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A Preview of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2017

The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) runs from October 25th – November 03rd in Roppongi and it’s the best event to see films with English subtitles in Japan at this time of the year since nearly all will have them and there will also be English interpretation at Q&A sessions with filmmakers. Another great thing about the festival is that it nearly all takes place in one location which means that getting to venues is easy.

There are a heck of a lot of films programmed and just as many events and it looks as if there are over 300 things for people to attend. Tickets are sold-out or selling-out fast but I wanted to cover this because it has an exciting line-up and Japanese indie cinema and the shorts looks strong. Heck, Japanese cinema in general looks to be in rude health.

There is a lot to get through and it will be difficult for anyone not using a computer with a decent internet connection to view this (apologies) but I wanted to do this in one post because it is impressive. Accuse me of maximalism if you want but I hope people find something to enjoy thanks to reading this. Click on a title to be taken to the festival page. Here’s what’s on offer.

Ojiichan Shinjattatte Film Image

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Close Knit    彼らが本気で編むときは、 (2017) Dir: Naoko Ogigami

Close Knit   karera-ga-honki-de-amu-toki-wa-film-poster

彼らが本気で編むときは、  Karera ga Honki de Amu toki wa   

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Naoko Ogigami

Writer: Naoko Ogigami (Screenplay),

Starring: Rinka Kakihara, Toma Ikuta, Kenta Kiritani, Mimura, Eiko Koike, Mugi Kadowaki, Lily, Kaito Komie, Shuji Kashiwabara, Misako Tanako,

Website   IMDB

Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan’s most commercially successful female directors. She has built up a large audience at home and abroad following her debut feature film Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004) which was a winner at Berlin International Film Festival. She followed that up with Kamome Diner (2006), Glasses (2007), and Rent-a-Cat (2012). Her oeuvre could be described as quirky dramas about outsider characters in unusual circumstances but Close-Knit is a lot more serious as Ogigami looks at LGBTQ issues in Japan, a country that is still conservative in some ways, and she does so through the perspective of a child.

Close Knit Film Image 3

Said child is eleven-year-old Tomo (Rinka Kakihara). When we first meet her she is all alone in an apartment where unwashed dishes are piling up in the sink and onigiri wrappers and cup noodle containers are overflowing from the bin. Indeed, a meagre meal of store-bought onigiri is her only option on the menu as she dines solo. She has a mother named Hiromi (Mimura) but when Tomo does see her it is usually when she comes home late and drunk after a day at the office and, presumably, a night at an izakaya. Hiromi is a single-mother struggling to cope with the role but when she finds herself a man she quits her jobs and takes off for who knows how long and little Tomo is pretty much forgotten about.

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Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama During the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema

There will be a season of films dedicated to the female actors who dazzled as stars during the Golden Age of Japanese cinema at the BFI Southbank from October 16th to November 29th It is called, Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama. Billed as “an opportunity for audiences to explore the cinema of Japan’s ‘Golden Age’, with a distinctly female focus,” there are thirteen films programmed and several of those titles are rarely screened in the UK so this is a good opportunity to get acquainted with them.

The season opens with a double bill of films by Kenji Mizoguchi and that will followed up by a season introduction on October 17th, – Women in Japanese Melodrama – during which experts including Alexander Jacoby and Alejandra Armendáriz will discuss the work of the female stars who dazzled at the heart of mid-century Japanese cinema. Following that will be the rest of the films from directors such as Yasujiro Ozu. Keisuke Kinoshita, Mikio Naruse and others who made powerful female led dramas such as Setsuko Hara, Hideko Takamine and others who are now becoming well-known across the world.

I’ve only seen one of these films so I’m using the synopses from the BFI’s site.

It’s a great line-up! Here is what has been programmed:

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Housen Film Round-Up

I’m writing this the night before I age another year… Back, way back, way way back in the past, when 2014 was about to turn into 2015, I made many New Year’s resolutions. I actually hit every one of my resolutions. Except one:

  • I will investigate the Japanese indie film scene much more,

I didn’t do much in terms of indie films. In fact, reviews of films in general have been dropping to all-time lows. This year, I was gifted the chance to get involved in the Japanese indie film scene when I was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and had access to a whole bunch of indie titles and filmmakers. However, when it came time to network, I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm and just stood in the background with a bemused expression because I was deep in thought (strange for a shallow person like me). I did make a couple of connections after film screenings and one has turned out to be a film-friend of sorts. The really indie stuff, as in the kids still in university or freshly graduated, the people who have ascended from the foothills to the slopes as they scale the mountain of a movie-making career, well, I briefly talked to a few but mostly just watched the films and sat in on a couple of Q&As. This happened at National Museum of Art in a really cool area of the city which I enjoyed walking through every day.

