The 15th Japanese Film Festival in Australia unveiled their full anniversary program today, including their opening and closing night films, special guests and a whopping 15 additional titles to the 15 already announced. That’s a whopping 30 brand new Japanese films to enjoy for lovers of cinemas everywhere, and they all look like they are winners.
Not only that, director Hideyuki Hirayama (JFF14‘s Sword of Desperation) is here with his film Oba, The Last Samurai and its incredibly popular star Yutaka Takenouchi will also come to Sydney. Takenouchi also stars in the previously announced A Honeymoon in Hell: Mr. & Mrs. Oki’s Fabulous Trip, and Hirayama’s 2010 Shinsan: A Serenade in a Coalmine Town will also play.
Opening Night kicks off with Koki Mitani’s Ghost of a Chance, about man is suspected of murdering his wealthy wife, and his only alibi is a 421-year old ghost, Rokubei.It’s playing as part of a Mitani “King of Comedy” retrospective that also includes special event screenings of The Magic Hour (2008) and Suite Dreams (2006, pictured below).
It’s not all comedy, of course, with the dramatic films weighing in heavily this year. Okinawa International Movie Festival winning Hankyu Railways: A 15-Minute Miracle (2011, Dir: Yoshishige Miyake) is about those chance encounters that can happen on a railway, while the similarly titled Railways (2010, Dir: Nishikori Yoshinari) is a more leisurely paced film about a Japanese salaryman who decides to go for his lifelong dream of becoming a railway driver. Given the reputation for punctuality in Japanese trains, this doesn’t sound like an easy job. Cue the words “heart-warming”.
Then there’s “food drama” Patisserie: Coin de Rue (2011, Dir: Yoshihiro Fukagawa), which takes a leaf out of JFF14‘s Flavour of Happiness, and mountain-climbing drama Peak (2011, Dir: Osamu Katayama), which screams Cliffhanger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Over in Rebirth (2011, Dir: Izuru Narushima), Mao Inoue (JFF15’s Oba, The Last Samurai) plays a woman who was abducted for four years as a child, and is unable to find peace.
Fantasia Film Festival favourite Milocrorze: A Love Story (2011, Dir: Yoshimasa Ishibashi) has been getting some interesting reviews around the world. We don’t think we could find one better than Twitch Film telling us that it is “like a My Little Pony shitting Gummi Bears into a river of Coca-Cola under a bright pink sky full of rainbows. It’s super sweet, kind of gross, plenty weird, and damn awesome”. Meanwhile, Japan’s comedic answer to The Da Vinci Code is Princess Toyotomi, about a 400-year-old secret that could turn Osaka into an independent country within Japan! Last but not least is The Lady Shogun and Her Men (2010, Dir: Fuminori Kaneko), an alternative history in which a woman took over the country after a mysterious illness takes out the men.
In addition to the previously announced Arrietty, the other big anime title screening is Buddha: The Great Departure (2011, Dir: Yasuomi Ishito), based on the monumental Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) three-time Eisner Award winning manga of the same name. With over 20 million copies of the manga sold worldwide, this one is sure to attract lots of attention.
The festival will close with the Montreal World Film Festival award-winning Life Back Then (2011, Dir: Takahisa Zeze), recalling the Oscar-contender Departures in its exploration of a young man who takes a job as a “cleaner”, disposing of the belongings left behind by people who have died alone.
Other films we have already unveiled include the highly anticipated Studio Ghibli Arrietty (aka The Borrower Arriety, 2010, Dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi), Oba, The Last Samurai (2011, Dir: Hideyuki Hirayama), A Boy and His Samurai (2010, Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura ), The Fallen Angel (2010, Dir: Genjiro Arato), A Honeymoon in Hell: Mr. & Mrs. Oki’s Fabulous Trip (2010, Dir: Ryuichi Honda), Ninja Kids!!! (2011, Dir: Takashi Miike), In His Chart (2011, Dir: Yoshihiro Fukagawa), Star Watching Dog (2011, Dir: Tomoyuki Takimoto), The Last Ronin (2010, Dir: Shigemichi Sugita), GANTZ and GANTZ: Perfect Answer (2011, Dir: Shinsuke Sato), Villain (2010, Sang-il Lee), Abacus and Sword (2010, Yoshimitsu Morita) and the special event film, Yamakoshi: The Recovery of a Village.
The 15th Japanese Film Festival begins in Adelaide as of this year’s OzAsia Festival today. JFF15 will travel to Perth from 29 September to 7 October, then Brisbane on 1 to 4 November and Canberra from 9 to 20 November. It then moves to Sydney from 17 to 27 November 2011, before taking on Melbourne from 29 November to 6 December 2011.