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Beneath the Shadow (Eiri) 影裏 Dir: Keishi Otomo (2020)

Beneath the Shadow   Eiri Film Poster

影裏  Eiri

Release Date: February 14th, 2020

Duration: 134 mins.

Director: Keishi Otomo

Writer: Kaori Sawai (Script), Shinsuke Numata (Story) 

Starring: Gou Ayano, Ryuhei Matsuda, Mariko Tsutsui, Tomoya Nakamura, Ken Yasuda, Jun Kunimura,

Website IMDB

After spending the 90s working in TV, director Keishi Otomo moved into film and has built a filmography stacked with adaptations of novels and manga. He is best known for the internationally successful Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, a big-budget samurai series with a visual sheen of intense action, dizzying stunt work and exquisite period details that swept viewers away. He reigns everything in for his latest work, Beneath the Shadow, Eirin in Japanese. 

This is based on a same-named 2017 Akutagawa prize-winning novel by Shinsuke Numata and is set in the director’s hometown of Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, both before and after the 3/11 disaster. It features a slow-burn character-driven drama that teases audiences with a light mystery that hinges on the idea that our interpretations of people’s behaviour can be wrong if our emotions get in the way but also, that all of us have something we keep in the shadows.

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A Preview of the Japanese Titles at the New York Asian Film Festival 2020 (August 28th – September 12th)

The New York Asian Film Festival 2020 launches on August 28th and runs until September 12th and there are around 51 films programmed with 8 from Japan.

New York Asian Film Festival 2020 Event PosterThe festival, like many others, will deliver its to audiences films via the internet rather than through any physical screenings and the fest is only open to people in America. The method of watching the films is via an app called Smart Cinema which can be installed on smartphones and tablets. This means that people have the chance to watch the films safely in the comfort of their own homes.

As of writing, there is no indication of any Q&As or introductions but there are a LOT of films for people to enjoy. I will highlight the Japanese films and a range of other titles that I have covered at the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) so, hopefully, it can help you when you are making a choice about what to watch.

What are the films programmed?

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New York Asian Film Festival Winter Showcase 2020: Love at First Bite (February 14th to 16th, 2020)

Here’s a press release for a fantastic looking event fit for foodies who love films:

WINTER SHOWCASE 2020 Logo-01

The New York Asian Film Festival ushers in the new decade with the second annual edition of its Winter Showcase. Held at Chelsea’s SVA Theatre over Valentine’s weekend, this year’s showcase celebrates our love of Asian films by turning the spotlight on food cultures through cinema. At a juncture when America still obsesses over Bong Joon-ho’s award winning Parasite, and some of its more minute plot points such as the wonders of Ram-Don (jjapaguri), it is timely to show that when it comes to putting food front and center, Asian movies do it best.

To celebrate a time-honored tradition of storytelling and the romantic holiday, this year’s lineup brings together trends-and-time-transcending classics as well as some remarkable foodie films of recent years, spanning several decades and different strands of filmmaking: regardless of where and when they are from, these stories pack in full plates of heart and soul, feasts for the eyes, and more than a few surprises demanding to be seen on the big screen.

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A Preview of the New York Asian Film Festival 2019

The New York Asian Film Festival 2019 launches at the end of the month and there are 11 films from Japan to get excited about.

New York Asian Film Festival 2019 Film Festival PosterThe films that come from Japan range from an exciting-looking jidai-geki based on real history to adaptations of manga based in contemporary times. A lot of films are currently on the festival circuit but there are a couple that have yet to be released anywhere, even Japan. The styles and stories are all varied and seem to give a good idea of what mainstream Japanese cinema is creating.

It’s exciting to see that two of SABU’s latest films, jam and MR LONG, are on the programme as both films have idols but put them through their acting paces in action-packed and dramatic tales. Fly Me to the Saitama is said to be a heck of a lot of fun as it mixes great comedy and theatricality with a satire of Japanese society. There is a noir with The Gun which took a top prize at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. Then there is The Fable which looks absolutely bananas – an adaptation of a hitman manga which is worth reading!

There are also guests coming from Japan such as Nana Komatsu who is the joint recipient of the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award so do make sure to make them feel welcome.

Also programmed are a selection of films from across the rest of Asia and these include some great titles like Maggie (South Korea) – winner of the Audience Award and the Grand Prix at the Osaka Asian Film Festival – and its director Yi Ok-Seop will be in New York. Still Human (Hong Kong) also plays at the fest and lead actress Crisel Consunji is attending. Also, legendary action choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

What are the Japanese films programmed?

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Japanese Films at the New York Asian Film Festival (June 29 – July 15)

The 17th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) will run from June 29 – July 15, 2018 and there are 14 Japanese films programmed for the event. There are many guests arriving in New York and a real variety of films which makes the Japanese content really exciting to see.

