great Yokai War which starred Ryunosuke Kamiki, with this one. Kamiki makes an appearance as the main character’s home room teacher.
Synopsis: Kei Watanabe (Kokoro Terada) looks like your normal kid but he has the blood of legendary samurai and yokai hunter Watanabe no Tsuna running in his veins and that is why he is recruited by yokai to save the world from Yokaiju, a mass of spirits that have transformed into a destructive force of nature that is on its way to Tokyo where it threatens to break a spiritual barrier that staves off the revival of a nameless evil.
Labyrinth of Cinema＝海辺の映画館 キネマの玉手箱「Labyrinth of Cinema = umibe no eigakan kinema no tamatebako」
Release Date: July 31st, 2020
Duration: 179 mins.
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi (Screenplay),
Starring: Takuro Atsuki, Takahito Hosoyamada, Yoshihiko Hosoda,
Nobuhiko Obayashi recently passed away but his films are still on the festival circuit and Japan Society recently had a season of them. Labyrinth of Cinema is an anti-war film that mixes in a love of cinema, a subject mix which Obayashi relished with so many of his projects. It is non-stop mayhem that is so loveable it earns its long duration.
Synopsis: Three young people at a soon-to-be-shuttered cinema are enjoying the final screening: a marathon of old war films. The three become so immersed in the action that they find themselves time-slipping through the screen to various historical events depicted in the films. These are moments of war such as witnessing death during the Sengoku period, being on a battlefront in China, and being in Hiroshima just before the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city.
騙し絵の牙「Damashi-e no kiba」
Release Date: March 26th, 2021
Duration: 113 mins.
Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Writer: Ichiro Kusuno (Script), Takeshi Shiota (Original Novel)
Starring: Yo Oizumi, Shinya Tsukamoto, Shiro Sano, Takumi Saitoh, Mayu Matsuoka, Elaiza Ikeda, Jun Kunimura,
This film is based on a novel by Takeshi Shiota. The author wrote his work with actor Yo Oizumi in mind as the lead – his easy-going personality and smooth talk giving off a lovable vibe while he secretly has “fangs.” The novel became a best seller and now a movie has been made.
Synopsis: Like many other companies in the publishing industry, Kunpusya Inc. is suffering from the recession and sales are down across books and magazines. More misfortune follows with the death of the CEO. A power struggle arises over who will take his place with executive manager, Tomatsu (Koichi Sato) trying to overhaul the company. He tasks an editor of a struggling magazine with reviving their fortunes, This editor is Hayami (Yo Oizumi), and he is a smooth talker. Hayami, together with rookie editor Takano (Mayu Matsuoka), go out to recruit new writing talent from rival publications for their magazine but lies and betrayal litter the way.
The Pass: Last Days of the Samurai
峠 最後のサムライ 「Touge Saigo no Samurai」
Release Date: 2022
Duration: 114 mins.
Director: Takashi Koizumi
Writer: Takashi Koizumi (Script), Ryotaro Shiba (Original Novel)
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Takako Matsu, Tatsuya Nakadai, Min Tanaka, Kyoko Yoshine, Kento Nagayama,
This is a historical epic based on a popular novel. It has been adapted for the screen by Takashi Koizumi, an experienced director who might be most famous for After the Rain (2000). He was an assistant director to Akira Kurosawa on numerous films, including Ran and Kagemusha.
Synopsis: It is 1867 and the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate has finally come to an end after 260 years as the Emperor is returned to power. Change does not come so easily and a civil war erupts between imperial loyalists in the west of Japan and supporters of the Shogun who still cling on to the old ways. In 1868, the battle of Toba-Fushimi starts the Boshin War. Caught in the middle is Tsuginosuke Kawai (Koji Yakusho), the chief retainer of the Nagaoka domain in Echigo. He tries to remain neutral to protect his clan but when peace negotiations fail, Kawai decides to face the end of the samurai era with dignity…
スパイの妻「Supai no tsuma」
Release Date: October 16th, 2020
Duration: 115 mins.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tadashi Nohara (Script),
Starring: Yu Aoi, Masahiro Higashide, Hyunri, Issey Takahashi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Takashi Sasano, Chuck Johnson, Ryota Bando, Minosuke
ALSO AVAILABLE ONLINE
This is the theatrical cut of the NHK drama of the same name which aired on June 06th, 2020. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and scripted by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) and Tadashi Nohara, the film is a period piece that reunites the central couple of Romance Doll Yu Aoi (Hana and Alice) and Issey Takahashi (Shin Godzilla). This is the second time that Yu Aoi has worked with Kurosawa, following Penance and it is the second time for Masahiro Higashide following Creepy.
