Jul 21

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

Last Friday wrapped up Japan Cuts, the two-week, 25-film festival at Japan Society.  Thanks to JS’s wonderful volunteering system I was able to see nine of the films at the festival itself, and another two in the comfort of my home.  The final night wrapped up the event with the two movies About Her Brother and Sweet Little Lies.  I was really looking forward to the latter, but I found the pacing slow and the movie’s story less stimulating than I thought it would be.

About Her Brother is one of those ubiquitous sentimental Japanese movies, but it wasn’t too heavy on the sappiness.  Tsurube Shofukutei plays the ne’er do well younger brother Tetsuro of the main character Ginko (Sayuri Yoshinaga).  We are introduced to him when he makes a drunken commotion at the wedding of his niece, Ginko’s daughter Koharu, whose name he had picked when she was born (played by One Million Yen Girl star Yu Aoi, who is great in this smaller part as well).  The family forgives Tetsuro for this transgression, but is later forced to cut off ties when he gets into financial trouble and they have to bail him out.  Circumstances manage to reunite Tetsuro with his big sister and their relationship is restored, but a lot of changes take place in the characters’ lives along the way.

Shofukutei also starred in one of the other films in the festival, Dear Doctor.  I wasn’t able to attend the screening, but heard such good things about the movie that I decided to rent the DVD from my local Japanese supermarket, Sakuraya.  I was not disappointed by all the hype.  The premise is that of a small-town doctor whose credentials are called into question through his diagnosis and treatment of a certain patient, and the story is told via flashbacks.  The plot is basic but the characters are well developed and they draw you into their simple world.  Incidentally, the actors playing both the recent medical school graduate placed in the small village (Eita) and the town’s mayor (Takashi Sasano) can each be seen in two other movies from the festival (Eita: Foreign Duck/Hanging Garden; Sasano: Accidental Kidnapper/One Million Yen Girl).

Kudos to Japan Society for successfully putting together and carrying out such a marvelous film festival.  Each movie was personally introduced by senior program officer Samuel Jamier, who offered his own insights that often enhanced the viewing experience for the audience.  His presiding over the Q&As really helped keep things on track.  Volunteer coordinator and film program assistant Joel Neville Anderson was also always on hand to make sure things were running smoothly.  A huge arigatou to them and the rest of the staff for helping to increase awareness of all the amazing Japanese film out there!

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