Stream Contemporary Japanese Film with the Chicago Japan Film Collective (May 21st to 30th 2022)

Chicago Japan Film Collective is a Japanese film festival in America’s Midwest which was created with the express aim of introducing work created by women, the LGBTQ community and indie filmmakers to local audiences. This year’s run will last from May 21 to the 30, they will stream/screen 14 films that centre on the theme of love.

2022CJFC_Poster

The films are a mixture of dramas and documentaries, many of them highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. The majority are streamable but there are three films that are going to be screened in cinemas. You can read some of my reviews and interviews with two of the directors via links below. There are also a lot of newer films and they look exciting!

What has been selected for the festival?

In-Theatre Screenings

Japanese Style    Japanese Style Film Poster

ジャパニーズ スタイル Japani-zu Sutairu

Release Date: September 2022

Duration: 74 mins.

Director: Hidenobu Abera

Writer: Hidenobu Abera, Rei Tsuruga (Script) 

Starring: Kaito Yoshimura, Rina Takeda, Takahiro Miura, Nanami Hidaka, Ryo Sato,

Website

Synopsis: On New Year’s Eve, a man trying to complete a huge painting and a woman with a special skill to do with paper have a chance encounter at an airport and decide to share a tuk-tuk, a Thai three-wheeled cab, on a journey through Yokohama. As the two travel together, the more their attraction grows and their secrets are revealed!

Truth: 1 Night, 1 Room, 3 Baddest Bitches   Truth 1 Night 1 Room 3 Baddest Bitches Film Poster

truth 姦しき弔いの果て  truth kashimashiki tomurai no hate

Release Date: January 07th, 2022

Duration: 71 mins.

Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Writer: Uiko Miura (Script), Yukihiko Tsutsumi (Original Story),

Starring: Ayano Fukumiya, Tomomi Kono, Kotoha Hiroyama, Jiro Sato,

Website IMDB

This film was planned by three actresses looking to overcome a lack of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using subsidies from the Agency for Cultural Affairs dedicated to keeping the arts going, the women had a budget of 7 million yen and the help of some industry vets to make this, including Yukihiko Tsutsumi who chose this to be the 50th film he has made. You can read more in an Asahi Shimbun article.

Synopsis: Three women, all of whom shared the same lover (Jiro Sato), discover the existence of each other on the night of his funeral as they all descend upon his studio to mourn. They couldn’t be more different from each other, one being a delinquent-turned single mother (Fukumiya), another being a mysterious celebrity doctor (Kono) and the last being a beautiful but vain receptionist (Hiroyama). Each is convinced that their lover loved them the most and so, due to their pride, the three women engage in a battle of wits to prove it.

The Seppuku Pistols    The Seppuku Pistols Film Poster

切腹ピストルズ Seppuku Pisutoruzu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Yo Umezaki

Writer: N/A

Starring: The Seppuku Pistols

The Seppuku Pistols get their own documentary and both the director and the group will be in Chicago at the film screening!

Synopsis: The Seppuku Pistols are a punk rock group that use taiko drums and channel the traditions of Japan’s Edo era. Although operating for two decades, they made a major introduction with film fans thanks to their work with Toshiaki Toyoda. This documentary is a road movie that follows the group throughout Japan and over to New York City as they do pop-up performances.


Virtual Screenings (US Only)

Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan    Ainu The Indigenous People of Japan Film Poster

Ainu ひとAinu hito

Release Date: June 06th, 2019 (USA)

Duration: 61 mins.

Director: Naomi Mizoguchi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Reiko Kayano, Kazunobu Kawanano, Sachiko Kibata, Tamotsu Nabesawa, 

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan has been the home of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan for generations. Over the years, the Ainu population has been experiencing a decline with now less than 20,000 indigenous people living in Hokkaido. Much of the culture has been lost due to policies implemented in 1869 which saw mass assimilation and development of native land.

Through the stories of four elders, this documentary sheds light on Ainu traditions, both past and present, and the efforts made to keep Ainu culture alive in Japan.

 

Actress Montage    Actress Montage Film Poster

アクトレス・モンタージュ Akutoresu Monta-ji

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 74 mins.

Director: Monzo Minakuchi

Writer: Naoya Yamauchi (Script) 

Starring: Saki Hanaoka, I wanna be, Yoko Yasumi, Miki Yamazaki, Rika Hoshino,

Synopsis from the Festival Site: Four floundering actresses: an idol seeking answers in drugs and religion; a debutant besieged by casting couch harassment; a housewife trading her dreams in for domesticity; and a dreamer from the countryside falling prey to a predatory industry. What shines through in the lives of these four strangers who never meet each other?

