Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2021

Following last year’s Covid-19-forced cancellation, the Cannes Film Festival will return as a physical event and run from July 06-17. Although we are still in the middle of a pandemic, screenings will be allowed to operate at full capacity. One safeguard in place is that people present a vaccination certificate or a valid health pass via a PCR test.

Genki Cannes Film Festival Logo

As for the festival and its films, the event features over 63 films from around the world, with Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass getting it’s premiere alongside In Front Of Your Face by Hong Sang-soo and Jane Par Charlotte by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

In the Official Competition section, made up of 24 titles, there is a wealth of talent which will get its world premiere – Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and Leos Carax’s Annette (the opening films of the fest) are early standouts. We have one title from Japan. Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2021”

Japanese Films at the Udine Far East Film Festival 2021 (June 24 – July 02nd)

Following on from last year’s edition which was totally online, the Udine Far East Film Festival takes place at the end of the month and it is a hybrid event with an online portion leading off before the physical portion. The organisers will screen a total of 63 films from 11 countries and territories as well as host workshops, webinars, and other industry events.

The digital portion of the festival will open with explosive Hong Kong action film Shock Wave 2, from veteran director Herman Yau, while the on-site opening film will be the international festival premiere of Zhang Yimou’s Cliff Walkers, a historical espionage thriller.

The information for online screenings is already up and quite a few titles are available for people to stream worldwide. Check this website for more information on the films and this page for more information on how to participate.

I’ve only covered a couple of films prior to this edition – Keep Rolling and Ito, both of which I’d recommend. I’m going to list the Japanese films in this post:

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Udine Far East Film Festival 2021 (June 24 – July 02nd)”

A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Documentaries

This post is an offshoot from the one published earlier this week and it focuses on all of the documentaries that will be screened. Most of these documentaries are restricted to Germany but two are available for many territories worldwide. Check the descriptions.

Nippon Connection Logo

Nippon Docs

The documentary films in this year’s NIPPON DOCS section offer insights into various topics: sports and cults, ways of living and the desperate desire to live free. The film are done with different formal approaches, from experimental narrations, ethnographies, and political diatribes caught on hidden cameras. They interconnect with cautious biographical observations to paint a picture of contemporary Japan. All films in this section are eligible for the NIPPON DOCS AWARD.

Here are details on the features:

Continue reading “A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Documentaries”

A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Nippon Visions

Nippon Connection Logo

The 21st Nippon Connection will take place from June 01st to the 06th and there is a roster of 80 films that will be screened online. On top of that, there will be talk sessions with directors and over 40 interactive workshops, talks, performances, and concerts.

The complete program as well as tickets for all films and events were made available on May 22md on the website NipponConnection.com and the films can be accessed from June 1st on Watch.NipponConnection.com – whether a film can be streamed in your region or not can be discovered via here. One film costs 6€ / £5 and can be viewed within 24 hours of it being started. Some titles will be region-locked while others are available to stream worldwide.

This post covers NIPPON VISIONS. Click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding Nippon Connection page which has details on dates and times.

Continue reading “A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Nippon Visions”

A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Nippon Cinema

Nippon Connection Logo

The 21st Nippon Connection will take place from June 01st to the 06th and there is a roster of 80 films that will be screened online. On top of that, there will be talk sessions with directors and over 40 interactive workshops, talks, performances, and concerts.

The complete program as well as tickets for all films and events were made available on May 22md on the website NipponConnection.com. The films can be accessed from June 1st on Watch.NipponConnection.com. Some titles will be region-locked while others are available to stream worldwide. Whether a film can be streamed in your region or not can be discovered there. One film costs 6€ / £5 and can be viewed within 24 hours of it being started.

This post concentrates on all of the titles playing in the Nippon Cinema section. It follows on from a highlight post which gives an overview of the festival and some of the films I recommend.

Click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding Nippon Connection page which has details on dates and times.

Continue reading “A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Nippon Cinema”

A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021 – Highlights

Nippon Connection Logo

The 21st Nippon Connection will take place from June 01st to the 06th and there is a roster of 80 films that will be screened online. On top of that, there will be talk sessions with directors and over 40 interactive workshops, talks, performances, and concerts.

The complete program as well as tickets for all films and events were made available on May 22nd on the website NipponConnection.com and the films can be accessed from June 1st on Watch.NipponConnection.com – whether a film can be streamed in your region or not can be discovered via here. One film costs 6€ / £5 and can be viewed within 24 hours of it being started. Some titles will be region-locked while others are available to stream worldwide.

This is a highlight post which gives an overview of the festival and some of the films I recommend (basically me plugging reviews).

All of the films are special in some way but there is so much to cover. Here are some highlights. I will provide follow-up articles to cover other sections. Click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding Nippon Connection page which has details on dates and times.

Continue reading “A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021 – Highlights”

Hawaii International Film Festival 2021’s J-Fest Film Program (May 13 -23)

Hawaii International Film Festival’s will launch their first ever J-Fest Film Program. This is a 10-day event that will feature 7-8 new Japanese films and Q&As with the films’ directors as well as a special live panel discussion about the evolution of Japanese music using the films as inspiration. Check each of the film’s pages via the festival site to see who gets a Q&A and how to book tickets.

