Oct 11

Japanese Film Festival Celebrates 20 Years in Australia

By Eden Law (ALT Fukushima 2010-2011), reporting from Sydney, Australia.


© 2016 “Chihayafuru” Film Partners © Yuki Suetsugu / KODANSHA LTD.

The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) in Australia is the largest Japanese-themed film festival in the world, travelling around the major cities in Australia as well as several regional towns. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, which started in 1997 in North Sydney. As Margarett Cortez, JFF Program Coordinator (at Japan Foundation in Sydney) describes, it has expanded in size and scope, from 3 films, to offer a schedule that now boasts over 40 works, and is a touring festival that covers all the major Australian cities and some regional towns. Some films in the JFF will even have their first world premier during the festival, showing in the same week as when they open in their domestic market (such as Night’s Tightrope and Sanada Ten Braves). The original film festival was the vision of festival director Masafumi Konomi, and while he has moved on from helming the festival, he continues to be involved from Tokyo, ensuring the quality of films that Australian audiences currently enjoy.

Proper 20th anniversary celebrations will kick off in Sydney, the original home of JFF. The Sydney leg will open on 17th November with After the Storm, from legendary director Hirokazu Kore-eda, in a family drama about a deadbeat father given a chance to reconcile with his estranged wife and child. Following the opening film, the celebrations begin with a reception at Sydney Town Hall, with live music, and a special guest appearance by Yukiko Mishima, whose film Night’s Tightrope, a dark coming-of-age story of two girls with an obsession with death, is one of the highlights of the festival. Other events are planned as the festival unfolds, with live music in both Sydney and Melbourne (the latter at the ACMI cafe and bar).

JFF offers something in a wide variety of genres. Ms Cortez recommends the two-parter Chihayafuru – a live-action adaptation of the popular manga and anime series and a “sports” film of sorts, as it is based on competitive karuta, a Japanese card game that has seen a revival due to the popularity of the films. Dramas make a strong showing this year, apart from the aforementioned After the Storm, there is Nagasaki: Memories of My Son, about a grieving mother who reminisces with the spirit of her deceased son about life and loss – this is Japan’s entry to the foreign film category in this year’s Oscars. Creepy, the latest from Japan’s leading horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is a psychological thriller about a neighbour that gets too close for comfort, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, step into the bizarre (or hilarious, depending on your taste) world of the panty-equipped superhero, Hentai Kamen, who returns in the sequel HK2: The Abnormal Crisis (lead actor Ryohei Suzuki seems to be contractually obliged to bare flesh in his films these days). In the documentary genre, Tsukiji Wonderland, filmed in the last year of operation of the famous Tokyo fish marketplace, is a behind the scenes look at how this institution operated for almost 80 years.

There are far more noteworthy films than can be properly described here – but what is certain is that lovers of Japanese films will be more than satiated with the quality and quantity of films available. To keep up to date as the festival opening dates draws near, go to the website (http://japanesefilmfestival.net/) or follow on various social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

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