Interview: Japanese Film Festival Program Coordinator, Margarett Cortez

The Japanese Film Festival is always a highly popular event on cinephiles’ calendar and it’s no small wonder why. The Festival always has a massive array of movies to showcase covering a vast variety of tastes and genres. We were fortunate enough to get some one on one time with the Program Coordinator, Margerett Cortez to discuss the history of the event, the secret behind the popularity of the JFF and which films to watch out for.

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Japandaman: Firstly, can you tell us why the Japanese Film festival was established and how it has developed over the years?

Margarett Cortez: The Japan Foundation is a Japanese government cultural organisation which runs various cultural events and programs to strengthen ties between different countries and Japan. At The Japan Foundation, Sydney JFF was established as an annual calendar event as part of our mission and vision. But at the core of JFF is a love for films! Over the years our program has grown larger and we’ve been able to travel to more locations, major and regional, in Australia. Currently we’re able to offer the latest films from Japan with nothing over 18 months old.

J: Given that the Japanese Film Festival is celebrating its 20th year, how will this year’s program reflect this major milestone?

MC: Bigger and better films! Starting off with a special screening of the original un-cut 1954 Japanese GODZILLA in Sydney and Melbourne! We’ve also prepared a program with works by the best contemporary filmmakers from auteurs like Hirokazu Kore-eda and arthouse favourites like Shunji Iwai.

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JFF this year also has a small focus program with films by female filmmakers, an issue that is very relevant to the Australian screen industry at the moment: we will have two separate special guest Q&As with directors Miwa Nishikawa and Yukiko Mishima, hosted by Australian producer Glenys Rowe and director Martha Goddard.

J: So many people attend screenings across Australia, what do you attribute to the popularity of the festival?

MC: A shared love for Japanese culture! As well as love of travel and appreciation of other cultures, which is one reason why I think a lot of Australians love foreign films.

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J: We noticed that there are lots of special guests and activities, such as pop culture and foodie events- what can you tell us about these?

MC: We’d like the festival to feel more like a festival by adding non-film events where people can come together and talk with like-minded people and enjoy things like cosplaying and washoku (Japanese cuisine).

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J: Finally, do you have a favourite film or a ‘must see’ amongst all of the films on offer this year?

MC: THE SUN is a must-watch! It’s a beautifully shot dystopic film but nothing like your usual post-apocalyptic film set in deserts or amidst neon lights. It’s a riveting film which takes place in the Japanese mountain countryside, and touches on a lot of social issues from low birth rate to economic inequality. The lead actor Ryunosuke Kamiki is also a brilliant performer, you may remember him from Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends and BAKUMAN。.

Thank you so much for your time, Margarett, we wish you all the best with this and many JFF’s in the future! And for more info and session times in your city, check out the JFF site.

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