 

Arano      Arano no hate Film Poster

あらののはてArano no hate

Release Date: August 21st, 2021

Duration: 67 mins.

Director: TomofumHasegawa

Writer: TomofumHasegawa (Script), 

Starring: Hitomi Maki, Yusuke Takahashi, Yu Mashima, Harumi Shuhama, Takehiko Fujita, Miki Naruse

Website

Synopsis: When high schooler Fuko poses for her art club classmate Arano early one morning, she didn’t expect that she would faint due to the experience. This caused all sorts of problems as her homeroom teacher who happened upon the scene misread the situation and Arano was expelled from school, thus separating the two. Eight years later, Fuko still remembers that day and finds Arano to ask him to draw a picture of her again.

Before the Rainbow Falls   Before the Rainbow Falls Film Poster

虹が落ちる前に Niji ga Ochiru Mae ni

Release Date: March 19th, 2022

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Koji Uehara

Writer: Koji Uehara (Script),

Starring: Ryunosuke Moriyama, Hitomi Uneda, Daichi Shiraiso, Nobumitsu Suematsu, Touma Kajita, Tatsuya Kon,

Website

Koji Uehara is described as a street icon from Osaka who is supported by many young people, not only for his music but also for his fashion and way of life, from the underground scene to the mainstream. This is his first feature film as a director and it played at the Kanazawa Film Festival.

Synopsis: The protagonist is a weak-willed young man who works at a bar and is the lead singer of an unsuccessful band. What stops him from pushing forward is that he is spoiled by his friends and a loving girlfriend who support him, and so he spends his days taking things for granted. And yet, somehow, the young man could feel that change is necessary. Perhaps it is the dissatisfaction in his heart. When things start to heat up with his band, a member’s involvement with the criminal underworld threatens to bring them down. In this desperate time, the protagonist’s song-writing skills light up…

Howling   Howling Film Poster

遠吠え Toboe

Release Date: April 16th, 2022

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: M Haris Sheikh

Writer: M Haris Sheikh (Screenplay),

Starring: Ichiro Hashimoto, Yukino Takahashi, Ryoma Ikegami, Sanae Kotani, Takahiro Ono,

Website   OAFF

Howling by M Haris Sheikh is a tragicomic neo-noir full of disaffected and marginalised characters who seek a hero as they struggle to find a way out of their bleak lives. With plenty of twists and turns and some fine acting, subverts expectations. I saw it as part of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022 and reviewed it and interviewed M Haris Sheikh.

Synopsis: Ryuji (HASHIMOTO Ichiro) is a 40-year-old and has no status, no money, no women, and, just after we meet him, no job as he gets fired for sexual harassment. He’s convinced that it’s not his fault, he just needs a chance. Well, fate has more twists in store for Ryuji as he receives an invitation to a school reunion and an offer of a date from Akane (TAKAHASHI Yukino), a 20-year-old woman. Alas, neither situation turns out as expected as Akane asks him to kill her father and the reunion reveals that Ryuji’s first love, Chisato (KOTANI Sanae), has got herself hitched to the bully who tormented them both and she is being abused now. In a state of emotional confusion, Ryuji believes that a recently acquired gun will allow him to change his approach to life.

Of course, Ryuji’s in way over his head in this tale of desperate women and dangerous guys, all of whom are examples of people living on the edge of contemporary society. The pluses of the film is seeing everyone collide together in various artfully shot and well-acted scenes that capture forlorn people in a dark, yet sometimes comic world.

 

My House                                                        My House Movie Poster

Release Date: 26th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Writer: Kyohei Sakaguchi (Novel)  

Starring: Takao, Eri Ishida, Itsuji Itao, Tae Kimura

The director, Yukihiko Tsutsumi, has a pretty awesome list of movies to his name including SPEC: The Movie, 2LDK and the 20th Century Boys films. Names I recognise from the cast include Tae Kimura (Starfish HotelInfection, After Life) Itsuji Itao (Ghost TrainTokyo Gore PoliceLove Exposure and the mean teacher who hilariously betrays his students in One Missed Call: Final).