To differentiate it from the television version, the movie version has a new screen size and colour tone.
Kurosawa won the Silver Lion – Award for Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival for this film.
Synopsis: Japan in the 1940s is very dangerous if you have an opinion that dissents from the wartime rhetoric of the government. As the nation gears up for the Pacific War, a businessman from Kobe named Yusaku (Issey Takahashi) risks everything when he tries to tell the world of a barbaric act he witnessed while on a business trip to Manchuria. In exercising his right to speak out, he is accused of being a traitor. His wife Satoko (Yu Aoi) swears to stand by her beloved husband whatever the cost. This is her story. The story of Satoko as the wife of a spy.
きまじめ楽隊のぼんやり戦争 「Kimajime gakutai no bon’yari sensou」
Release Date: March 26th, 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 at the 2013 edition of the Vancouver IFF. It appears this was produced under the auspices of NDJC and it played at last year’s Tokyo FIMeX.
Synopsis: In a fictional town where conflict with the neighbouring town across the river is ingrained in everyday life, people know that 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.
Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions
二重のまち 交代地のうたを編む 「Nijuu no machi koutai-chi no uta o amu」
Release Date: February 27th, 2021
Duration: 79 mins.
Director: Haruka Komori, Natsumi Sao,
Starring: Haruka Furuta, Haruka Sakai, Leon Yonekawa, Aoshi Miura,
Synopsis: A documentary born from a project by the art unit “Haruka Komori + Natsumi Seo” who started volunteer activities after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The focus is on four young travellers who visited Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture in 2018. They came from a place far away from the earthquake both spatially and temporally, and they put themselves in the landscape and listened to people’s voices and repeated dialogues. The painter and writer Natsumi Seo and the videographer Haruka Komori show four people who participated in the Rikuzentakata workshop for the first time, bridging the past, present, and future of the land through their own words and bodies.
Release Date: November 01st, 2019
Duration: 96 mins.
Director: Taketoshi Sado
Starring: Haruomi Hosono, Van Dyke Parks, Keigo Oyamada, Yukihiro Takahashi,
Synopsis: A documentary about Haruomi Hosono, famous for his solo work, his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra and the music he composed for Cannes Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters. The footage spans his career from his early days to his recent first overseas performances in London, New York and Los Angeles. In London, he was joined by Yukihiro Takahashi, and when Ryuichi Sakamoto made a surprise appearance onstage, the YMO members were reunited for the first time in five years, a must-see spectacle captured on film.
Release Date: N/A
Duration: 84 mins.
Director: Ian Thomas Ash
Synopsis: Using a hidden camera, award-winning filmmaker Thomas Ash interviewed inmates at the Ushiku immigration centre from late 2019 and exposes Japan’s uncompromising refugee policy which leads to human rights abuses.
Why You Can’t Be Prime Minister
なぜ君は総理大臣になれないのか 「Naze kimi wa soridaijin ni narenainoka」
Release Date: June 13th, 2020
Duration: 119 mins.
Director: Arata Oshima
Starring: Junya Ogawa
Arata Oshima is the son of Nagisa Oshima. He has made documentaries like The Sion Sono (2016) and produced Ramen Heads and I Go Gaga, My Dear (both 2018). This is his latest work. A review is up on the Japan Times website.
Synopsis: Arata Oshima joins Junya Ogawa on a 17-year-long journey through Japan’s political landscape. Quitting his job as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2003, Junya made repeated attempts to join the House of Representatives and succeeded in 2009 but he finds that his drive to become Prime Minister, his ideals and his talents and support from his family amount to nothing when the political world of Japan is run by wily deal-makers who do party horse trading.
This section also features Wife of a Spy and It’s a Summer Film!
ある職場 「Aru shokuba」
Release Date: October 16th, 2020
Duration: 135 mins.
Director: Atsushi Funahashi
Writer: Atsushi Funahashi (Screenplay)
Starring: Saki Hirai, Megumi Ito, Takafumi Yamanaka, Mikoto Yoshikawa, Azusa Nakazawa, Yoshio Taguchi,
Atsushi Funahashi, an Osaka-born director who studied filmmaking in Tokyo and New York, has made documentaries and dramas like Cold Bloom which are based on 3/11 as well as road movies set in the US. He recently made Lovers on Borders, which was the first international co-production between Japan and Portugal.