National Museum of Art, Osaka

The venue was pretty cool, the relaxed atmosphere of a small lecture hall in the quiet museum being conducive to thinking about a film without distraction. A decent-sized screen was enough to convey the cinematic visions of a bunch of talented creatives to a dedicated audience who seemed very interested in what they had watched (that was the impression I got from the Q&As where people asked probing questions). As was the case for every film at the festival, every screening had subtitles and the ones I saw were perfect. For my part, I sat back and wrote, laughed, and was entertained and informed by new stories of life in Japan and visions of communities and individuals that were unique. I even asked a question at a Q&A. Also, all of the screenings were totally free. Free films. I mean, what a deal!

I’ve got notes on each film and will be publishing reviews for them individually. This post is a bit like a statement of intent and a contents page. The Osaka Asian Film Festival sort of revitalised me as a film-blogger at a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing except having fun. I have a direction to go in now. I’ve also rediscovered anime with Mind Game, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, and A Silent Voice and with the new Kino no Tabi series out it’s time to get hype!

So what were the indie films I saw? They were part of the Housen strand.

Hosen Cultural Foundation: Support for film study and production

What is Housen? Based in Osaka, the Housen Cultural Foundation supports film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan. This year’s crop of directors came from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Kyoto University and each shot a film that was technically great or near enough. Every film screening with the exception of Icarus and the Son was a world premiere and one of the Housen-backed films – Breathless Lovers – was selected for a screening in the Indie Forum section. Two of the films later made it to festivals like Nippon Connection and Japan Cuts.

Everybody watches a film differently due to their mindset and emotional baggage and I found I got wildly different responses from other people who saw the same thing. Since I’m usually the odd man out, whatever.

Insecurities out of the way, here are a few brief thoughts before I post reviews over the next week.

bright-night-film-image

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Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of the London East Asia Film Festival takes place from October 19th to the 29th. This is the second year of the festival and it features a great selection of films from Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. The Japanese selection features some films fresh from Cannes, Camera Japan, Kotatsu, and other festivals and there are two new titles for me to write about, one live-action film and one anime.

London East Asia Film Festival 2017 Poster

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Japanese Films at the London Film Festival 2017: Naoko Ogigami in Conversation

The London Film Festival is just around the corner and I’ve already got a post about that detailing things such as screenings and A Conversation with Takashi Miike. Here’s something really interesting that has just been announced by the Japan Foundation: Naoko Ogigami will be in conversation with Jasper Sharp during the festival.

Naoko Ogigami Talk Image

The event will take place on October 14th, 2017 from 15:00 at La Médiathèque (Institut Français), 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT. This event is free to attend but booking is essential. To book a place, head over to the Eventbrite website.

Here are more details from the Japan Foundation:

Naoko Ogigami is an award-winning director and scriptwriter, and is considered one of the most commercially successful female filmmakers in Japan. An auteur with a huge domestic following, Ogigami writes and directs all her films with a renowned calming cinematic approach and her films feature recurring themes of culture clashes and characters thrown into unusual circumstances, epitomised in her hit dramas Kamome Diner (2006) and Glasses (2007). Outside of Japan, Ogigami’s work has also been recognised by many international film festivals and her debut feature, Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004) was a winner at Berlin International Film Festival, inspiring many triumphant returns to the festival since.

In celebration of the UK premiere of her latest feature Close-Knit at the BFI London Film Festival, the Japan Foundation has invited Ogigami to reflect on her unique cinematic style and career to date. Having worked on a number of productions both in Japan and the United States, Ogigami will discuss how her experience of diaspora influenced her approach to filmmaking and the current climate for female filmmakers both in Japan and overseas. Ogigami will be joined in conversation by curator and writer Jasper Sharp.

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Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2017

Vancouver International Film Festival 2013 Logo

On the day the Toronto International Film Festival launches, we get word from another great Canadian film festival! The Vancouver International Film Festival takes place from September 28th to October 13th and the organisers launched the programme today. The festival has long had a great love of East Asian cinema and supported various filmmakers both indie and mainstream and it continues to do so with this selection of films.

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Camera Japan 2017 Preview: Feature Films

Same Old Same Old Film Image 1

Camera Japan 2017 starts in just under a months time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and there is plenty to dig into so having the festival programme is a must. You can also read about the various films and events here on this site where I will have this guide which acts as an overview and comes complete with addresses and links. There are other, more detailed posts covering

Feature Films  |  Anime and Short Anime Films |  Documentaries

Special Screenings and Short Films   |   Workshops and Events

This particular post covers feature-length films which will be shown in Rotterdam (21st– 24th September) at LantarenVenster and Amsterdam from (29th September 01st October) and there will be lots to see.

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Camera Japan 2017 Events

My Camera Japan 2017 coverage continues with this quick round-up of events that will be taking place during the festival. Some of these are not listed on the website or have been mentioned in earlier posts such as the general overview. Everything except a Filmbrunch takes place in Rotterdam.

Events kick off on the 15th of September with a warm-up of the festival at WORM in Rotterdam which is a multidisciplinary evening, consisting of the experimental black-and-white movie Gui aiueo:S A Stone from Another Mountain to Polish Your Own Stone by Go Shibata (see the documentary section for more) and a concert by Krautrock band Minami Deutsch.

Hāfu2Hāfu – Portraits of half Japanese people and their unique question to you.

