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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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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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Third Window Films Release Takeshi Kitano’s “Getting Any?” on October 16th

Third Window Films continue to release the newly restored films of Takeshi Kitano on sparkly blu-ray in the UK with Getting Any? on October 16th.

I remember watching this film for the first time around five years ago and just being stunned at how monumentally unfunny it was after the Ghostbusters sketch. It’s undisciplined and tries to do too much, the humour hasn’t dated well and there’s little that’s funny to begin with. But then maybe that’s the point and there’s a lot more going on than I realised:

In an interview Kitano actually draws parallels to Kurosawa, who, in the hindsight of Kitano, should have made a total bullshit film, instead of attempting suicide after “Dodes Kaden”. To Kitano, “‘Getting Any?’ is a beautiful disastrous failure and “suicide”.

Henrik Sylow (kitanotakeshi.com)

Whatever, of you’re a completionist or adventurous this is definitely for you. The material covers so much since it’s a send-up of the Japanese film industry and it certainly is memorable. Perhaps, after living in Japan, I might find more elements of this funny. It certainly has a good cast with Kitano leading familiar actors like Yurei Yanagi and Susumu Terajima astray and both Dankan and Ren Osugi appeared in the Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie Eyes of the Spider!

Getting Any Film Image

Here are the details:

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Sion Sono’s “Tag” will be screened at Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival on October 14th

Eureka have scored a coup by getting Tag as part of their catalogue following on from Tokyo Tribe. The release will be on dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on November 20th 2017 after getting shown at festivals around the UK. One of those festivals is Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival (October 12th – 15th) on October 14th. The festival takes place at Nottingham’s Broadway cinema and there are a couple of other Asian films on show.

Here are the Japanese and Japanese-themed entries in the programme:

Tag Film Image 3

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“Audition” an Arrow Video Club presentation on September 19th at the Prince Charles Cinema

I have already retweeted this but I wanted to write a quick post about an Arrow Video Club presentation of Takashi Miike’s classic horror film Audition which will be screened at the Prince Charles Cinema at 20:45 on September 19th. Here’s a link to more information on the cinema’s site.

This film is incredible and I have already written a review full of praise so I want to hype this screening up because it deserves to be seen on the big screen! Also, scariest use of a sack in a film!

Audition's Yoshikawa and Aoyama

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“Nowhere Man” (1991) will be screened at the Japanese Embassy on September 27th

The Japanese Embassy in London is continuing to screen Japanese films from the ‘90s and this one sounds absurd because it involves a guy who sells rocks. It’s based on a manga of the same name. The event is free to attend but anyone interested in being part of the audience must book in advance to secure a place (which you can do through this link).

Here’s the information:

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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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