These are all online screenings. Individual tickets cost $8 and a season pass costs $45. This festival is only available to stream in the US and some films are restricted to certain states.

What are the films that have been programmed?

Continue reading “Hawaii International Film Festival 2021’s J-Fest Film Program (May 13 -23)”

Stream Contemporary Japanese Film with the Chicago Japan Film Collective (May 25th to 31st)

Chicago Japan Film Collective is the first Japanese film festival in Midwest. From May 25 to the 31, they will stream nine films, a mixture of dramas and documentaries, many of them highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike – you can read some of my reviews and interviews with two of the directors via links below!!! – that give you a good insight into what contemporary indie films in Japan look like.

An early-bird ticket is available and costs only $13 until the 15th. I cannot emphasise how much value for money this is considering you get nine high-quality films. Tickets are handled by Eventive and it looks easy to register with. I’m assuming that this is region-locked and probably only available in America.

What plays at the festival?

Continue reading “Stream Contemporary Japanese Film with the Chicago Japan Film Collective (May 25th to 31st)”

An Interview with Satoko Yokohama, Director of “Ito” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

While getting a World Premiere in the Competition section of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 would be a sign of quality for director Satoko Yokohama and her film Ito, her work ended up taking two high-profile accolades at the event as judges awarded it the Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) and viewers selected it for the Audience Award. These wins are richly deserved as Ito laces a youth film and a heartfelt tribute to all-things Aomori around a charming central performance from rising actress Ren Komai (駒井蓮).

In the film, Komai plays Ito Soma, a high school girl who lives with her father (Etsushi Toyokawa – 豊川悦司) and maternal grandmother (Yoko Nishikawa – 西川洋子) in a small town just outside Hirosaki city, Aomori. Ito embodies various aspects of the local culture, from having a thick Tsugaru accent to an innate skill in playing the Tsugaru shamisen, an ability inherited from her late mother.  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. What puts the girl on the path of self-acceptance and self-expression is an unlikely job at a maid café where she meets a coterie of kind people who offer encouragement and get her to embrace her cultural and family heritage on her own terms. You can read my review here

The film is based on a novel by Osamu Koshigaya and while its Japanese title “Itomichi” was shortened to “Ito” for the international version, the story still communicates all of the charms of Aomori. It is the latest project from Satoko Yokohama (横浜聡子), a graduate of the Film School of Tokyo who independently produced her first feature German + Rain (2007) which won the Directors Guild of Japan Newcomer Award. Next came Bare Essence of Life (2009) and The Actor (2015) which have both been screened at international festivals. Both she and lead actress Ren Komai hail from Aomori Prefecture, the setting of the film and audiences will be able to detect their knowledge and closeness really brought out deep details and atmosphere.

Director Yokohama kindly took part in an interview where she talked about adapting the novel, working with Ren Komai to get a moving portrayal of the main character plus an impressive shamisen performance, and what it means to be a filmmaker from Aomori and returning there to shoot a film. 

Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021

This interview was done through the translation skills of Takako Pocklington and the film/festival staff who set everything up.

Continue reading “An Interview with Satoko Yokohama, Director of “Ito” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

An E-mail Interview with Oudai Kojima, Director of JOINT [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

“No idea’s original, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s never what you do, but how it’s done,” Nas from the album Best of Nas

While every country around the world has its organised crime gangs, few hold the level of mystique and infamy that Japan’s Yakuza does. Their style, codes, hierarchies, history, and their full-body tattoos have long been the subject of books, video games, news articles, and films to the point that they have become part of global popular culture. In Japan, many directors have either worked in the genre of used elements of it in their own films. Consequently, unless a director has a strong story, style, or philosophy, films based on the nefarious activities of Japan’s criminal underworld have a have a feel of deadened familiarity. This familiarity was not what I felt when watching JOINT.

JOINT tells the story of a guy trying to get clear of the criminal underworld but getting caught up in a gang war. While its story has many plot points familiar from other films, the realistic way it is shot, the details in the narrative and the performances of its cast created an atmosphere that was unlike many other contemporary Japanese crime films and so it felt different. More importantly, the atmosphere was so strong it made the film gripping and I felt that I was taken into a different world, one better reflective of Japanese criminal gangs operating today. It’s pretty remarkable considering that JOINT is the debut feature of director Oudai Kojima.

Born in Kobe in 1994, Oudai Kojima is a director, cinematographer, and editor who makes music videos, commercials, and, now, fiction films. He was raised in New York from the age of 3 to 13. After returning to Japan he studied architecture at the University of Tokyo. His entry into the film world began by studying under filmmaker Tomokazu Yamada for a year and a half before he began production on JOINT, his debut feature. I saw it when it was played at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021. He kindly took part in an email interview where he answered questions about his background, the work put in to JOINT to create its realistic atmosphere, and how he got such convincing performances from his cast.

My questions were translated into Japanese by Takako Pocklington while director Kojima answered in both English and Japanese.

The Japanese transcript is first and it is followed by English. Click on a link below to be taken to one or the other.

Japanese English

Joint film Poster 2

Continue reading “An E-mail Interview with Oudai Kojima, Director of JOINT [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”