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”

An Interview with Shinji Imaoka, Director of A Rainbow-colored Trip [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Despite knowing that low-budget films are often shot very quickly, when I saw that Shinji Imaoka was going to be at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, I was surprised at how quick his return was since he was at the 2020 edition with the drama Reiko and the Dolphin for which I had interviewed him. Of course, since he has a background in making pink films he knows how to do a quick turnaround on a production but an even bigger surprise lay in the subject of his film: a divorce as seen through the eyes of a child done by way of the musical genre. That and it was one of at least four(???) films he made in 2020!

Shinji Imaoka A Rainbow-Coloured Trip

The film is a star vehicle for starlet Yuune Sakurai who takes on the role of Haruka, an 11-year-old girl who is navigating experiencing the sensation of love for the first time while her parents Nobutaka (Ryujyu Kobayashi) and Kumiko (Yuri Ogino) are about to divorce. The sweetness and bitterness come together over one weekend spent with the fractured family at a campsite. The emotions come out when people burst into song and dance. A musical about divorce? I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before but it works. However, it is a title that may prove divisive as Sakurai gives the sort of beyond-her-years performance that some people will be bowled over by while others may find too artificial to take seriously. Also, girls that age don’t act like that. It depends upon your perspective, ultimately. You can read my review here and also a playfulness as music video sequences and cute on-screen text and images are used. 

While working on the review and interview, three other films by director Imaoka were discovered and two were released: Yome wa, Toriatsukai chuui! Part 1 & 2 and Aoi-chan wa yarasete kurenai. It’s all very impressive and so I wanted to find out more about the background of A Rainbow-colored Trip and how director Imaoka worked with his talented cast, getting some great performances from newbie actress Yuune Sakurai and veteran Yuri Ogino (East of Jefferson and Human Comedy in Tokyo)  and also get some insight.

This interview was done with the help of Takako Pocklington, the talented interpreter who worked on the Reiko and the Dolphin interview and most of my other interviews.

Continue reading “An Interview with Shinji Imaoka, Director of A Rainbow-colored Trip [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

An Interview with Yutaro Nakamura, Director of A NEW WIND BLOWS [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

There were two films by actor/writer/director Yutaro Nakamura at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021. They shared actors such as An Ogawa (For Rei) but wildly diverged stylistically. The first, Sweet Bitter Candy, was a standard-issue drama of bad romance and schoolgirls while A New Wind Blows featured a storyline that was wayward and dreamy and clearly shot guerrilla style in the suburbs. It was punctuated with scenes that offer visceral emotions, surprising twists, and a eccentric-cum-humanistic bent that made it stand out.

The film introduces us to a set of characters – Yujiro (Yujiro Hara), Hikari (Hikaru Saiki), Takaya (Takaya Shibata), Anzu (An Ogawa), and Kotaro (Yutaro Nakamura, the director himself) – who are cycled through in a number of stories where they get together and alternately torment and fall in love with each other, first as high schoolers and then as young adults later, before returning to them as high schoolers. Mental illness, prejudice, and literal bed hopping take place and there are extremes of emotions that go from normality to very dark. However, as scenes and sequences slip by, there is a sense of care and comfort and possibility. You can read my review here and also a playfulness as music video sequences and cute on-screen text and images are used. 

A New Wind Blows An Ogawa and Yutaro Nakamura An Ogawa and Yutaro Nakamura at the Premiere of A New Wind Blows

Yutaro Nakamura took time out of his schedule to answer questions relating to A New Wind Blows.

This interview was done with the help of Takako Pocklington, who translated between English and Japanese to help bring director Nakamura’s answers to this blog.

Continue reading “An Interview with Yutaro Nakamura, Director of A NEW WIND BLOWS [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

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”

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 Masashi Komura, Director of POP! [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

For the last few years, Osaka Asian Film Festival has been screening MOOSIC LAB films. These works are the result of the pairing together of up-and-coming directors, actors, actresses, and musical performers into a unit to create a movie. The final products are almost always idiosyncratic in some way since they are the results of the combined talents of whoever has been grouped together. This year’s entry was POP!, a quirky drama featuring dry comedy and existential angst. It plays on the unique combination of director Masashi Komura (小村昌士), lead actress Rina Ono (小野莉奈), and DJ/producer Aru-2.

Rina Ono takes the lead role of Rin Kashiwakura, a 19-year-old who is on the cusp of turning 20, the official age of becoming an adult. With the approach of such a momentous occasion in her life one would expect excitement but what she feels is frustration and confusion as she struggles to understand how she fits in with others and the world at large, and just what she wants to do. An early dream of becoming an actress has become side-tracked and she works part-time as an official mascot on a struggling local TV charity program and part-time at a remote mountainside car park where nothing much happens. An encounter with a mad bomber leaving explosive packages around town gives her some impetus to move forward.

