Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films of the Year (2021)

Bear with me while I mix personal reflections and obvious observations of cinema for this year!

While 2021 saw cinemas open for longer and many festivals going ahead around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic still causes uncertainty in the market as new variants put exhibitors on edge and ready to cancel events while audiences seem to be put off going to see films that aren’t big Marvel properties. In these trying times, streaming films online is increasingly becoming the de facto way to view the latest releases for many but cinemas aren’t out for the count!

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Heroic Purgatory Podcast Covers the New York Asian Film Festival 2021 (August 06th – 22nd)

The New York Asian Film Festival launches tonight and will run from August 6th to August 22nd as a hybrid event with around 70 films split between cinemas and online streams and the HEROIC PURGATORY podcast is taking part. 

As I described in my preview, it’s a beautiful and exciting mix of experiences from 12 separate territories/nations with a mix of big-budget blockbusters to indie movies and the quality of the selection is so good, you can see why the festival is the premiere event for Asian films in North America – maybe even the West!

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An Interview with Atsuko Miyake, Stop-Motion Animator on JUNK HEAD

Welcome to the world of JUNK HEAD

 JUNK HEAD is a dark, dystopian sci-fi-horror film that alternates between the grotesque and the cute. Told through the medium of stop-motion animation, it presents a unique film world and unforgettable dolls animated to perfection in an experience that has wowed all who have seen it.

Its story is set in the far future at a time when humanity has achieved immortality through gene manipulation, but has lost the ability to procreate. An explorer is sent deep bowels of the Earth to recover genetic information from mutants. His journey across a landscape dank industrial landscape is always gripping due to the dense atmosphere created by moody lighting and highly detailed sets, highly cinematic due to camerawork, editing and animating that conveys thrilling action, and really fun to follow due to the dangerous creatures and demented characters who crash together over the course of the story.

The film is a true indie work in that it is the singular vision of its director, Takahide Hori. He is an interior director by trade but he had a sci-fi story he needed to tell and created an award-winning 30-minute version that attracted attention. Soon after, he quit his job to work as writer, director, editor, actor, (and more – watch the credits) with a small team over the course of seven years to complete the project, everyone creating sets, dolls, and special effects and then animating everything to bring the feature film to the big screen. His team included freelance creatives like stop-motion animator Atsuko Miyake, Ken Makino and Yuji Sugiyama who made props, sets, and worked on technical aspects like using Adobe After Effects to bring to life this unique and twisted animated vision. Once the film was finished, professional translator Emily Balistrieri, a freelance translator who has worked on novels like The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (here’s my review of the film), brought the language of the characters to life with puns and neologisms that fit the world perfectly – probably best seen in the “mashroom” scene where the main character goes on a mushroom hunt for a weird-looking penis-like vegetable growths that crawl around once plucked from their grotesque “beds.”

Atsuko Miyake is animating

Earlier this year, JUNK HEAD became a word-of-mouth hit in Japan where it played to sold-out screenings at mini-theatres for many weeks. It has since been picked up for festival play at the New York Asian Film Festival and Fantasia, and prospects for theatrical releases seem good. I have had the chance to watch the film as part of the New York Asian Film Festival (review here) and now Atsuko Miyake, the film’s stop-motion animator, has generously given me the opportunity of an interview to explain her inspirations, her part in the production, what it was like working on the project for so long, and what she hopes happens next for the world of JUNK HEAD.

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Junk Head ジャンク ヘッド Director: Takahide Hori (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

Junk Head         JUNK HEAD Film Poster 2021

ジャンク ヘッドJanku Heddo

Release Date: March 26th, 2021

Running Time: 99 mins

Director:  Takahide Hori

Writer:  Takahide Hori (Screenplay),

Starring: Takahide Hori, Atsuko Miyake, Yuji Sugiyama,

Website   IMDB   MAL

Director Takahide Hori’s debut feature is dark, dystopian sci-fi-horror film JUNK HEAD, an unforgettable stop-motion movie that is unlike anything you will have ever seen. Alternately grotesque, blackly-comic, and weirdly cute, it is totally unique and sure to please those into the weird, body-horror, creature features, animation, and adventures.

It is a road movie filled with sets rich with details that absorb viewers it’s world while carefully crafted and cool-looking models are animated with such liveliness that they come to glorious life and leave us spellbound. Its effects on viewers already has been to spawn a monster word-of-mouth hit that dominated mini theatres across Japan and even garnered television airtime on variety shows. It has also become one of my favourite films of the year.

JUNK HEAD’s story is set in the far, far, far, future at a time when the human race has advanced enough to achieve immortality through gene manipulation and cybernetic bodies but has lost the ability to procreate. While humans dwell at the tops of towers close to the sky, mutants they created for slave labour, known as Marigans¹, toil away in the lower levels. It is from these mutants that human scientists hope to recover genetic material to restore their ability to breed.

