First Look: 15th Japanese Film Festival

JFF Logo

15th Japanese Film Festival (2011)Following the massive success of the 14th Japanese Film Festival in 2010, the Japan Foundation has announced that the 15th Japanese Film Festival will be even bigger than the previous one.

On their website, JFF states: “Despite the tragic events back home earlier this year, Japan has already begun to rebuild homes and lives as we continue to press on towards restoring a brighter future. The Japan Foundation, Sydney is grateful for your support and we hope you will continue supporting us as we celebrate together the festival’s 15th year.

There will be an opportunity to dig deep and reach out to our fellow Japanese friends with a special charity screening”.

They go on to announce the dates and a preview of six of the titles that will feature at this year’s festival.

The Last Ronin (2010, Dir: Shigemichi Sugita) – Also known as The Last Chushingura, The Last Ronin is based on the legendary tale of the 47 Ronin. That tale has already been adapted into several films, most notably by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1941, but also in 1962 (Hiroshi Inagaki) and 1994 (Kon Ichikawa). Hirokazu Koreeda (Still Walking) gave a twist on the tale in his 2007 film Hana yori mo naho, and it is due for a US remake with Keanu Reeves (!) in 2012, but The Last Ronin is based on Shoichiro Ikemiya’s 1994 novel “Saigo no Chushingura”, a fictionalised account of the events that occurred 16 years after the true story of the ‘Revenge of the 47 Ronin’. Starring Koichi Sata (Kamui) and Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins).

GANTZ and GANTZ: Perfect Answer (2011, Dir: Shinsuke Sato) – Based on the 27 volume manga that has sold over 10 million copies, these films received a US and Japanese debut in January and April this year respectively. GANTZ is a mysterious black orb that summons the semi-deceased with a mission to hunt down aliens. Starring Ken’ichi Matsuyama (Norwegian Wood) and Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters from Iwo Jima), both films topped the Japanese box office upon their release and stayed in the Top 10 for a combined total of 15 weeks.


Villain (2010, Sang-il Lee) – Another Japanese box-office favourite, holding off the likes of Beck, Hanamizuki and Studio Ghibli’s The Borrower Arrietty. This doomed romance drama, based on the novel of the same name, scooped the acting awards at the 2011 (34th) Japan Academy Prize, where stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villon’s Wife), Eri Fukatsu (The Magic Hour), Akira Emoto (A Lone Scalpel) and Kirin Kiki (Still Walking) took out all the top prizes. It also comes with a score from Joe Hisiashi  (Departures, Hana-Bi and most of Studio Ghibli’s animated features).

Abacus and Sword (2010, Yoshimitsu Morita) – Premiering at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2010, the film tells the story of the family of a Meiji Restoration era samurai (Masato Sakai, Sukiyaki Western Django) who serves the clan not with a sword but with an abacus as the accountant.

Yamakoshi: The Recovery of a Village – The special charity screening of a film about The Great Chuetsu Earthquake which struck Niigata Prefecture on October 23, 2004, a disaster that served as the basis for the popular A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies. Proceeds will go to aid the recovery of Japan in the wake of the tsunami and earthquake disaster that befell Sendai and its surrounds earlier this year.

Abacus and Sword

The 15th Japanese Film Festival begins in Adelaide as of this year’s OzAsia Festival. It then moves to Sydney from 17 to 27 November 2011, before taking on Melbourne from 29 November to 6 December 2011.