Last Thursday saw the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) kick off for 2017. I was lucky enough to be invited to the VIP which was held at ACMI at Federation Square. The event was really swish with delicious finger food and Japanese drinks on hand. It was a particularly hot day so it was a great time for me to discover the wonders of the Choya can, a carbonated alcoholic plum wine drink. There will be more of this in my future! There was also a screening of one of the films from the festival, Mumon: The Land Of Stealth, showing on the opening night as part of the proceedings. It was a great film full of ninjas, drama, comedy, stunning choreography and intrigue. Fans of J-Pop idol group, Arashi, will best run along to catch Satoshi Ohno in the lead role. Not only is he the leader of the hugely popular group but he nailed the lead role with loads of humour and a really hilarious moment when he breaks the 4th wall.
The Festival is on right now so check out the official site for the complete show listing along with screening times and locations to catch these awesome films!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Erased is a 2016 live action film based on the hit anime of the same name by writer Taku Kishimoto. The story revolves around Satoru Fujinuma, a manga artist who experiences moments of flashback in time allowing him to change the course of events. He coins the phrase “Rewind” for these moments. He doesn’t know what he has to change but time keeps looping until he fixes what he’s there for.
During the early part of the story, he suffers a terrible tragedy which results in him having a revival moment, waking up and living a large part of his childhood as a ten year old trying to avert a spate of murders of young children in his area. He needs to stop these from happening as it affects the tragedy he suffers as an adult. The film closely follows the events of the anime, for the most part, and even mirrors some of the scenes, shot for shot.
The film stars Tatsuya Fujiwara as Satoru Fujinuma and Kasumi Arimura as his close friend, Airi Katagiri. Tatsuya might be known to audiences as playing the role of Light Yagami in the Death Note movies. First off, full disclosure, I was a huge fan of the anime and went into this expecting to be disappointed. I’m pleased to say that I definitely wasn’t disappointed and was in fact, quite the opposite. Both leads give great performances which always helps to carry the movie along. Tatsuya is a standout as he doesn’t always know if what he’s done is enough to prevent a tragedy and you can see the anguish and anticipation in him as he, like us, hopes for the best. Kasumi lights up the scene whenever she appears, she gives such a delicate performance as Satoru’s best friend and confidante. A special notice must be given to the two young child actors who play the roles of Satoru and his childhood school friend, Kayo. Tsubasa Nakagawa as a young Satoru literally steals every scene he appears in, he’s such a charismatic and talented young actor and likewise with Rio Suzuki as a young Kayo. The chemistry these two child actors have is astounding and really makes the film something special.
The cinematography is fantastic with locales from suburban Tokyo to the tranquil riverside shots. Anyone familiar with the anime will admire the attention to detail, in particular the house where Kayo lives has an amazing level of detail in comparison with the anime. I’m always a sucker for movies filmed in Japan as it’s genuinely hard to take a bad shot in Japan, no matter where you are or the time of year. The film doesn’t have much in the way of a musical score or if it did, I wasn’t aware of it but that’s possibly because I was so sucked into the film. However, Erased still carries itself nicely no doubt due to the excellent storytelling, performances and on screen drama. Now that I’ve mentioned the storytelling, I just have to say that there is a massive change towards the end. No spoilers so don’t panic but when I saw which way it was headed, it surprised me. I wasn’t disappointed and I could see at the same time why the story was changed to accommodate the different medium for the story.
All in all, I loved it and not just because I would love it even if it was bad. I was a tad nervous before the viewing as I am with all anime’s that receive the live action movie adaptation. It doesn’t take much to turn a great anime into a stinker of a film but I’m happy to say that that wasn’t the case here. What the director, Yūichirō Hirakawa, has managed to do here is tell a story that weaves drama, heartbreak, suspense, love and a sense of childhood nostalgia that really pulls at your heart strings and yes, keep your tissues ready. There are a couple of scenes that’ll have you sobbing a bit. definitely one of the better live action movie adaptations which I highly recommend to anyone who was a fan of the anime.
The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) 2016 has rolled back into town kicking off a few days ago in Canberra. The JFF aims to showcase the very best in Japanese cinema as well as also introduce a new genre of world cinema to the masses. Celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, the JFF looks set to be bigger than ever with fantastic cinema experiences.
“We’ve scoured Japan for the best of both classic and modern Japanese cinema and we’re thrilled to celebrate our 20th anniversary with such a diverse program. From special events and classic films from the fifties on, to works by female directors and rising indie filmmakers, there really is something for everyone in this program”.
– JFF Program Coordinator, Margarett Cortez.
The films in the program have each been carefully curated by The Japan Foundation, Sydney. To catch some great movies in your town, here’s the schedule:
CANBERRA – 14 to 23 October 2016 at Capital Cinemas, Manuka
ADELAIDE – 21 to 30 October 2016 at at Mercury Cinema
BRISBANE – 26 to 30 October 2016 at Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre
PERTH – 2 to 6 November 2016 at Hoyts Carousel, Cannington
SYDNEY – 17 to 27 November 2016 at Event Cinemas George Street
MELBOURNE – 24 November to 4 December 2016 at Hoyts Melbourne Central & ACMI Cinemas
SYDNEY CLASSICS – 8 October to 6 November 2016 at Art Gallery of NSW
Free admission. Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before.