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A Preview of the Japanese Titles at the New York Asian Film Festival 2021 (August 06th – 22nd)

The New York Asian Film Festival is a go for 2021 and runs from August 6th to the 22nd. It is a hybrid event with over 60 films split between cinemas and online streams.

It’s a beautiful and exciting mix of experiences from 12 separate territories/nations with a mix of big-budget blockbusters to indie movies. There are tales from towns and cities in the mountainous land of Tibet (A Song for You) to a backwater in the Kazakh countryside (Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It). A humorous take on a utopian community in Singapore (Tiong Bahru Social Club) to the dank underworld of Hong Kong (Hand-Rolled Cigarettes and Coffin Homes) and the gritty streets of Tokyo (JOINT). Stop-motion dystopian sci-fi (JUNK HEAD) rub shoulders with Korean tales from the hellscape of capitalism (I Don’t Fire Myself). Who populates these cinematic landscapes? Fiery office ladies, hitmen, dancers, mutants, wannabe singers, DJs, and more. 

Here’s the trailer introducing the fest:

Here are certain highlights:

The Opening Film is the tense action thriller Escape from Mogadishu, directed by Ryoo Seung-wan (The Berlin File, Veteran), a based-on-a-true-story title that retells the escape attempted by North and South Korean embassy workers who were stranded in a hostile environment during the 1991 Somali Civil War.

Legendary filmmaker Ann Hui will receive the Variety Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and the biographical documentary Keep Rolling will be screened. Her film, The Story of Woo Viet will also be screened, so auds can get a taste of what made her one of the most important voices in Hong Kong cinema.

There will be a free outdoor screening of the Hong Kong wu-xia New Dragon Gate Inn (1992), which stars Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, and Donnie Yen. This marks the 10th anniversary of the film’s restoration by NYAFF.

Out of everything on offer, I’ve written about Three Sisters, JOINT (review and interview with Oudai Kojima, the director), and, Over the Town and Keep Rolling. I can highly recommend them. I also enjoyed Tiong Bahru Social Club and have kept thinking about it.

What about the rest? I will highlight the Japanese films so it can help you when you are making a choice about what to watch. AND THERE IS SO MUCH THAT IS TOO GOOD TO PASS UP!!!

I will also be covering the fest over at Heroic Purgatory. My co-host John and I talked about the festival in the last episode which covers the New York-set film The Wedding Banquet.

UPDATE: THE PODCAST IS LIVE!!!

What are the films programmed? Scroll down to find out!

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Junk Head, The Blue Danube, Kiba: The Fangs of Fiction, Girlz und Panzer das Finale Part 3, K4 Company THE MOVIE Cardboard of the Day, SHORT TRIAL PROJECT 2020, Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone.

Pop Rina Ono

I hope everyone is doing fine.

This is the first of a two-part trailer post (six trailers today, six tomorrow) and it comes almost a week after recording a podcast about the Shohei Imamura film The Eel. I spent most of last week watching Imamura films.

This week just flew by and I haven’t consumed as much, just the anime for Blade of the ImmortalI Think We’re Alone Now, and Leaving DC, which are on Amazon Prime, and POP! which was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival. Here’s my review for POP!. I also posted a news item about a double-bill of Toshiaki Toyoda films playing in Chicago’s Music Box cinema and a new project by the director.

What are some of the first films of the weekend?

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Japanese Films at the Glasgow International Film Festival 2018

The Glasgow Film Festival (February 21st – March 04th) will launch at the end of this month and it kicks off with Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, a stop-motion animation set in a dystopian Japan and featuring the voices of lots of American actors. There’s also the documentary Haiku on a Plum Tree a documentary where the director tracks down what happened to her grandparent’s who were living in Japan during World War 2 and were interned in a prisoner of war camp when they refused to pledge allegiance to Mussolini. There plenty of films from Japan and it’s a pretty diverse slate in terms of subject-matter and medium.

Here is what is on offer:

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Japanese Films at the Raindance International Film Festival 2017

Raindance 2017 Poster

The Raindance International Film Festival returns to London on September 20th and runs until October 01st and it is celebrating 25 years of screening independent films. The venue has changed to the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square but there’s still a megaton of indie films for people to gorge themselves on. Here’s the amusing trailer for you to get hyped with!

This year’s line-up of Japanese films is pretty awesome. The opening film is Oh Lucy! which will be shown prior to a 90s-themed party at Cafe de Paris. There are seven other feature films and one documentary which will be screened over the course of the festival. I’ll list them below (click the title to be taken to the film you want to see).

Here are the details:

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