Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018

The 68th Berlin International Film Festival, running from February 15th to the 25th, has a pretty good line-up of films but I’m super interested in the Japanese contingent. Thanks to the great media communication, the last few weeks have been building up lots of anticipation. I’ve been covering this festival for a while now and this year is as strong as many others.

Here are the Japanese films that have been programmed, just click on the titles to be taken to the festival listing.

Berlinale 2018 Logo

The Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art has programmed the Forum as part of the Berlinale, selecting 44 films, 35 of which world premieres. The International Forum of New CinemaForum is a bit like the wild west in the sense that the filmmakers selected come from different backgrounds and practice different forms of cinema from drama to avant garde, experimental works closer to art pieces to to observational documentaries, with subjects like political reportage and drama being given equal importance. There are a huge variety of films and topics few formal limitations when it comes to the selection of films, resulting in even greater freedom.

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Yasujiro Ozu’s Film “I Was Born, But… ” will be screened with live piano and Benshi Narration at the Barbican on June 25th

The Barbican’s exhibition about Japanese homes and domestic architecture, The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, began on March 23rd and it finishes on June 25th with this special film which is one of Ozu’s earliest and his held in high regard by film critics.

Actually, every film screening has been well-picked and seems well-placed to compliment the exhibition by giving a myriad of stories connected to the Japanese home and show different living environments. The films that have been screened so far are Princess Kaguya, An Autumn Afternoon, Woman in the Dunes, The Crazy Family, Whisper of the Heart, and Only Yesterday. The final film is Yasujiro Ozu’s 1932 black-and-white silent film I Was Born, But… and it will be screened on June 25th at 16:00. What makes this screening even more special is that there will be benshi at the screening.

Here is the information:

Yasujiro Ozu

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Yasujiro Ozu’s “An Autumn Afternoon” Screened at the Barbican on May 21st

The Barbican are running an exhibition about Japanese homes and domestic architecture called The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945. It began on March 23rd and lasts until June 25th. As part of the exhibition there will be films screened. The next film in this exhibition is Yasujiro Ozu’s, An Autumn Afternoon on May 21st at 16:00 :

Here are the details:

An Autumn Afternoon                       An Autumn Afternoon Film Poster       

秋刀魚の味  「Sanma no Aji

Release Date: November 18th, 1962

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Writer: Kogo Noda (Screenplay)

Starring: Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Mariko Okada, Shinichiro Mikami, Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Nobuo Nakamura, Kuniko Miyake, Eijiro Tono, Haruko Sugimura,


Yasujiro Ozu is a titan of Japanese cinema transcending the Golden Age and becoming a name known amongst many generations. He made a career spanning from crime films at the start to a stint in the military before finally chronicling middle-class Japanese  life in the post-war period. He worked with many directors such as Shohei Imamura and Yoji Yamada and consequently, the younger generations either aspired to be him or question him. This is his last film and one of only four he made in colour. It is another family drama exploring the changes in Japan, the journey to wealth the nation was making, ageing parents and loyal children and, ultimately, an examination of family ties.

Nothing says autumn in Japan like the taste of sanma but in this film, one man in the autumn of his life must help his daughter break away from their family home and find happiness.

Synopsis: Shuhei Hirayama (Ryu) is a widower who, despite some reluctance, wants his loyal daughter Michiko (Iwashita) to get married because he realises that she would be miserable if she spent her life as a single woman looking after him. He comes to this decision after attending a school reunion and meeting his former secondary school teacher who also has a daughter in a similar position. The man is a drunk and the woman is at risk of turning in an embittered spinster. Can Shuhei release his daughter to the world and will she be able to find someone or something to give her life more meaning?

Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013

It is September and the greatest film festival in the world is about to take place. It is time for The Toronto International Film Festival.

Genki Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Banner

This year’s festival looks to be better than last year’s one. There are so many of my favourite Japanese directors like Sion Sono, Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (a season dedicated to him starts here next week!) getting their works screened and great films from around the world in general. As I looked at the list of titles I have never felt so bad about not being in Canada. This time next year I will be Canadian. I will live in Toronto and I will do Canadian things… I’m not sure what Canadians do exactly but Goregirl is cool and she’s Canadian and they have this awesome festival in Toronto where there are lots of great Japanese and South Korean films and I want to be there…

Here are the Japanese titles (click on the titles to go to the page for more info)!!!


