Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2021

Vancouver International Film Festival 2013 Logo

The Vancouver International Film Festival 2021 (VIFF) runs from October 01st to October 11th and there are five feature films which will be screened in cinemas.

Here’s the round-up of Japanese films.

Drive My Car   Drive My Car Film Poster

ドライブ・マイ・カー Doraibu Mai Ka-

Release Date: August 20th 2021

Duration: 179 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Ooe (Script), Haruki Murakami (Original Novel)

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima,

Website IMDB

Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) returns to Cannes following his 2018 film Asako I & II with an adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story Drive My Car (from his collection of short stories Men Without Women). Earlier this year, Hamaguchi won the Silver Bear Award at Berlinale with Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.

The lead actor is Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live) who is paired with Reika Kirishima (Permanent NobaraNorwegian Wood) as a husband and wife separated by death and a secret.

Synopsis: Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a stage actor and a stage director who is happily married to his playwright wife Fukaku (Reika Kirishima). Two years later, Yusuke lives with a sense of loss and the vague knowledge that she had a secret, When he takes a directing gig at a theatre festival in Hiroshima, he drives down in his beloved Saab where he meets Misaki (Toko Miura) who has been assigned as his exclusive chauffeur. She’s a taciturn person but while Yusuke spends time with her, he becomes aware of things which he had turned a blind eye to until then…

Fortune Favours Lady Nikuko   Gyokou no Nikuko-chan Film Poster

漁港の肉子ちゃん Gyoko no Nikuko-chan

Release Date: June 11th 2021

Duration: 97 mins.

Director: Ayumu Watanabe

Writer: Satomi Ooshima (Script), Kanako Nishi (Original Creator)

Starring: Shinobu Otake (Nikuko), Cocomi (Kikuko), Hiro Shimono (Gecko/Lizard), Ikuji Nakamura (Sassan), Izumi Ishii (Maria), Matsuko Deluxe (Darcia), Natsuki Hanae (Ninomiya), Riho Yoshioka (Miu),

Animation Production: Studio 4°C

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: Living in a fishing port, the gourmand and brainy Nikuko-chan is compassionate, loves to fall in love, and is easily deceived by men. Her 11-year-old daughter Kikuko, who is cool and firm, is a little embarrassed by her mother. Eventually, the secret between mother and daughter is revealed, and the best miracle comes to them. 

Wife of a Spy   

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),

Wife of a Spy Film Poster 2

Starring: Yu Aoi, Masahiro Higashide, Hyunri, Issey Takahashi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Takashi Sasano, Chuck Johnson, Ryota Bando, Minosuke

Website IMDB

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.

Spaghetti Code Love     

スパゲティコード・ラブ SupagetKo-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,

Website IMDB

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. 

Ayukawa – The Weight of a Life

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 92 mins.

Director: Tu Neill, Jim Speers

Writer: Tu Neill, Jim Speers, Kentaro Yamada (Script), 

Starring: N/A


Synopsis: A documentary about a seaside town built on the whaling industry. It captures the experiences and attitudes of locals who relay their histories and culture, all of which is vanishing as people leave for elsewhere as regulation of the whaling industry and international condemnation have an impact.


Here’s my coverage of Vancouver from previous years:

Vancouver 2020

Vancouver 2019

Vancouver 2018

Vancouver 2017

Vancouver 2016

Vancouver 2015

Vancouver 2014

Vancouver 2013

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