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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Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops アイスと雨音 Dir: Daigo Matsui (2018) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops

アイスと雨音 「Aisu to Amaoto」   Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops Film Poster

Running Time: 74 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director:  Daigo Matsui

Writer: Daigo Matsui (Screenplay),

Starring: Kokoro Morita, Taketo Tanaka, Reiko Tanaka, Guama, Yuzu Aoki, Jotaro Tozuka, Kazumasa Kadoi, Mimori Wakasugi, Momoha,

IMDB Website JFDB

Daigo Matsui is famous as a director who has worked on mostly youth-oriented movies like Afro Tanaka (2012), Sweet Poolside (2014), How Selfish I Am! (2013) and Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) but did you know he is a former manzai performer and has his own theatre company? Matsui takes on the theatre world here with an adaptation of British playwright Simon Stephens’s coming-of-age drama “Morning”. However, instead of simply recording a performance to screen in cinemas, we are delivered into how the original story is translated into a Japanese setting and how universal its message of teenage angst is. What plugs us into this creative space and new and unique understanding of the text is that the film is done in a flawless 74-minute take that gets behind the scenes of the play and shows all the pressures and risks for the actors involved in bringing their roles to life. 

In 2017, a stage performance of “Morning” is scheduled to run in a small town. It is a savage play that has been attracting attention in the theatre world for its story of a violent act by two best friends fighting through a rough adolescence. The film starts a month before the opening night. A cast of six young actors are being pushed to their limit by a director who gives out abstract plans and demanding instructions:

“I want to show you all really living on the stage.”

“Be messy and raw.”

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Japanese Films at the We Are One Global Film Festival

Due to COVID-19, film festivals around the world have had to postpone or cancel events. Then, in April, Tribeca and YouTube announced they were teaming up for a 10-day online festival called We Are One and working together with other festivals to create a digital film festival.

We Are One Film Festival Image

The festival will stream a selection of films online on YouTube for FREE from May 29th to June 07th. There will be 31 features and 72 shorts over 10 days, the titles have been co-curated by over 20 film festivals from across the world, including Annecy, Cannes, London, Venice, Sundance, Berlin, Locarno, Toronto and Tokyo. Viewers can also enjoy virtual talks with directors.

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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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Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops, Ikiru Machi, Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple, Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Takarajima, Kamen Rider EX-AID: Another Ending Part III – Kamen Rider Genm vs. Lazer, Omotenashi, Anata wa watashijanai, Principal – Koi Suru Watashi wa Heroine Desu Ka?, Anata wa watashijanai, Life Goes On, Ghost Squad, Basuketto to Boku!, Ramen Kuitee, Living the Game Japanese Film Trailers

Happy Weekend, People!

IF14_WhoKnowsAboutMyLife

This is my first trailer post from Japan. The last time I was in the country, I didn’t have the time or energy to do them because of constant activity but good experiences and good people motivated me to get back into the game and it has been fun putting this one together. After this is posted, I will head out to explore some cities. And write. I made the mistake of catching a train at rush hour last night and got stuck in a corner, desperately writing review notes with my pen and pad while I travelled back to my room.

I have had a busy week since getting here but spent the weekend prepping reviews for the upcoming Osaka Asian Film Festival. I posted an article about the Japanese films that will be playing and I’m looking forward to seeing what is on offer. My second post was a review of “Love and Other Cults” (2017) which is released on DVD/Blu-ray in the UK on March 26th by Third Window Films.

What is released this weekend in Japan?

Continue reading “Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops, Ikiru Machi, Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple, Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Takarajima, Kamen Rider EX-AID: Another Ending Part III – Kamen Rider Genm vs. Lazer, Omotenashi, Anata wa watashijanai, Principal – Koi Suru Watashi wa Heroine Desu Ka?, Anata wa watashijanai, Life Goes On, Ghost Squad, Basuketto to Boku!, Ramen Kuitee, Living the Game Japanese Film Trailers”

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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