Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020

祖谷物語 おくのひと Rina Takeda

Wow, I had no idea that 2020 would turn out like this when I wrote last year’s end post. We’re a few days away from the end of what has been a plague year. I almost got caught out at the start when I was in Japan and the borders were going to be closed, back at the end of March, but I escaped with the help of some friends. Since then, I have been in work on reduced duties or at home waiting to be called in for odd jobs. When not working, I was doing shopping with my mother and checking in on my grandmother.

During this time of waiting, I watched a lot of films, some as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Nippon Connection, Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival, a lot just for pleasure. I took part in a physical film festival in Japan and I helped organise and execute an online film festival twice and during all of this I wrote a lot of reviews. Probably more reviews than in previous years. On top of it all, I also helped start a podcast about Asian films called Heroic Purgatory where I discuss films with fellow writer John Atom (the Christmas special is already out and the second season coming in 2021!).

When I was able to go to the cinema I watched a wide variety of things. In the UK, the last film I watched was Parasite with my mother. In Japan, I went to numerous screenings at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and an animation festival at the Yujiku Asagaya (just before Tokyo’s lockdown). At home with a lot of time on my hands I got into the cinema of Mario Bava and re-watched lots of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento movies. I waded through hours of 70s and 80s horror movies from America and I went back to some tried and trusted Japanese classics. Most of all, I tried to get more Japanese indie films out there and so I think this is reflected in my list of top films from 2020.

So, what are they?.  

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A Preview of Japan Cuts 2020 (July 17th – 30th)

Japan Cuts Hollywood Header

From July 17th – 30th, Japan Cuts will launch for its 2020 edition which is going to be an entirely online experience. There are 30 features and 12 shorts that will be shown across 14 days with filmmaker video introductions, live virtual Q&As and panel discussions for audiences across the entire United States (yes, this fest is geo-locked, much like the upcoming Fantasia festival).

The selection is, as ever, good as it covers indies and mainstreamers, features and shorts, anime and live-action and all covering a diverse array of subjects. I’ve covered all of these in other festival posts and seen quite a few and will be plugging my own reviews and interviews in this highlight post which has been split up into the following sections, all of which, I hope will help people decide what they want to see:

 Opening Film | Centrepiece Presentation | Animation |Feature Films | Shorts | Documentaries | Tora-san

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book-paper-scissors つつんで、ひらいて Director: Nanako Hirose (2019) [Nippon Connection 2020]

book-paper-scissorsBook Paper Scissors Film Poster

つつんで、ひらいて Tsutsunde, Hiraite

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Nanako Hirose

Writer: N/A

Starring: Nobuyoshi Kikuchi, Isao Mitobe, Yoshikichi Furui, Hiromi Jonbo,

Website     IMDB

The design and feel of a book is very important. Although it usually takes second place to the ideas in the text when we discuss what we read, elemental things involved in the physical aspects of the book, such as the texture, typography and images, confer a vital character onto the text that captures a reader’s interest by stimulating their senses and placing various demands on their attention. The writer’s intent is being mediated through the perspective of the designers, editors and bookbinders involved in bringing it to the shelf. This is something we might not normally think about but the wonderful documentary book-scissors-paper proves to be an enlightening and enthralling exploration of this part of the publishing process by offering up a portrait of a world-famous book designer and his work to elucidate these ideas.

book-scissors-paper is the sophomore feature of Nanako Hirose, one of the young talents at Bunbuku-bun, the production house set up by Hirokazu Kore-eda. It is where she worked on features such as Like Father, Like Son, Our Little Sister, After the Storm and Miwa Nishikawa’s The Long Excuse, it is also where she made her debut feature, His Lost Name, which recently toured the festival circuit. That she made a documentary about book covers seems like something completely out of left-field until one discovers that her father was a book designer and that the subject of this documentary, Nobuyoshi Kikuchi, was responsible for many of the covers on the books in her parents’ house. From this personal background comes this documentary which is a tribute to the art of book design.

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Nippon Connection 2020: Documentaries

This post is an offshoot from the earlier this week and it focuses on all of the documentaries that will be screened. Check out each description to see if each film is available for worldwide screening because quite a few of these are.

Nippon Docs

This section brings together a really diverse range of subjects and themes like art and culture, feminism, workplace rights, mental health, refugees fighting for recognition and a man in a campervan trying to forget a failed love. There are three shorts and 11 features. Book-Paper-Scissors and An Ant Strikes Back are polar opposites in content and ones I want to see. Actually, I want to see all of these films!!!

There are a lot of great films on offer and many of them are available for global audiences to stream. Here are details on the features:

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Talking the Pictures, Yokai Watch Jam the Movie: Yokai Academy Y – Can a Cat be a Hero?, Dai kanran-sha, Woozoo be Alright?, book-paper-scissors, Seven Days War, Murder at Shijinso, Tunguska Butterfly, Necktie, Seventeen Motors, and other Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone.

Tag Film Image

We are closer to Christmas.

This week I reviewed two Sion Sono movies, Tag and Virgin Psychics, both from 2016 and while the former is more meaningful than the latter, both are worth watching.

Get past what we all know is inevitable and let’s make a start dealing with this stuff and making a change for the better in society.

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “Talking the Pictures, Yokai Watch Jam the Movie: Yokai Academy Y – Can a Cat be a Hero?, Dai kanran-sha, Woozoo be Alright?, book-paper-scissors, Seven Days War, Murder at Shijinso, Tunguska Butterfly, Necktie, Seventeen Motors, and other Japanese Film Trailers”

Japanese Films at the Busan International Film Festival 2019 (03rd-12th October)

Busan International Film Festival Logo

This year’s Busan International Film Festival is the 24th in the series and it runs from October 03rd to the 12th. This is the first time that I have covered Busan but it has been on the cards for a while because, much like Tokyo and Osaka, it’s a good place to scout out Asian films. There is a great slate of titles from some soon-to-be-released mainstream films to indie movies and there are familiar titles featured at other festivals.

Here are the titles!

The Opening Film is:

The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time    The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time Film Poster

オルジャスの白い馬Oruhasu no Shiroi Uma

Release Date: January 18th, 2020

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Lisa Takeba

Writer: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov (Screenplay),

Starring: Dulyga Akmolda, Madi Minaidarov, Mirai Moriyama, Samal Yeslyamova,

Website IMDB

This road movie/western is a co-production between Kazakhstan/Japan and brought to the big screen via Tokyo New Cinema. It is the work of two directors, Yerlan Nurmukhambetov who won the New Currents Award in Busan International Film Festival 2015, and Lisa Takeba. Yes, that Lisa Takeba with the fierce imagination who made The Pinkie (2014) and Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory (2015). In his first overseas role, Mirai Moriyama (The Drudgery Train) takes one of the lead characters amongst a predominantly Kazakh cast.

It looks like an ambitious and fresh new movie production for Japan as it follows To the Ends of the Earth to new territories and stories. 

Synopsis: We are in the plains of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, a world where horse thieves operate under vast skies and on huge grass plains. A family man is murdered by those thieves as he heads to a town market to sell his horses. This leaves his wife a widow and his children fatherless. The village comes together to help the wife hold the man’s funeral and then the wife decides to return to her family with her children. Then, another man who vanished from her life eight years ago appears and helps the woman move and takes one of the children, the son, under his wing, teaching him how to ride horses. The son of the wife resembles that man. The man and the boy go out on horseback together and track down the horse thieves…

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