Japanese Films at the Venice International Film Festival 2018

The Venice International Film Festival is here for its 75th edition and it will run from August 29th to September 08th. There are about five apanese films at this year’s festival (so far), the highlight being Shinya Tsukamoto’s return to feature-film making as a director. His last film was First on the Plain which was at the 2014 edition of the festival. He’s in the competition section with his latest offering. On a purely personal note, I met the chap and got his autograph.

Here’s what’s on offer:

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Japanese Film Festival Los Angeles (August 18 – 19)

Japan Film Festival in Los Angeles will run on August 18 to 19 at the Japanese American National Museum and then at Orange County’s Newport Beach Higashi Honganji.

It’s an event that has been running since 2003 and it’s stated aim is to strengthen understanding of Japanese culture through screening films for Japanese and American people to watch together. It’s laudable and it highlights the power of cinema: to take us into the lives of others. As such there are many different films programmed each year and in doing research for trailer posts, I’ve stumbled upon this festival and want to support it.

The films selected are really eclectic and run the gamut from largeish commercial feature to indie titles that hit the festival circuit. If you’re in the LA area, this could be the best chance to catch these films on the big screen.

Here are the details:

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A Preview of BATSU FILM FESTIVAL 2018 (AUGUST 03-05)

Here’s a brand new festival for North America that is totally dedicated to Japanese films. It’s called the BATSU FILM FESTIVAL and it runs from August 03rd to 05th at the Alamo Drafthouse in Denver Colorado. It’s aim is to go beyond the films of familiar names that tend to make the rounds on the festival circuit and get releases and expose the hidden talents in the Japanese film industry. With this mission, the festival programmer has dived into indie films as well as commercial features that weren’t given a wide distribution or shown outside of the bigger festivals to bring audiences in Denver a great selection of films all in one weekend in August.

There are many highlights amongst the 12 features and 4 shorts that have been selected and I have trailers for them all and links to reviews. I have watched (and reviewed) some but haven’t published any info yet so check out the notes above the trailers for some thoughts. As always, click on the titles to be taken to the festival page to see more info:

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An Interview with Kohei Takayama, director of “The Path Leading to Love” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Takayama Kohei OAFF Interview

Kohei Takayama was born in Chiba prefecture in 1987. After graduating from Waseda University, he began making indie films such as Ni naru (2015) and Kudaranai kudaranai kono sekai (2016). He was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival to present the world premiere of his latest work, The Path Leading to Love (2018). The story is a downbeat tale of a talented manga artist wasting his skills thanks to alcohol. The main protagonist, Shosuke (Ippei Tanaka) lacks the ability to overcome his alcoholism even though it has ruined relationships with his family, his ex-girlfriend Sawako (Mika Dehara) and threatens his relationship with his current girlfriend Yasuko (Yumi Mukai). The story refuses to look away from the negative aspects of alcoholism and asks the audience to follow a man on his self-destructive path. What makes it a gripping watch is the powerful acting performances from the cast.

Kohei Takayama kindly gave an interview on the penultimate day of the festival at the press centre. Acting as interpreter was Kayoko Nakanishi who was invaluable in helping the conversation flow smoothly and always offering nuanced interpretation of what turned into a philosophical conversation based on the intelligent and thoughtful work of Takayama.

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An Interview with Rina Tanaka, Ryo Kato, Fixy Lee, Takehito Sato, and Kaori Takeshita, the Cast and Crew of the film “Filled With Steam” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

At the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Filled with Steam (2017) was one of the films screened at the Housen section, a place reserved for films that received support from the Housen Cultural Foundation. This organisation aims to further film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of “preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan” through funding shorts and features. This is the second year that OAFF ran a dedicated Housen section and this year there were three films, Girl Returned (2017), Protest (2016), and Filled with Steam.

Filled with Steam is a bittersweet 30-minute dramedy that details a relationship full of secrets as a woman named Midoriko (Ayako Mizuno) and her husband Daisuke (Takehito Sato) drift apart. Midoriko is visiting a pregnancy classroom run by a flamboyant teacher named Miho (Kaori Takeshita) unbeknownst to Daisuke but a series of twists forces the couple to confront the substance of their marriage. Directed by Rina Tanaka, the film displays a talented director working with great people and interesting material to make a thought-provoking human drama. It was warmly received by its audience at its world premiere at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, but questions remained for this correspondent about the use of comedy and the late-stage intervention of a baby. Fortunately. the cast and crew of the film provided answers in a group interview.

Filled with Steam Team
Fixy Lee, Takehito Sato, Rina Tanaka, Ryo Kato, KAori Takeshita

This interview was conducted after the screening with the help of Kayoko Nakanishi, a member of OAFF’s International Press team, who acted as an interpreter and got involved in the lively interview with some questions and comments due to her own enjoyment of the film. Taking part in the interview from the film’s cast and staff were the director, Rina Tanaka, a graduate with a Masters from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Film & New Media, Directing course, the actors Takehito Sato and Kaori Takeshita, the film’s writer Ryota Kato and the editor, Fixy Lee.