This description may seem full of random elements but they are deliberate and filmed in such a way by Masashi Komura that they form a collage of situations that form the entry point into Rin’s existential crisis – nothing seems to join together story-wise, long sequences happen in empty locations, and scenes can be devoid of propulsive action and sound and time. At its centre is a strong yet reticent performance from Rina Ono who keeps our attention. Overlaying everything is the downtempo lo-fi musical tracks of of Aru-2. Its lazy beats, samples, and various audio imperfections are indicative of both what a person Rin’s age might listen to and also how she feels. When combined, at times, this experience is frustrating, tiring, and confusing but there is also a lot of humour and heart as Rin struggles to make sense of things. These myriad of emotions reminded me of what I felt in my own adolescence. In short, the film had successfully made me feel Rin’s existential crisis as she tries to pull herself out of her stagnant life and move forward like the adults around her. The final result is a truly unique film (my review).

I wasn’t the only one, it seems. The film won the Grand Prix and Rina Ono also nabbed the Best Actress Award at the MOOSIC LAB awards, thus showing that quality of the film. Director Masashi Komura kindly agreed to take part in an interview to explain how the different elements of the film match up and he furnished many interesting answers.

A relatively new filmmaker, Komura has worked on a number of projects including co-writing the screenplay for The Man Who Was Eaten, which was featured at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016, writing and directing the 2017 film LEO, and appearing in Ken Ninomiya’s The Matsumoto Tribe (2017). Komura talked more about POP!, how the project came together, his inspirations, his approach to manipulating time, and working with Aru-2 and gifting his sound to audiences.

Masashi Komura, director of POP! at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021

This interview was done with the massive help of Takako Pocklington, who translated between English and Japanese to help bring director Komura’s answers to the page.

Continue reading “An Interview with Masashi Komura, Director of POP! [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

An Email Interview with Hiroshi Gokan, Director of “Gotō-san” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

The Osaka Asian Film Festival has a number of sidebars and one of the more exciting is dedicated to works supported by the Housen Cultural Foundation, a funding body that provides support to students at the graduate school level. It is here that you will get challenging, deeply personal, or experimental works from a new generation of voices. This year’s crop of titles were all particularly involving and unique. One film that really spoke to me was Gotō-san from writer/director Hiroshi Gokan which struck at the heart of the uncertainty of our age.

Gotō-san is the story of a young man who has chosen to pursue an unconventional life. The titular character, Gotō (Hirofumi Suzuki 鈴木浩文), lives and works in a 24-hour internet café in Tokyo. He seems to have struck the jackpot when it comes to leading a laidback lifestyle and he even gets into a romance with a fellow internet café resident, a young woman named Riko (Tomomi Fukikoshi 吹越ともみ). Beneath this quirky narrative, director Gokan subtly shows trouble brewing in the background with glimpses of a deteriorating jobs market and the Covid-19 pandemic rearing their head until they eventually turf Gotō out into the harsh reality of life. It’s a breath-takingly bleak series of unfortunate events that radically alter the narrative and causes our lead character’s lifestyle to unravel.

You can read my review here, but I felt that Hiroshi Gokan made an astute assessment of the fragility of society that worked because it used an offbeat set-up and characters to take in many socio-economic details without belabouring any points.

So, who is the director? Hiroshi Gokan earned a Master’s in directing at the Graduate School of FilmGoto-san_Gokan_portrait and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts. Teto, his first feature and graduation project, starred Sakura Ando. His 2012 short Aohige was a co-production between Tokyo University of the Arts and Korean Academy of Film Arts. He has worked on making-of videos for directors such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Masayuki Suo and Shinobu Yaguchi. He generously participated in an email interview where he provided a lot of answers that revealed why he cast lead actors Hirofumi Suzuki and Tomomi Fukikoshi, how he created the space of the internet café, and also his stance on weaving real-life into his stories and the impact of Covid-19 on the production. 

This interview was done with the invaluable help of Takako Pocklington who translated between English and Japanese.

Continue reading “An Email Interview with Hiroshi Gokan, Director of “Gotō-san” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]”

Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2021

 

Like Rotterdam earlier this month, the Berlin International Film Festival has had to change its format due to Covid-19 and so it launches in two sections. From the website:

From March 1 to 5, 2021, the 71st Berlinale is being launched with an Industry Event (European Film MarketBerlinale Co-Production MarketBerlinale Talents and Word Cinema Fund) for film professionals and accredited representatives of the press. All Industry Event activities will take place online.
Information on Participating in the Industry Event
Selected events from Berlinale Talents (talks and live workshops) and the World Cinema Fund (WCF Day) will be accessible online to the general public. The respective programmes will be published in mid-February.

From June 9 to 20, 2021, the Summer Special will give the general public the opportunity to see the majority of the 2021 selected films in Berlin cinemas in the presence of the filmmakers. The opening of the Summer Special will be celebrated with a gala event on June 9.

Check this festival page just before the Summer Special to see what will be screened in cinemas. I’ll update this post if more films are added.

What are the Japanese films programmed so far?

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2021”