Tokyo International Film Festival Report
Described as a docu-fiction, the story looks at the effects of sexual harassment on everyone, from victim and perpetrator to the people around them. It comes from an actual incident where a hotel receptionist was harassed by her boss. Director Funahashi tried to make a documentary but none involved wanted to go in front of the camera. Thus, he made this film based on real events.
Synopsis from the website: In 2018, Saki, a receptionist at a high-profile hotel chain was harassed by her superior. This speculative film is based on actual events and imagines how Saki and her coworkers may have aired out their frustration and resentment off the clock. Desperate for a break from the social media backlash, they travel to an idyllic company retreat by the sea. But the group dynamics quickly devolve into mistrust and animosity, compromising any camaraderie they may have had. The retreat is a place that beckons them back, drawing out their darkest feelings, like an old haunted house.
Ranked 121st in the world for gender equality, Japan is behind on the #MeToo movement; workplace sexual harassment is still rampant in all echelons of society. A recent Japanese government survey found that the majority of labor disputes involved either sexual or power harassment, with 82,797 cases reported in a single year. Yet 45% of victims kept silent and chose not to take any action.
Release Date: June 25th, 2021
Duration: 92 mins.
Director: Satoko Yokohama
Writer: Satoko Yokohama (Script), Osamu Koshigaya (Original Novel)
Starring: Ren Komai, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mei Kurokawa, Yoko Nishikawa, Mayuu Yokota, Ayumu Nakajima, Daimaou Kosaka, Shohei Uno,
Winner of the Grand Prix and Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, Ito is the first solo feature film from director Satoko Yokohama since her 2015 drama The Actor. Her cinematic return is set in Aomori Prefecture, the birthplace of Yokohama and also of the film’s lead actress Ren Komai.
I saw this as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival earlier this year. I found it a charming film. You can read my review here and my interview with the director, Satoko Yokohama, here.
Synopsis: High schooler Ito Soma (Ren Komai) is a gangly girl who hails from Itayanagi, a small town outside Hirosaki city. She has a timid nature and a thick Tsugaru accent which makes her sound a bit like a hick. However, far from being a hayseed, Ito is very knowledgeable about her local culture and dialect and she can also play the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument that is particularly popular in Aomori. This skill is something she picked up from her grandmother (Yoko Nishikawa) and a massive part of the few memories she holds of her late mother, a talented shamisen player in her own right. Alas, Ito refuses to practice and stays silent due to her embarrassment over her country roots and also her melancholy over never having known her mother. However, it is through fully embracing these factors that Ito can eventually unlock her ability to express herself. What puts the girl on the path of self-acceptance and self-expression is an unlikely job at a maid café in Hirosaki City.
The Goldfish: Dreaming of the Sea
海辺の金魚 「Umibe no Kingyo」
Release Date: June 25th 2021
Duration: 76 mins.
Director: Sara Ogawa
Writer: Sara Ogawa (Script)
Starring: Miyu Ogawa, Runa Hanada, Tateto Serizawa, Nayuta Fukuzaki, Kinuo Yamada,
Synopsis: 18-year-old Hana (Miyu Ogawa) is on the verge of leaving the foster home she has lived in ever since she was taken from her mother. As the oldest there, she helps take care of newcomers and this includes an 8-year-old girl named Harumi (Runa Hanada) who is deeply introverted and prickly. The two gradually bond and open up to each other as they see their similarities and they share the secret scars they hold inside…
カム・アンド・ゴー 「Kamu ando Go-」
Release Date: 2021
Duration: 158 mins.
Director: Lim Kah Wai
Writer: Lim Kah Wai (Script),
Starring: Lee Kang-sheng, Manami Usamaru, Seiji Chihara, Makiko Watanabe, Lien Binh Phat, David Siu, Nang Tracy, Katsura Jakujaku, Shogen, JC Chee, Orson Mochizuki,
An ensemble drama depicting scenes of Asians surviving in Osaka, directed by Malaysian director Lim Kah-wai.
Synopsis: A group of Korean women are rushed to entertain Chinese businessmen demanding time with Japanese AV actresses. A Japanese woman from the countryside who is new in town who falls into the hostess industry. A Nepalese youth who has a big dream and a Japanese-language teacher who loves him. A lonely Taiwanese AV fan seeking his favourite actress. A movie director from Okinawa who is in debt to yakuza. A Japanese-American mixed up with criminals. Their lives intersect in Osaka.
脳天パラダイス 「Noten Paradaisu」
Release Date: November 20th, 2020
Duration: 97 mins.
Director: Masashi Yamamoto
Writer: Suzuyuki Kaneko, Masashi Yamamoto (Script),
Starring: Kaho Minami, Seiko Ito, Soran Tamoto, Mayu Ozawa, Kentaro Okochi, Akira Emoto, Jun Murakami, Hyunri, Arata Furuta,
Synopsis: Due to his bankruptcy, Shuji Sasaya (Seiko Ito) and his family are facing having to give up their large mansion on the outskirts of Tokyo. This throws the family into a spin. His daughter, Akane (Mayu Ozawa), writes on Twitter, “Let’s have a party today at my place. Anyone can come!!” In the blink of an eye, a mob of people descend on the place including Shuji’s ex-wife Akiko (Kaho Minami), a gay couple looking for a wedding venue, elementary school students who want to rent a shower, two men cultivating suspicious plants on the premises of the Sasayas, and others who want to have a wedding, a funeral and even a festival at the mansion. Obviously, chaos ensues…
4人のあいだで 「4-Ri no Aida de」
Release Date: April 23rd, 2021
Duration: 40 mins.
Director: Mayu Nakamura
Writer: Mayu Nakamura (Screenplay)
Starring: Fusako Urabe, Nahana, Kota Kusano,
Interview with the director coming soon!
Synopsis from the Osaka Asian Film Festival: The film shows us the night-time meeting of Koji (KUSANO Kota), Fusae (URABE Fusako), and Nanae (Nahana), three former friends who belonged to the same drama club in college. They fell out of contact and drifted along in the 20 years since then but, spiked by a feeling of loneliness brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, they get in contact again after Tokyo’s state of emergency has been lifted. Cracking open beers, the catch-ups and confessions soon come pouring out as they relate how their lives have gone but the presence of a fourth person named Sayoko looms heavily on the four. Even though she isn’t there, her presence is felt by the infatuation others still hold over her and how it has influenced their lives…
Release Date: February 21st, 2020
Duration: 30 mins.
Director: Yoko Yamanaka
Writer: Yoko Yamanaka (Script),
Starring: Mahiro Nemoto, Ryo Togawa, Kinuyo Yamada, Shinsuke Kato, Saho Ito,
Yoko Yamanaka made the wonderful teenage comedy Amiko which won big prizes at the Pia Film Festival and was at Berlinale and Japan Cuts after its release. She brings a drama led by children for her NDJC short.
Synopsis: A fourth grader named Midori finds life difficult as her father often goes abroad for work and her mother is lonely. Midori makes a connection with a boy in similar circumstances whose sister is going through a rebellious phase. Both kids hope their worlds get better.
全員切腹 「Zen’in Seppuku」
Release Date: August 14th 2021
Duration: 26 mins.
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda
Writer: Toshiaki Toyoda (Script),
Starring: Yosuke Kubozuka, Kiyhiko Shibukawa, Haruka Imou, Ryoichi Yuki, Hiroaki Sakata (Seppuku Pistols),
Synopsis from Japan Cuts/IMDB: Completing Toshiaki Toyoda’s politically urgent Resurrection Trilogy following Wolf’s Calling (2019) and The Day of Destruction (2020), this electrifying short takes place in the early Meiji period and follows a man (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) tasked with assisting in the ritual suicide of a samurai (Yosuke Kubozuka) who won’t die without condemning the corrupt powers that be.
こちら放送室よりトム少佐へ「Kochira hoso-shitsu yori Tomu shosa e」
Release Date: N/A
Duration: 11 mins.
Director: Takuya Chisaka
Writer: Takuya Chisaka (Script),
Starring: Tokuma Kudo, Chika Arakawa
This work was produced as a third-year college training assignment and shot on 16mm film.
Synopsis: It is the summer of 1989 and a lonely broadcaster boy and a girl attending night school make a relay radio drama together through a cassette tape.
Other shorts include:
Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration)
ヒルコ 妖怪ハンター 「Hiruko Youkai Hanta-」
Release Date: 1991
Duration: 90 mins.
