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”

Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Announces Opening/Closing Films

The key visual of OAFF 2021 is an original art by Vancouver-based cartoonist Marc Bell.

The Organisers of the Osaka Asian Film Festival have announced details of the 2021 edition. The top headlines are:

It is going ahead in two forms, one physical and one digital

  • On screen (OAFF 2021 programs in cinemas): March 5 – March 14
  • Online (Selected films from previous OAFF programs): February 28 – March 20

The screen programs will consist of the Competition, Indie Forum, and other sections and special programs dedicated to emerging trends in Asian cinema.

The Online Programs will have a rich selection of works that have been screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in the past. These films will be available to rent for a limited time through VOD (video on demand) services via a streaming platform. The viewing period for these films is from February 28 to March 20 as “Osaka Asian Film Festival Online” and it will be available in Japan. The first title to bee announced for online screening is WHOLE, a drama about biracial people searching for their identity in Japan (here’s my review).

Due to the Coronavirus situation, there will be rules in place at cinemas to keep people safe and the festival’s program might change at short notice, so please keep an eye on the official site and also SNS: Twitter, Facebook etc.

Also announced were the OPENING and CLOSING films.

Continue reading “Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Announces Opening/Closing Films”

Animation Runs! – Watch Japanese Indie Animation Online (Dec 25 – 28)

Animation Runs Header Image

Animation Runs! is an annual event hosted by Himeji Cinema Club where people can enjoy a variety of short films created by indie animators. Due to Covid-19, the event will be going online via a YouTube channel which will host 19 films across four programmes, all of which are listed on the official website.

The films announced are a mixture of narrative and non-narrative with music videos thrown in, all done in a variety of styles like 2D anime (闘え!!ハクマイダーフォー), beautiful illustrations (MELVAS), abstract images (LFL) and stop motion (City Has a Hill/Case of ONOMICHI) and even an animation using LINE stamps and the memo function of the iPhone (memo anime). Furthermore, there will be a short talk given by each of the directors following the screening of each film.

You can get a taste of the films with City Has a Hill/Case of ONOMICHI with the embedded video below.

At the time of writing, the YouTube videos have not been released but what has been confirmed is that the films are all available to view for free on the channel and people from around the world can watch them from December 25 – 28:

25(Fri) 18:00 in JP/9:00, 25th in UK
28(Mon) 6:00 in JP/21:00, 28th in UK

To find out more, please visit the site and follow the Twitter account to get more information such as info on the animators and the screening links.

I originally posted this news item on Anime UK News.

UPDATE: Here are the films!

Programme A:

Programme B:

Programme C:

Programme D:

Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2020

The London East Asian Film Festival announced its programme last month and while it has a varied selection of films, there is only one Japanese film programmed. It is a physical event that will run at various cinemas and it will open with the Korean film Beasts Clawing at Straws which I reviewed earlier this year. Order tickets through Eventbrite.

Here are the details on the one Japanese film programmed:

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2020”

Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2020

Genki London International Animation Film Festival 2013 Banner

This year’s London International Animation Festival (LIAF 20) is online this year and there are a number of Japanese films on offer. Tickets break down like this:

A standard virtual tickets costs £6 while a festival pass (covering 24 screenings and talks) costs £45 waged/£35 student and unwaged.

Here are the films: Continue reading “Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2020”