Real                                                                Real Film Poster               

Japanese Title: リアル 完全なる首長 竜の日

Romaji: Riaru Kanzen’naru Shuchou Ryuu no Hi

Toronto Screening Dates: June 01st, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Rokuro Inui (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Keisuke Horibe, Yuki Kan

I champion Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films. Even the bad ones. Out of the ones I have seen, his best is Tokyo Sonata. I’ll admit, as much as I love his J-horror like Pulse, Cure and Retribution, his dramas and crime thrillers are pretty strong. I haven’t seen a science fiction film from him yet but he does have one. It’s this title, Real. I have heard mixed things about it but I’m staying hopeful. It reminds me a little of Inception but does it have the budget to make as much of an impact? What I do know is that it has a great cast of actors but with Takero Sato and Haruka Ayase taking the limelight, will they be up to the high standards set by Sometani, Koizumi, Odagiri, Nakatani and the rest of the supporting cast? Check the trailer!


Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss as to what the reason that drove her to do such a thing could be. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious through her central nervous system.

When he arrives she asks him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma. Finding this picture will allow Koichi to truly get close to knowing his love.


R100                                    R100 Film Poster

Japanese Title: R100

Romaji: R100

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Writer: Hitoshi Matsumoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Nao Omori, Mao Daichi, Atsuro Watabe, Shinobu Terajima, Hairi Katagiri, Ai Tominaga, Eriko Sato, You, Suzuki Matsuo, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Gin Maeda, Naomi Watanabe, Haruki Nishimoto

Hitoshi Matsumoto is unknown to me but lots of people like his feature Big Man Japan. A lot of the cast are familiar to me. Nao Omori (Mushishi), Atsuro Watabe (Love Exposure, Heat After Dark), Shinobu Terajima (Kitaro and the Millennium Curse, Vibrator), Eriko Sato (Crime or Punishment?!?), You (Nobody Knows, Still Walking) are all great actors and I believe they can make this comedy work. The concept is hilarious – a guy into a bit of S&M is hounded by dominatrixes in public.


Takafumi Katayama (Omori) is a mild-mannered father who escapes the pressures of everyday life by joining a mysterious S&M club where the dominatrix will visit the client in real life settings. At first the pinch and tickle treatment he receives from these girls in leather is fun but t becomes relentless. He is now at the mercy of a gang of dominatrixes who torment him!

Can I just say that while I’m not into S&M, Eriko Sato looks so good that I’d let her harass me at work or in public.

R100 Eriko Satwhoa

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Japanese Films at the Venice Film Festival 2013

Genki 70th Venice Film Festival Banner

The 70th Venice Film Festival is due to take place at the end of this month (August 28th – September 07th). Last year saw a neat but small selection of Japanese films and a drama. This year there seem to be even more on offer but they include some of the latest titles. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises gets its world premiere and as a result is in competition at the festival. Out of competition we see the likes of Kim Ki-Duk returning after his win last year. He has stiff competition from Lee Sang-il who brings his Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Shinji Aramaki’s rather nice looking Captain Harlock movie. Here’s the line-up:

The Wind Rises                              Kaze Tachi Nu Film Poster

Japanese Title: 風立ちぬ

Romaji: Kaze Tachi Nu

Running Time: 126 mins.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay)

Starring: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steven Alpert, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita,

Miyazaki’s latest film was recently released in Japan where it has done good numbers at the box office. It has been five years since Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Since then he has written scripts and manga. He’s back with a new film which tells the story of Jirou Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane of World War II. We witness his upbringing and his struggles with poverty, an earthquake and war and his relationship with a woman named Naoko Satomi who is suffering from tuberculosis. Jirou Horikoshi is voiced by Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. The mecha anime maestro is surrounded by live-action film actors like Hidetoshi Nishijima (Zero Focus) amd co-star Miori Takimoto (Sadako 3D 2Rinco’s Restaurant).

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Japanese Films at the Berlin Film Festival 2013

Genki Berlin International Film Festival Banner

The Berlin Film Festival 2013 was launched yesterday and runs from February 07th to February 17th. The line-up of films looks pretty good with South Korea contributing titles like Nobody’s Daughter and China finally allowing us to see Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster.

I started reporting about the Berlin Film Festival last year and enjoyed it tremendously – cool pictures and awesome sounding films. I always read the Sight and Sound report on the festival and acknowledge its importance in the festival calendar since there is always a great selection of films, particularly from Asia. The Japanese line-up looks very interesting with a mix of classics, recent releases, indie titles and short films. My highlights would have to be the older films from Ozu and Kinoshita and some of the independent titles.

This post is a bit late so apologies for that but the good news is that only one of the film’s starts tonight, the rest start over the weekend or next week and there are multiple chances to view the films.

Capturing Dad (Chichi wo Tori ni) (2012)Capturing Dad Image

Running Time: 74 mins.

Director: Ryota Nakano

Starring: Makiko Watanabe, Nanoka Matsubara, Erisa Yanagi, Kenichi Takito, Satoshi Nikaido, Tomokoi Kimura

Ryota Nakano brings his award winning film Capturing Dad (released next week in Japanese cinemas) to Berlin. Award winning? Yes! It took the award for best film and best director at the 09th Skip City International D-Cinema Festival in Kawaguchi city. The festival is aimed at discovering and rewarding digital filmmakers. I have never heard of it but the trailer looks really good, highlighting a lot of drama and a little comedy in a film about the absence of a father and the creation of relationships from that loss. The film stars Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure), Erisa Yanagi (A Gentle Breeze in the Village), Kenichi Takito (Fish Story, Fish on Land), Satoshi Nikaido (Guilty of Romance) amongst others. It plays in the Generation section of the festival.

Koharu (Matsubara) and Hazuki (Yanagi) are sisters who live in a rural town with their mother Sawa (Watanabe). The father abandoned the family for a new woman fourteen years ago which has caused huge resentment in Sawa but when she discovers that he has terminal cancer she sends Koharu and Hazuki to the hospital with a camera to take a picture of him. When they arrive at the hospital he s dead and his new family are in mourning. Koharu and Hazuki both discover things about their father and their step-family.

Plays at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Feb 09 – 17:30), CinemaxX 3 (Feb 10 – 16:30), CinemaxX 3 (Feb 16 – 11:30)

The Town of Whales (Kujira no Machi) (2012)Town of Whales Image

Running Time: 70 mins.

Director: Keiko Tsuruoka

Starring: Momoko Tobita, Sui Katano, Sakiko Yamaguchi, Kentaro Sato, Masaru Nakashima

Slow-cinema? Town of Whales is the directorial debut of Keiko Tsuruoka and she has made an observational drama that captures the drifting days spent during a summer holiday by three teens who are discovering the joys of discovering things emotional and physical with something of a fragile love triangle developing. The film apparently lacks dramatic structure but “the film doesn’t need one either. Moments are all that count, and each one has its own special significance”. Japanese women directors performed admirably at last year’s festival with Our Homeland and Just Pretended to Hear being major stand-outs (the latter winning as award) so I am eager to find out how this one plays!

Machi, Tomohiko and Hotaru are high school students Machi’s brother disappeared six years ago and she misses him terribly. The three set off to track him down.

Plays at CinemaxX 4 (Feb 10 – 19:30), CineStar 8 (Feb 11 – 22:00), Cubix 7 (Feb 13 – 15:00), Kino Arsenal (Feb 16 – 20:00)

Cold Bloom (Sakura Namiki no Mankai no Shita ni)

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Atsushi Funahari

Starring: Asami Usuda, Takahiro Miura, Yurei Yanagi, Taro Suwa, You Takahashi

Atsushi Funahari was at last year’s Berlin Film Festival with his documentary Nuclear Nation which looked at nuclear power after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tusnami. This drama is another one that deals with the disaster but looks at the economic and emotional impact as felt by a group of workers at a factory. From the synopsis it sounds perfect for an audience who like tough subject matter. Atsushi Funahari has tackled interesting relationship dramas before with the US set Big River, this one looks a lot more local but just as epic due to the subject matter. It stars a collection of new and old actors like Asami Usuda (The Woodsman & the Rain), Takahiro Miura (Ninja Kids!!!), Yurei Yanagi (Boiling Point, Ring) and Taro Suwa (Cold Fish, Himizu). The film will get a release in April 2013.

Ever since the tsunami struck the workers of a metal factory in the industrial town of Hitachi have been in something of a malaise, the only thing keeping them afloat being a skilled worker named Kenji (Takahashi) who has secured them a contract. Then he dies on the first day at the client’s site. His colleague Takumi (Miura) is responsible and the factory worker turn on him, taking sides with Kenji’s widow Shiori (Usuda) but her hatred turns to love.

Plays at Kino Arsenal (Feb 11 – 19:45), Cubix (Feb 12 – 20:00), CineStar 8 (Feb 14 – 16:15), Colosseum 1 (Feb 16 – 20:00)

Roots (Senzo ni Naru) (2013)

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Kaoru Ikeya,

Last year’s Berlin Film Festival featured lots of documentaries that used the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami as a subject but the topic will not go away as Japan is still rebuilding after the disaster and for many the destruction ran deeper than material goods as lives were lost. This documentary follows a woodcutter and carpenter named Naoshi whose house managed to withstand a lot of damage wrought by the tsunami. Unfortunately he lost his son. Naoshi is determined to rebuild his house and live the remaining days of his life there. Things are not so simple as his wife has misgivings, local authorities impose construction restrictions and his prostate cancer has only recently gone into remission. The festival page describes it as a “ tender portrait of a quietly stubborn man opens out into a complex study of the many ambivalences the reconstruction process brings with it: a tangled web of family duty, traditional customs, community spirit and municipal legislation.” It goes on theatrical release next week in Tokyo.

Plays at Delphi Filmpalast (Feb 13 – 18:30), CineStar 8 (Feb 14 – 13:15), Kino Arsenal (Feb 16 – 14:45), CineStar 8 (Feb 17 – 16:00)

Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari)     Tokyo Story Film Poster

Running Time: 135 mins.

Director: Yasujiro Ozu,

Starring: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara

Playing in the Berlinale classics thread of the festival, Tokyo Story is considered one of the all-time great films and it came top of Sight & Sound’s magazine directors’ poll of the greatest film of all time. I have only seen some of Ozu’s films like. This counts as one of the ones I have not seen and it is not because it is bad but because it is brilliant as this review points out and I want to give it the respect it deserves by watching it at the right moment because the ones I have watched have been nothing but brilliant humanist dramas. Anyway, the lucky folks who are at the Berlin Film Festival get to watch it on the big screen. It stars familiar Ozu actors Chishu Ryu and the flower of post-war Japanese cinema Setsuko Hara who both appeared in the wonderfully gentle and touching drama Late Spring. The festival describes it as telling “the story of family estrangement and the isolation inherent in modern society.” This is copious tear fuel if I know Ozu…

When the Hirayama couple travel from their small and quiet hometown of Onomichi to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo they discover that their children consider their presence an inconvenience and uncomfortable truths about the reality of life in Tokyo are revealed. It is only their daughter-in-law Noriko, the widow of their son who went missing in the war, who spends time with them but when the mother of the family is taken ill they stop at Osaka where another of their sons lives. 

Plays at CinemaxX 6 (Feb 14 – 15:00),

Tokyo Family (Tokyo Kazoku) (2013)Tokyo Family Film Poster

Running Time: 146 mins.

Director: Yoji Yamada,

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yu Aoi, Jun Fubuki, Masahiko Nishimura, Isao Hashizume, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Nenji Kobayashi, Yui Natsukawa, Shozo Hayashiya, Chika Arakawa, Ryuichiro Shibata

Tokyo Family was released last month in Japan and the festival website describes it as a something of a tribute to Yasujiro Ozu. The director Yoji Yamada who is a very familiar name having helmed The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honour was an assistant on Ozu’s most famous film Tokyo Story. This is an update to the classic but with very few departures so the story is a quiet observation of family, the generation gap and modern life as depicted through an elderly couple who visit their children in Tokyo and find them too busy.  The film clocks in at over two hours and is packed with a variety of names like Yu Aoi (All About Lily Chou-Chou, Mushishi, Hula Girls), Jun Fubuki (Séance, Rebirth), Yui Natsukawa (Shikoku, Still Walking), Satoshi Tsumabuki (For Love’s Sake, Villain) and Chika Arakawa (Apartment 1303).


Shukichi Hirayama (Hashizume) and Tomiko (Yoshiyuki)are an old married couple who live on a small island in the Inland Sea. When they visit their children in Tokyo they see the successful lives they have built for themselves. Eldest son Koichi (Nishimura) runs a hospital, Shigeko (Nakajima) runs a beauty salon and Shuji (Tsumabuki) works in the theatre and plans to marry Noriko (Aoi). The parents find that life in Tokyo is not for them and want to go home but a medical emergency strikes when Tomiko collapses.

Plays at Friedrichstadt-Palast (Feb 13 – 21:15), Haus der Berliner Festspeile (Feb 14 – 21:00), Berlinale Palast (Feb 17 – 14:30)

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