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Japanese Films at the Asian Film Festival Dallas 2018 (July 19 – 26)

The Asian Film Festival Dallas runs from July 19th to 26th and is continuing its mission of bringing movies from Asian and Asian-American filmmakers living around the world to audiences in Dallas, Texas in order to celebrate and support emerging and established filmmakers and sharing the rich diversity of Asian culture through films.

I’m here to cover the Japanese films and the selection is really surprising and good. Many of these Dallas Premieres and some US Premieres with the likes of Riding Uphill, 3Ft and Ball, and The Reverse Diaries being real surprises. These three look like solid dramas and offer an alternative look at Japan. There’s the entertainment movies like We Make Antiques and Laughing Under the Clouds and there’s a classic in the form of Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter.

There are some great non-Japanese films like Edward Yang’s phenomenal Yi Yi and the HK crime thriller The Brink and a bunch of Korean films like The Mimic and Believer. There’s a lot on offer!

America is a big place and you’re not going to be able to see many titles on the big screen if you’re not living in New York and able to enjoy Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival. If you’re in Texas or near it, this is going to be your best opportunity to see them especially since some of these may not be available on streaming services.

Anyway, here are the films! Just click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding page on the festival site!

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Japanese Films at the Fantasia International Film Festival (July 12th – August 02nd)

The Fantasia International Film Festival starts in Montreal next week on July 12th and runs until August 02nd. The selection of Japanese films is simply stunning with titles from Miki Satoshi, Takashi Miike,  Nobuhiko Obayashi, Sion Sono and more. However, there are a selection of indie film titles that look absolutely killer as well.

Fantasia Header Image

This is the 22nd edition of the festival and it has become a focal point for filmmakers, festival programmers, journalists, and audiences eager to see a diverse slate of films before they hit the DVD or internet and take part in film culture. There are lots of guests and great experiences to be had and a chance to get involved with dictating which films get the hype behind them, so please choose Japanese, and try some of the titles listed here.

So what’s lined up?

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Passage of Life  僕の帰る場所 Dir:  Akio Fujimoto (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Passage of Life    Passage of Life Film Poster

僕の帰る場所 「Boku no kaerubasho

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: November 25th, 2017

Director:  Akio Fujimoto

Writer: Akio Fujimoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Kaung Myat Thu, Khin Myat Thu, Issace, Htet Myat Naing, Yuki Kitagawa, Kanji Tsuda,

IMDB Website

Immigration is a thorny issue the world over and Japan is not immune to it since its tough stance and refusal to take large numbers of refugees draws criticism from nations which have more open policies. Whether this criticism is fair or not is put to the side in Passage of Life, as drama trumps politics.

One of two films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival looking at the immigrant experience of people who are of Burmese extraction and living in Japan, the other being My Country, My Home, it is shot with remarkable confidence considering it is the debut feature-film from Osaka-born director Akio Fujimoto who uses a documentary film style to show the uncertainties of life as an immigrant feeling the pull of two different cultures.

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An Interview with Daisuke Miyazaki, director of “TOURISM”, at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Daisuke Miyazaki was born in 1980 in Yokohama, Kanagawa. A passion for analysing films turned into a career when he started making them while studying at Waseda University. In 2004, he participated in New York University’s summer school that took place in Japan. His thesis The 10th Room won the Christine Choi Award, which is the grand prix at the KUT Film Festival held by the NYU. His following film Love Will Tear Us Apart was invited to be a special screening at the Image Forum Film Festival 2006, which is the largest experimental film festival in Japan.

The next stage in his career was to work his way up through the film world from lighting assistant to acting as an assistant director for Kiyoshi Kurosawa on Tokyo Sonata(2008). Miyazaki’s first feature film, End of the Night (2011), was exhibited at the Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema International Film Festival, and received a special award at the Toronto Shinsedai Film Festival. His work on the omnibus film 5TO9 was screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 (OAFF) and his second feature Yamato (California) was screened at OAFF 2017.

He returned to OAFF in 2018 with his latest feature film, Tourism, an amusingly hip youth movie following two Japanese girls named Nina (Nina Endo) and Su (SUMIRE) who get lost in Singapore, which was shot in the space of five days. This is the first of a planned five film run which could take Miyazaki around the world.

Daisuke Miyazaki

Miyazaki kindly took part in an interview at the ABC Hall in Osaka midway through the festival where he went into detail about the shoot and his background.

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Japanese Films at the New York Asian Film Festival (June 29 – July 15)

The 17th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) will run from June 29 – July 15, 2018 and there are 14 Japanese films programmed for the event. There are many guests arriving in New York and a real variety of films which makes the Japanese content really exciting to see.

Indeed, the Opening Night film is the North American premiere of Tominaga Masanori’s Dynamite Graffiti, an earthy dramedy about the life of Suei Akira, who is described as “Japanese porn mag king”.

Dynamite Graffiti Film Image

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