Indeed, the Opening Night film is the North American premiere of Tominaga Masanori’s Dynamite Graffiti, an earthy dramedy about the life of Suei Akira, who is described as “Japanese porn mag king”.

Dynamite Graffiti Film Image

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The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016

The Long Excuse The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita, Keiko Horiuchi, Haru Kuroki,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa loves writing about the worst traits of people. Nishkawa’s previous feature films, Wild Berries (2003), Sway (2006), Dear Doctor (2009), and Dreams for Sale (2012) have protagonists who are unctious liars, unappreciative egotists, unrepentant cheats, and utter scoundrels. In this film, based on a novel she wrote, Nishikawa asks the audience to follow a character whose emotional life is a cold-hearted absence borne by self-absorption, a man who has disappeared into himself and lost sight of what really matters in life, other people.

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Rage 「怒り」 Dir: Sang-il Lee 2016

Rage Rage Film Poster

怒り 「Ikari

Running Time: 142 mins

Director:  Sang-il Lee

Writer: Sang-il Lee (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Novel),

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Aoi Miyazaki, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Gou Ayano, Suzu Hirose, Pierre Taki, Mirai Moriyama, Takahiro Miura, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kenichi Matsuyama,

Website IMDB

Rage is about the desperate need for human connections and the difficulties in maintaining trust when paranoia grips people. It takes place in four different communities in three separate regions of Japan following a grisly crime and the ambitious story allows a star-packed ensemble cast to go for glory in its bid for human drama but not everything resonates.

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Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016

Double Life   Double Life Film Poster

二重生活 「Niju seikatsu

Running Time: 83 mins

Director:  Yoshiyuki Kishi

Writer: Yoshiyuki Kishi (Screenplay), Mariko Koike (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Masaki Suda, Lily Franky, Setsuko Karasuma, Naomi Nishida, Yukiko Shinohara, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Double Life is the debut feature-film from Yoshiyuki Kishi but it is done with such control you would have no idea. It is based on a novel by Mariko Koike and features a strong cast that bring audiences an interesting drama of a student who becomes obsessed with her neighbour ‘s life.

The student at the centre of the story is Tama (Mugi Kadowaki in her first lead role). She is a philosophy student who lives with her video game designer boyfriend Takuya (a low-key Masaki Suda) in a comfortable apartment.

A Double Life Film Image

When we first see her, she’s slogging through her masters thesis and even questioning the meaning of her own life when her inspirational professor, Shinohara (Lily Franky playing his role in a physically and emotionally constricted manner), gives her some guidance by telling her to follow in the footsteps of the French writer Sophie Calle and follow, in turn, in the footsteps of some random stranger on the street to discover their life.

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Japanese Girls Never Die  「アズミ・ハルコは行方不」Dir: Daigo Matsui 2016

Japanese Girls Never Die  

japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster
japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster

アズミ・ハルコは行方不  Azumi Haruko wa yukue fumei

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Daigo Matsui

Writer: Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel), Misaki Setoyama (Screenplay)

Starring: Yu Aoi, Mitsuki Takahata, Maho Yamada, Shono Hayama, Taiga, Kanon Hanakage, Ryo Kase, Motoki Ochiai, Tomiyuki Kunihiro, Akiko Kikuchi,

IMDB Website

In this film, Japanese girls are mad. Justifiably so if you look at reality. Despite Japan being a country on the bleeding edge of culture and cool, the way women are treated leaves a lot to be desired. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan (I’m dating this review with a reference to him), has pledged to make Japan’s economy boom again and one of his methods is to get more women into the workplace and not just in menial positions but in leadership roles – womenomics. Rather contradictorily, he wants this whilst also trying to persuade women to boost the birthrate of a country with workplace environments that often penalise people for taking time off to look after family matters. Unfortunately, his grand plans have faltered and women still find themselves trapped in lowly positions never mind other issues such as stalkers and whatnot. Japanese Girls Never Die, based on the novel Haruko Azumi Is Missing by Misaki Setoyama, manages to tackle many issues of that women face in a bright neon blaze of righteous anger and anime-inspired visuals that will drive home the injustices that women endure.

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The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016

The Long Excuse The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita, Keiko Horiuchi, Haru Kuroki,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa loves writing about the worst traits of people. Nishkawa’s previous feature films, Wild Berries (2003), Sway (2006), Dear Doctor (2009), and Dreams for Sale (2012) have protagonists who are unctious liars, unappreciative egotists, unrepentant cheats, and utter scoundrels. In this film, based on a novel she wrote, Nishikawa asks the audience to follow a character whose emotional life is a cold-hearted absence borne by self-absorption, a man who has disappeared into himself and lost sight of what really matters in life, other people.

Continue reading “The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016”