Tetsuro Miyazaki is a half-Belgian half-Japanese photographer whose project involved photographing hāfu (Japanese mixed with another ethnicity) from every country in the world and sharing their most significant questions about identity, sense of belonging and growing up with two different cultures. This is an interesting follow-up to the 2013 documentary Hāfu – The Mixed Race Experience in Japan.

SUIHA / Water Wave • 水波

Yasuhito Arai is a Japanese artist currently residing in the Netherlands. He is known for his sound installations and concerts in which the audience often finds “nature” within and around themselves. His passion is to express his feelings that resonate with the place and audience at a particular moment. His latest installation

The Smell of the Tale of Genji

Maki Ueda devles into the world’s first modern novel, The Tale of Genji, through smells. Home fragrances (or soradakimono) play a big role. They are used as metaphors for the seasons, characters or emotions. During this workshop people will first learn about the scents described in the story, after which they will get to make them using traditional materials. The result is a “fragrant sachet” that they can use as a home fragrance.

Sencha Workshop

Green tea is everywhere in Japan! It’s consumed more than Coca-Cola! It’s only rival is water and beer but even then you don’t see them handed out every few seconds during meetings in Japan!Takahide Suzuki will lead a workshop where he will teach students everything there is to know about sencha, a very popular kind of Japanese green tea. There will also be the chance to taste many varieties of sencha inclduing the most high grade sencha known as “Gyokuro”. Takahide Suzuki hails from Shizuoka, the tea capital of Japan so he knows what he’s talking about!.

Interventions At Camera Japan

Interventions sound menacing – like rescuing someone from a cult – but fear not, these are short acts which will “transport you briefly to another world” through dazzling feats of comics, martial artists, and dancers who will appear at random during the festival.

Miso Workshop

Do you know what else is common in Japan? Miso soup. Every meal I had with Japanese people usually had miso involved. What is Miso? Fermented soybean paste and it’s an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. It’s great stuff and Camera Japan is the place to learn how to make miso with an expert from Malicafe Organic Vegan Food in Amsterdam and find out about its importance in Japanese society.

Performance by Noriko Tujiko,

She is often described as the Japanese answer to Björk and Mum because of her mix of poppy tunes and experimental electronics which she has developed over the course of releasing 15 albums. She is a musician, songwriter and filmmaker based in Paris and visitors to Camera Japan will see her as she performs as the lead actor in the film Kuro. After the screening, she will perform a concert after the screening!

Filmbrunch

Camera Japan are pairing up two films with a food fest stocked with delicious Japanese inspired goodies. Make a Sunday special with a screening of ‘Oh Lucy!’, nd ‘Her Love Boils Bathwater’ and some delicious treats!!!

Japanese Craft Beer Tasting

One of the many things that unites Europe and Japan is a love of beer. We Europeans are now getting used to big Japanese brands like Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin (usually brewed over here but whatever) but what is the Japanese craft beer market really like. Unless you travel to Japan you may never taste it… Unless you go to Camera Japan! There will be a tasting session where you will get to try some of the best Japanese craft beers. The evening includes a short documentary titled Craft Beer in Japan, co-director by Dutch filmmaker Maarten Roos.

Kids’ Day

Kids love hands on activities and both Nippon Connection and Camera Japan provide them. This year, the festival will provide a special afternoon for children and their parents full of workshops, games, and, yes, films!

Opening Traditions (Installation + lecture + film)

This is a collaborative project between designers Emilie Pallard (FR), Makiko Shinoda (JP) and Niels Heymans (NL). The three worked together over a period of two years and investigated the craft of Kurume Kasuri: a weaving technique typical to the Kurume region of Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu. The technique requires yarn to be tied and dyed before weaving, resulting in lush patterns with a subtle, hazy appearance. Pallard and Heymans will present both a film and a book about their project, and the textile will be displayed in an installation. The images on the website make it look rather interesting.

Camera Japan Logo

Camera Japan 2017 starts in just under a months time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and there is plenty to dig into so having the festival programme is a must. You can also read about the various films and events here on this site where I will have this guide complete with addresses and links to other, more detailed posts covering

Overview | Feature Films  |  Anime and Short Anime Films |  Documentaries    |   Special Screenings and Short Films   |  Workshops and Events

Camera Japan 2017: Special Screenings and Live-Action Shorts

Camera Japan 2017 is almost upon us. The films programmed for the Special Screenings held in Rotterdam run across decades from the 1920s to 2008. Some of these are associated with the Kyushu aspect of the festival and all are rarely screened. Indeed, the oldest film, A Page of Madness, is a recently rediscovered classic that was once thought lost. It is now getting traction globally but the process has just started and it’s slow. Imagine being able to see it with a live benshi performance like it was originally intended to be seen… It’s happening at Camera Japan! Also screened is Shinji Aoyama’s epic slow-burn drama Eureka which is both visually and emotionally beautiful.

I’ve also thrown in information on the live-action short films that will be screened at Rotterdam. You can access a page which contains an overview of the entire festival through this link.

Here is what has been programmed!

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