Synopsis: Based on Kyohei Sakaguchi’s novels Tokyo 0 Yen House 0 Yen Life and Sumidagawa no Edison (both 2008) the film is set in Nagoya and follows a Suzumoto and Sumi who live in a park in Nagoya. In contrast, a middle-class family is caught up in pressure and routine. Their stories gradually intertwine until…

 

Osaka Bros   Nebagiba Shinsekai Film Poster

ねばぎば 新世界 Nebagiba Shinsekai

Release Date: July 10th 2021

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Yudai Uenishi

Writer: Yudai Uenishi (Script), 

Starring: Hidekazu Akai, Hitoshi Ozawa, Yudai Uenishi, Narimi Arimori, Yoji Tanaka, Tokuma Nishioka,

Website

Synopsis: Set in Osaka’s Shinsekai ward, the film is an action-drama about a guy named Murakami, a hardcase who used to run a boxing gym and kept the yakuza and other ne’er do wells quiet by beating them up but when one of his boxers was caught selling drugs, he closed it down and retired to work at a friend’s kushikatsu restaurant to live quietly. He is brought back into action when his henchman is released from prison and the two team up to fight a corrupt cult in order to save a young boy being held by them.

Parallel    Parallel Film Poster

Release Date: September 2022

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Daiki Tanaka

Writer: Daiki Tanaka (Script) 

Starring: Momona Naraha, Sojoro Yoshimura, Koyuki Sagasawa, Hitomi-chan, Shusuke Judai,

Due for a release later in the year, I was impressed by the trailer. I want to see the full film, now!

Synopsis: The story unfolds with a coincidental meeting between Mai, a girl carrying a past trauma in her heart, and a murderer, who repeatedly kills in the guise of an anime character. She hides her trauma while he hides his true appearance and yet, in the real world, where the past and the virtual mingle together, the two search for supreme love and pursue each other…

Shinjuku TigerShinjuku Tiger Film Poster

新宿タイガー  Shinjuku Taiga-

Running Time: 83 mins.

Release Date: March 22nd, 2019

Director: Yoshinori Sato

Starring: Shinobu Terajima, Norito Yashima, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Midori Suiren, Noboru Iguchi, Shinji Kubo

Website IMDB

Receiving its world premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) 2019, Shinjuku Tiger details a colourful character in Shinjuku. Here’s my review and here’s an interview I conducted with the director.

Synopsis: Tokyo has many colourful characters who have become internet sensations but the Shinjuku Tiger (a.k.a. Tiger Mask) is one that many international audiences may not have heard of. Tokyoites are more familiar with the chap because he has been a feature of Shinjuku since he found his tiger mask at Kabukicho’s Inari Kiou Shrine in 1972 and decided to wear it every day to bring some joy to the world. Yoshinori Sato follows Tiger as he goes through his daily routines.

 

The Takatsu River   Takatsugawa Film Poster

高津川 Takatsugawa

Release Date: February 11th, 2022

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Yoshinari Nishikori

Writer: Yoshinari Nishikori (Script), 

Starring: Masahiro Komoto, Naho Toda, Ito Ono, Hiromasa Taguchi, Misayo Aoki,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Manabu runs a ranch on a mountain in Shimane prefecture. His hometown is famous for kagura dancing, which is said to be the origin of kabuki, but it is also experiencing depopulation as people leave. This threatens local schools with closure, including Manabu’s old one, and also the kagura tradition which Manabu want his son Tatsuya to take part in, although the teen has other ideas and it looks like he wants to leave Shimane, too. Will the kagura tradition be preserved?

The World of You   The World of You Film Poster

麻希のいる世界 Maki no iru sekai

Release Date: January 29th, 2022

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Akihiko Shiota

Writer: Akihiko Shiota (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuzumi Shintani, Marin Hidaka, Airu Kubozuka, Raiju Kamata, Yuuki Yagi,

Website

Akihiko Shiota, director of Harmful Insect and Farewell Song, brings an original script based on the tried and tested formula of schoolgirls making rock bands. Shiota wrote the script after meeting the two girls on the set of Farewell Song.

Synopsis: High school student Yuki has lost all hope of living due to a chronic disease but a renewal happens after she has a life-changing encounter with Aki, her destructive classmate with a beautiful singing voice and a reputation for hanging out with men. After hearing Aki singing on a beach, she approaches her and they decide to form a band and Yuki’s upbeat attitude revitalises Yuki. Meanwhile, Yusuke, a member of the school music club, secretly has feelings for Yuki and tries to protect her but in the end, he gets involved with the band.

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