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Script), Daijiro Morohoshi, Koji Tsutsumi, (Original Manga)
Starring: Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudou, Naoto Takenaka, Ken Mitsuishi, Kimiko Yo, Hideo Murota, Megumi Ueno,
Following on from his debut, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Shinya Tsukamoto made a live-action adaptation of Daijiro Morohoshi manga, Hiruko the Goblin Hunter. On the 30th anniversary of its release, it gets a remaster and re-release and it was featured at the Cannes Film Festival.
Synopsis: Reijiro Hieda is an archaeology professor who has been discredited due to his wild theories. They don’t seem so wild after his brother-in-law Yabe, a junior high school teacher, tells of his discovery of an ancient tomb that was built to appease evil spirits but when Hieda goes to investigate he discovers that Yabe has mysteriously disappeared along with one of his students, Reiko Tsukishima. Yabe’s son Masao has been searching for them and teams up with Hieda which is when they encounter Hiruko, the goblin…
ロビンソンの庭 「Robinson no Niwa」
Release Date: 1987
Duration: 119 mins.
Director: Masashi Yamamoto
Writer: Masashi Yamamoto, Mikio Yamazaki (Screenplay),
Starring: Kumiko Ohta, Kou Machida, Tuko Ueno, Cheebo, Oto, Kanji Okumura, Sakevi Yokoyama, Ryoji Nomura, Marino Chiku,
Synopsis: This 1987 film follows an outsider named Kumi (Kumiko Ota) who lives in a dormitory with a bohemian bunch of punk rockers and artists. When she discovers a patch of land and with an abandoned factory surrounded by flourishing flora, she moves there and begins to tend to the place in an effort to create paradise but things don’t end well…
夢みるように眠りたい 「Yumemiru you ni nemuritai」
Release Date: May 18th, 1986
Duration: 84 mins.
Director: Kaizo Hayashi
Writer: Kaizo Hayashi (Script),
Starring: Shiro Sano, Moe Kamura, Morio Agata, Kenji Endo, Fujiko Fukamizu, Baiken Jukkanji, Kyoko Kusajima, Kazunari Ozawa,
Kaizo Hayashi, who is best known for his neo-noir Maiku Hama trilogy, The Most Terrible Time in My Life (1994), Stairway to the Distant Past (1995) and The Trap (1996), also made the recently released Fukushima-inspired BOLT. To Sleep so as to Dream is his debut movie.
Synopsis: It is the Showa period and a private eye named Jin Uozuka (Shiro Sano) is hired to track down the missing daughter of an aging silent film actress named Sakura Tsukishima. Sakura was a big star and worked with pioneering director Norimasa Kaeriyama in the Taisho period but some of those films were lost. Jin and his wacky assistant uncover a kidnapping plot that blends reality with the fantasy world of films…
Release Date: N/A
Duration: 77 mins.
Director: Kosuke Nakai
Writer: Kosuke Nakai (Script),
Starring: Karen, Moshin Nakazawa, Kazane Nishimura, Honoka Kiba, Hitomichan, Taro Sanami, Ai Yonekura,
Synopsis from Osaka Asian Film Festival:
In the world of the film, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were cancelled due to corruption by the minister in charge and there has been an attempted spraying of poisonous gas by a new religion. In the shadow of these two incidents, the murder of a convenience store owner has drawn a limited response from police and press but a suspect in the killing has been found: high school girl Sanagi (Karen), a loner who had an exchange with the victim’s young son Shiro (NAKAZAWA Koshin). The axis of the film is her questioning by a psychiatrist and a detective but it won’t be easy since she is suffering from multiple personality disorder and her personalities each emerge at random to recollect what happened from their respective perspectives.
“B/B” is an absolutely fun experience that is bold in its super-stylised visuals and acting, all riffing on cult anime and live action shows, whilst also packed with a million references to all sorts of pop-culture ephemera. Behind this dazzling facade, a really dark story is smuggled in that will leave viewers stunned.
愛のくだらない 「Ai no Kudaranai」
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Duration: 95 mins.
Director: Kozue Nomoto
Writer: Takashi Koizumi (Script),
Starring: Maki Fujiwara, Yukino Murakami, Akiyoshi Okayasu, Sayaka Hashimoto, Takuma Nagao, Miyu Teshima,
Synopsis: TV producer Kei (Maki Fujiwara) is at her wit’s end. At home she has a lazy boyfriend, a recently retired comedian named Yoshi (Akiyoshi Okayasu) who is more eager to conceive their first child than focus on his part-time job. At work, Kei has to deal with shepherd a complex but an innovative web series guest hosted by a rotating set of everyday people, including Shiori (Yukino Murakami), a young trans man working for her office’s delivery service and moonlighting as a bartender at an LGBTQ-inclusive space. As Kei pushes forward, she reaches a breaking point.
スパゲティコード・ラブ 「Supageti Ko-do Rabu」
Release Date: 2021
Duration: 96 mins.
Director: Takeshi Maruyama
Writer: Naomi Hiruta (Script),
Starring: Yuki Kura, Toko Miura, Hiroya Shimizu, Rikako Yagi, Furuhata Nino, Yuzu Aoki,
This is the debut feature film of Takeshi Maruyama, director of MONDO GROSSO’s one-shot music video “Labyrinth.” The “Spaghetti Code” in the title of the film comes from programming slang for code that is difficult to understand and extend so it becomes impossible for other programmers to collaborate on the project (source).
Synopsis adapted from Japan Cuts: 13 young people living in Tokyo find themselves connected by chance or circumstance as they search for love in an environment full of pressure and heartaches. Among them are a singer-songwriter who has given up on her dreams and now spends time lazing around with friends, a delivery worker aiming to make 1000 deliveries in order to kill his feelings for his favourite idol, an escort who can’t seem to find love, a high school couple pondering suicide, a photographer desperate to make it big and a part-time worker hopelessly attached to a married man—each struggling to overcome their limitations, each intertwined by the same desire for love, understanding and connection.
佐々木、イン、マイマイン 「Sasaki, In, Mai Main」
Release Date: November 27th, 2020
Duration: 118 mins.
Director: Takuya Uchiyama
Writer: Takuya Uchiyama, Gaku Hosokawa (Script),
Starring: Kisetsu Fujiwara, Gaku Hosokawa, Minori Hagiwara, Sakurako Konishi, Yusako Mori, Yuya Shintaro,
Synopsis: Yuji is trying to make it as an actor in Tokyo. Despite living with his girlfriend, he finds that it’s hard to make ends meet. When he reunites with his high school classmate Tada he beings to recall their high school days with Sasaki, who was a hero when he was in school. Yuji then begins work on a stage play and it seems to have connections to his past and present. Then, out of the blue, Yuji receives a phone call from Sasaki…
夏、至るころ 「Natsu, Itaru Koro」
Release Date: December 04th, 2020
Duration: 105 mins.
Director: Elaiza Ikeda
Writer: Yuko Shimoda (Script), Takehiko Hata (Original Novel)
Starring: Yuki Kura, Roi Ishiuchi, Nari Saito, Kengo Kora, Hideko Hara, Kiki Sugino, Kenichi Abe, Lily Franky,
Elaiza Ikeda is probably best known as a model and actress (she who was brilliant in The Virgin Psychics!) but she has added another string to her bow and become a director with this film. It played at the Jeonju International Film Festival.
Synopsis: Sho and Taiga are two teens living in Fukuoka. Friends since childhood, they are about to hit adulthood as they reach the end of high school. One thing they do as a duo is to beat the taiko drums at town festivals, however, Taiga announces that he won’t play any drums this year because he wants to prepare to go to college. Meanwhile, Sho has no plan of his future and cannot think straight. They meet a mysterious girl named Miyako…
彼女来来 「Kanojo Rairai」
Release Date: June 18th 2021
Duration: 91 mins.
Director: Tatsuya Yamanishi
Writer: Tatsuya Yamanishi (Script),
Starring: Kou Maehara, Hana Amano, Nao, Hirona Murata, Asuka Hamaru,
This was the winner of the runner-up prize at MOOSIC LAB [JOINT] 2020-2021. The music is provided by Rei Miyamoto, violinist in the popular Kansai band “Vampillia.”
Synopsis: Thirty-year-old Norio works for a casting company and lives with his girlfriend Mari. One summer day, Norio returns home to find that Mari has turned into a strange young woman who tells him that she will be living in his home from now on…
Some films appear to be available for international audiences:
June 4, 2020, B/B, Go Seppuku Yourselves, Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration), Sasaki in My Mind, School Radio to Major Tom.
In-person screenings: Tickets are $15/$10 members. Additional discounts
available. Online screenings: All-Access Passes are $69, but there is limited availability. Individual film rentals go on sale August 20 at 11:00 am ET. Individual rentals range from $1–$10 with discounted bundle offers available. Members receive a 20% discount on all online rentals via promo code.
Past Festival Coverage: