A Preview of Japan Cuts 2018 (JULY 19–29)

Japan Cuts 2018 is due to kick off in New York soon! This is the 12th edition of the festival which screens the largest collection of contemporary Japanese films in North America. It runs from JULY 19–29 and there is everything from indies to blockbusters, anime to documentaries and short films, and lots of off-screen action like parties, live music and more over a 10-day festival.

Trailer!

The full list of films can be found here and some features are preceded by short films. There is an impressive list of films covering a variety of topics from refugee-life to the fight for equality by people facing discrimination due to sexual orientation, the desire to create new worlds by travelling to places mainstream films never go, to a much-anticipated adaptation of a popular manga/anime. These films are made by people from different backgrounds and the guests at the festival include a lot of female filmmakers, proving that Japan is a hotbed of talent from all sorts of places.

There will be many guests including legendary screen veteran Kirin Kiki who will receive the 2018 CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film.

Here is what has been programmed!

Continue reading “A Preview of Japan Cuts 2018 (JULY 19–29)”

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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.

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018”

BraveStorm, Pumpkin and Mayonnaise, Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha Gekijouban, Fukushima: A Record of Living Things Episode Five – Follow Up -, Vibration: THE YELLOW MONKEY, Extrand, Katabui in the Heart of Okinawa, Sorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou, Game Master Death Sushi, Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen – Benio, Hana no 17-sai, Is the order a rabbit?? Dear My Sister, Moonlight Shimo Ochiai, Bow Then Kiss, High & Low The Movie 3 Final Mission Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, dear audience!

I hope everyone had a good week. It was a bit of a quiet one for me. I finished off a big writing project and sent it back to the company, attended a funding meeting for a festival, and started practising Japanese for around five hours a day. I was inspired by an American lady I met in Japan who said she studied for around six hours a day before making the move and permanently being based out there. Guts and dedication!

In terms of films stuff, I didn’t watch anything. I’m still savouring the high of Blade Runner 2049 from last week which is a candidate for my film of the year. I need to write a review. Speaking of writing… I published information on the Abertoir Horror Film Festival in Aberystwyth and Tokyo Filmex in Tokyo and my review for the film Dear Etranger (2017) was published on VCinema and then here.

What’s released this weekend?

Dear Etranger Film Image 9

BraveStorm    BraveStorm Film Poster

BRAVE STORM ブレイブストーム 「Bureibu suto-mu

Running Time: 81 mins.

Release Date: November 10th, 2017

Director:  Junya Okabe

Writer: Junya Okabe (Screenplay),

Starring: Shunsuke Daito, Yuki Matsuzaki, Shu Watanabe, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hisashi Yoshizawa,

Website IMDB

According to IMDB “This remake of the 1970s TV series “Silver Mask” and “Super Robot Red Baron” pits two families (one with an armored bionic superhero, and the other a red giant robot) against evil aliens to save Earth and prevent the extinction of mankind.”

Synopsis: It is the year 2050 and mankind has almost become extinct on Earth thanks to an alien invader known as Killgis and his giant robot, Black Baron. The last survivors, five Kasuga brothers, plan to use a time machine and their three powers: a device for identifying aliens, psychic powers, and powered suits to head to the past and contact roboticist Kenichiro Kurenai and start to build a giant robot, Red Baron. Things get confused as Kenichiro’s younger brother and aliens get drawn into the conflect. Can Kenichiro, the Kasuga brothers and their friends and family cooperate and save the Earth from aliens, giant robots, and more? Find out as a fierce battle is about to start in Tokyo.

High & Low The Movie 3 Final Mission    High & Low The Movie 3 Final Mission Film Poster

BRAVE STORM ブレイブストーム 「Bureibu suto-mu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Shigeaki Kubo, Tsuyoshi Nakakuki,

Writer: Norihisa Hiranuma, Kei Watanabe, Daisuke Kamijo (Screenplay),

Starring: Akira, Sho Aoyagi, Takahiro, Kanta Sato, Taiki Sato, Tomoki Hirose, Shuntaro Yanagi,

Website

Synopsis: Two rival gangs, SWORD and the Kyuryu group, battle each other in order to reveal and conceal respectively the evil experiments of the government.

Bow Then Kiss    Bow Then Kiss Film Poster

一礼して、キス 「Ichi re shite, kisu

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Takeshi Furusawa

Writer: Yukiyasu Asano (Screenplay), Yakko Kaga (Original Manga)

Starring: Elaiza Ikeda, Masaki Nakao, Takashi Matsuo, Katsuhiro Suzuki, Takahisa Maeyama, Minori Hagiwara, Kousei Yuki, Keito Kanamori, Yusuke Sato, Hidekazu Mashima,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: An Kishimoto (Elaiza Ikeda) is a high school girl who has been practicing kyudo (archery) for the past 6 years. She is the outgoing president of her school’s archery club and faces her last tournament but feels unfulfilled by her results and full of regrets. She appoints Yota Mikami (Masaki Nakao) as the next head of the kyudo team, someone doesn’t practice much but wins competitions. He has a crush on her and she has feelings for him. Just as she is about to finish as president he stops her...

Pumpkin and Mayonnaise    Pumpkin and Mayonnaise Film Poster

南瓜とマヨネーズ 「Kabocha to Mayone-zu

Running Time: 93 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Masanori Tominaga

Writer: Masanori Tominaga (Screenplay), Kiriko Nananan (Original Manga)

Starring: Asami Usuda, Taiga, Joe Odagiri, Ryuya Wakaba, Koudai Asaka, Ritsu Otomo, Kurumi Shimizu, Ken Mitsuishi, Sario Okada, Emina Kondo,

Website IMDB

Masanori Tominaga (Rolling) assembles a great cast with Asami Usada (The Woodsman and the Rain) in a love triangle with Joe Odagiri (Over the Fence) and Taiga (Japanese Girls Never Die).

Synopsis: Tsuchida (Asami Usuda) lives with her boyfriend Seiichi (Taiga). He is an aspiring musician but he has no job and is struggling to write new songs. Tsuchida decides to work at a hostess club to support them both but doesn’t inform Seiichi. Things blow up when she gets herself involved with her customer Yasuhara (Ken Mitsuishi) and Seiichi finds out. Arguments ensue and he decides to get a job but around this time, Tsuchida runs into her ex-boyfriend Hagio (Joe Odagiri)…

Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha Gekijoban    Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha Gekijoban Film Poster

予兆 散歩する侵略者 劇場版 「Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha Gekijoban

Running Time: 140 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Stageplay)

Starring: Kaho, Shota Sometani, Masahiro Higashide, Makiko Watanabe, Ren Osugi, Taro Suwa, Kei Ishibashi, Eriko Nakamura, Makoto Nakamura, Yukino Kishii,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: This is the theatrical adaptation of a television series tie-in for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish (2017), a take on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers story. The story concerns Etsuko Yamagiwa (Kaho) who gets involved with a crisis faced by co-worker Miyuki Asakawa (Yukino Kishii) who tells her that she has a ghost in her home. What should be a ghost turns out to be Miyuki’s father there and Miyuki is sent to the psychiatric hospital where her husband Tatsuo (Shota Sometani) works. There, Miyuki receives a diagnosis that she lacks the concept of “family.” It is also there that Miyuki becomes disturbed by the presence of Dr. Jiro Makabe (Masahiro Higashide). She may not be mad because, one day, Etsuko hears Dr. Jiro Makabe state “I came to Earth to invade.”

Moonlight Shimo Ochiai    Moonlight Shimo Ochiai Film Poster

ムーンライト下落合 「Moo-nli=rght Shimo Ochiai

Running Time: 30 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Tasuku Emoto

Writer: Tasuku Emoto (Screenplay), Kazuhiro Kato (Stageplay)

Starring: Tasuku Emoto, Ryo Kase, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A play by Kazuhiro Kato, the director of the theatre company Tokyo Dry Battery, serves as the basis for a film which is chamber-piece, a conversation between two friends, Mikami and Nagata, who spend a few hours together in a room late at night somewhere in downtown Tokyo.

Fukushima: A Record of Living Things Episode Five – Follow Up –       Fukushima A Record of Living Things Episode Five – Follow Up - Film Poster

福島 生きものの記録 シリーズ5 追跡 「Fukushima: Ikimono no kiroku Shiri-zu 5 tsuiseki

Running Time: 95 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Masanori Iwasaki

Writer: Masanori Iwasaki (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

Website

Synopsis: Director Masanori Iwasaki has kept track of the impact of the radiation from the Fukushma Daiichi meltdown on the local ecosystem for a number of years. This is the fifth work in a series of documentaries and in this one he takes up the theme of marine pollution and follows up a survey conducted by the National Institute for Environmental Studies which took place 1 km offshore from the nuclear power plant. He also looks at the child of a monkey born around the time of the accident and exposed to radiation. Scientists are interviewed and the impact of the radiation is assessed.

Vibration: THE YELLOW MONKEY    Vibration THE YELLOW MONKEY Film Poster

オトトキ 「Ototoki

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Daishi Matsunaga

Writer: N/A

Starring: Kazuya Yoshii, Hideaki Kikuchi, Yoichi Hirose, Eiji Kikuchi,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: The Yellow Monkey reformed after a 15-year hiatus and went on tour in 2016. Director Daishi Matsunaga captures them on and off stage and finds out what went on during their 15 years off and what they plan to do next.

Sorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou      Sorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou Film Poster

そろそろ音楽をやめようと思うSorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou

Running Time: 89 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director: Shinichi Ono

Writer: Shinichi Ono (Screenplay),

Starring: DynamiteNaoki ダイナマイト☆ナオキ, Sachiko Hatazaki, annie, Yuji Tanaka, Daisuke Chiba, Chiharu Okamoto, Junichi Kato,

Synopsis: This indie film is the debut of director Shinichi Ono and he shows the difficulties and joys of pursuing a career as a musician. Dynamite ☆ Naoki takes the lead role of a man named Kenichi. He dreams of becoming a professional musician and performs live shows while supporting himself with a part-time job. His wife Akiko stands by him but he’s in his forties and makes the decision to give up until, one day, Kenichi receives an invitation from former music collaborator. His life takes an unexpected turn in a new direction.…

DON’T GIVE UP KENICHI!

Game Master Death Sushi    Game Master Film Poster

ゲームマスターGe-mu Masuta-

Running Time: 30 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Yoshikazu Ishii

Writer: Yoshikazu Ishii (Screenplay),

Starring: Hitomi Maki, Ryo Ohno, Kenji Sakama, Masaru Shinozawa, Miyuki Takase,

Synopsis: Nine people wake up in a locked room. They don’t know each other, they don’t remember how they got there. All they know is that everyone is that everyone is being forced to participate by a man dressed in a strange costume: he is the host of a series of games. In the first, they have to eat a piece of sushi: one of them is poisoned and the one who eats it will die. Things get worse from there…

Katabui, in the Heart of Okinawa    Katabui, in the Heart of Okinawa Film Poster

カタブイ 沖縄に生きるKatabui Okinawa ni Ikiru

Running Time: 80 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Daniel Lopez

Writer: N/A

Starring: Tasuku Emoto, Ryo Kase, Shohei Uno,

Website (English) Website (Japanese) IMDB

Synopsis: Daniel López, a Spanish-Swiss filmmaker and photographer was travelling the world when he visited Okinawa and was moved by the place. He moved to Okinawa in 2003 and has made this documentary exploring his reasons why. He looks at the history of the islands, the traditions, music, sports and martial-arts, Ryukyu culture and more as he seeks an answer to the question “Why are you attracted to Okinawa?”

Here’s an excerpt from the English-language website:

Nevertheless, in this archipelago filled with contrasts in its unique set-up, I gradually discover that a deep-rooted spirit of resistance does prevail. A strength, which intrigues me and I find hard to fathom. It seems really quite exceptional to me that this “spirit of Okinawa”, where values of mutual aid and tolerance, inspired by ancient traditions survive, within a contemporary society driven by profit and efficiency.

Extrand    

エキストランドEkisutorando

Running Time: 91 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Yuichiro Sakashita

Writer: Yuichiro Sakashita, Takeshi Tanaka (Screenplay),

Starring: Shigeyuki Totsugi, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Tomoya Maeno, Tateto Serizawa, Yumi Goto, Kohei Nagano,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Kanagawa University of Fine Arts, Office of Film Research (2013) was directed by Yuichiro Sakashita and impressed a number of critics. He’s back with another story about filmmakers and this time they are doing bad things as they tap into the enthusiasm of regions wanting to promote themselves. A producer manages to make a movie by skilfully deceiving the people of Enoki city who wish to boost the local in film production with a small film. Initially the citizens are cowed by this brash outsider and his crew but they soon work out he’s using them. Will the people of Enoki city be able to get justice and a film to boot?

Is the order a rabbit?? Dear My Sister    Is the order a rabbit Dear My Sister Film Poster

ご注文はうさぎですか?? Dear My Sister Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??: Dear My Sister

Running Time: 60 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Hiroyuki Hashimoto 

Writer: Hiroyuki Hashimoto (Screenplay), Koi (Script/Original Creator)

Starring: Ayane Sakura (Kokoa Hoto), Chino Kafuu (Inori Minase), Risa Taneda (Rize Tedeza), Maaya Uchida (Sharo Kirima), Satomi Sato (Chiya Ujimatsu), Saori Hayami (Midori Aoyama), Ai Kayano (Moka Hoto), Rie Murakawa (Megumi Natsu), Sora Tokui (Maya Jouga),

Animation Production: production doA

Website MAL ANN

Synopsis from ANN: In Koi’s original four-panel manga, the main character Cocoa (a pun of “hot cocoa”) arrives at the café Rabbit House one day, excited for rabbits. She actually all but lives in that café. She meets lots of different girls there, including a tiny and cool girl named Chino (from “cappucino”), a tough and soldier-esque girl named Rize (“Thé des Alizés” tea), a spacey and quintessentially Japanese girl named Chiya (“Uji matcha” tea), and the ordinary but dignified Sharo (“Kilimanjaro” coffee). This story takes place in the summer so expect fireworks displays.

Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen – Benio, Hana no 17-sai    Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen - Benio, Hana no 17-sai Film Poster

劇場版 はいからさんが通る 前編 ~紅緒、花の17歳~ Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen – Benio, Hana no 17-sai

Running Time: 97 mins.

Release Date: November 11th, 2017

Director:  Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Writer: Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Screenplay), Waki Yamato (Original Creator)

Starring: Saori Hayami (Benio Hanamura), Mamoru Miyano (Shinobu Ijuuin), Asami Seto (Tamaki Kitakouji), Kazuya Nakai (Shingo Onijima), Takahiro Sakurai (Tosei Aoe), Yuuki Kaji (Ranmaru Fujieda), Kenta Miyake (Ushigorou), Shizuka Itou (Kichiji), Unshou Ishizuka (Major Hanamura),

Animation Production: Nippon Animation

Website ANN

I went to a funding meeting for the anime festival I work at earlier this week. One of the points made in the meeting by me was that it would be great to screen anime that rarely leaves Japan. Things like this.

Synopsis from ANN: Benio Hanamura lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy — contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and isn’t as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman’s right to a career and to marry for love. Benio’s best friends are the beautiful Tamaki, who is much more feminine than Benio but equally interested in women’s rights, and Ranmaru, a young man who was raised to play female roles in the kabuki theater and as a result has acquired very effeminate mannerisms.

AND THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK!