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15 Films you cannot miss at the Japanese Film Festival in Australia

jffaus2019We present a list of fifteen films you shouldn’t miss at the Japanese Film Festival in Australia which will take place in Canberra (16 – 20 Oct.), Brisbane (23 – 27 Oct.), Perth (30 Oct. – 3 Nov.), Sydney (14 – 24 Nov.) and Melbourne (21 Nov. – 1 Dec.)

Last year more than 30,000 moviegoers attended the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) which featured the newly released films alongside classics, anime, dramas and documentary. And this year the organizers promised that it will be better. Apart from the screenings the festival will have special international guests, school screenings, fee 35mm Classics film program in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

List of Films:

A Girl Missing

A Girl Missing by Koji Fukada – Japan | 2019 – 111 minutes

Diligent home-care nurse Ichiko is a fixture of her client’s family life: nursing the ailing bedridden grandmother while also warmly supporting her two granddaughters. After a seemingly normal day, the family’s youngest granddaughter, Saki, fails to return home and vanishes without a trace. After that, family life is never quite the same.

Struggling with the grief of Saki’s disappearance, Ichiko is further devastated when the media reports the suspect’s identity as her own nephew. Her impulse to honestly admit the connection is quickly hushed by the victim’s older sister, who insists Ichiko’s importance to the family–and her innocence– necessitates and validates the silence. Ichiko attempts to maintain her respectable identity while her world steadily begins to crumble.

Screenings:
November 23rd (Saturday) | Tresury Theatre (Melbourne) | 20:00 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:30 pm
December 1st (Sunday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 18:00 pm

Trailer (No English Subtitles):

And Your Bird Can Sing

And Your Bird Can Sing by Sho Miyake – Japan | 2018 – 106 minutes

With a contagious sense of abandon, three young adults’ lives become intimately entangled over the course of a long summer in Hakodate, Hokkaido. Enigmatic Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi) forms an ambiguous “no-drama” relationship with her slacker bookstore colleague (the film’s narrator, played by Tasuku Emoto) and meets his unemployed roommate, Shizuo (Shota Sometani).

While wasting away evenings together drinking, burning through their little cash, playing billiards and clubbing ‘til sunrise, a muted magnetism between Sachiko and Shizuo grows. Committing only to living in the moment, the trio drift around Hakodate—knowing, but never mentioning, that summer will eventually end.

Screenings:
November 16th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 20:00 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 15:45 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:30 pm
November 28th (Thursday) |The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:30 pm

Trailer:

Blue Hour

Blue Hour by Yuko Hakota – Japan | 2019 – 92 minutes

30-year-old Sunada (Kaho) seems to have it all: a successful career as a director for TV commercials, a kind husband, and a stylish Tokyo home far from her rural hometown. Behind the scenes, however, she’s having an affair with a married industry senior, is disconnected from her aloof partner, and grows increasingly anxious about the longevity of her career in an industry with little space for women at the top. Memories of a simpler time spent running in muddy fields and napping on tatami mats draw Sunada to her backwater Ibaraki hometown for an overdue visit to her frail grandma.

Screenings:
November 16th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:30 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 14:00 pm

Trailer:

Brave Father Online

Brave Father Online – Our story of Final Fantasy XIV by Teruo Noguchi, Kiyoshi Yamamoto – Japan | 2019 – 114 minutes

For Akio (Kentaro Sakaguchi), interacting with strangers in the online multiplayer game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is far easier than getting to know his own father, Akira. But when his father (Kotaro Yoshida) suddenly announces his retirement, Akio realises it’s the perfect opportunity to rekindle his bond with the emotionally-distant Akira. Despite the distance between them now, Akio has fond memories of playing the original Final Fantasy video game with his father as a child. Spurred on by this memory, Akio gifts Akira a copy of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in hopes of bringing a spark back to his father’s life, and their relationship. He wants to reconnect with his father through the game, but since he knows it won’t be easy, Akio devises a plan. It’s time for Akio to begin an all-new quest—anonymously befriend his father in the virtual world!

Screenings:
October 27th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 17:30 pm
November 3rd (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 12:00 pm
November 17th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:45 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 11:00 am
November 24th (Sunday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 20:00 pm

Trailer:

Dance With Me

Dance With Me by Shinobu Yaguchi – Japan | 2019 – 103 minutes

Shizuka is slowly climbing the corporate ladder at a big trading company in Tokyo while trying to keep her crush on her handsome, charming boss a secret. Envious of her lucky-in-love friends, she decides to visit a fortune teller to find out if she’ll ever get married. On her way there, she crosses paths with a young girl on her way to see a hypnotist (Akira Takarada), desperate to cure her shyness so she can star in her school musical. But when they arrive, the hypnotist confuses the two, cursing Shizuka to dance whenever she hears music—whether it’s on public transport, in a board meeting, or whenever a mobile phone rings! With an important meeting coming up, Shizuka is desperate to break the curse, so she embarks on a cross-country hunt for the shifty hypnotist, dancing the whole way.

Screenings:
October 20th (Sunday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 18:00 pm
October 27th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 19:00 pm
November 1st (Friday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 18:00 pm
November 3rd (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 18:30 pm
November 16th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 13:00 pm
November 22nd (Friday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:15 pm
November 27th (Wednesday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:30 pm
December 1st (Sunday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 19:30 pm

Trailer:

Fly Me To Saitama

Fly Me To The Saitama by Hideki Takeuchi – Japan | 2019 – 107 minutes

Imagine a world where people from neighbouring prefectures were persecuted for entering Tokyo without a special visa—such is the premise of this extravagant, satirical film. Rei Asami (GACKT) is a transfer student from America and secret Saitama revolutionist who is on a mission to abolish the oppressive laws perpetuated against residents of Saitama. Upon entering Hakuhodo Academy, the alluringly handsome Rei becomes a favourite with the girls, melting their hearts with his charming good looks and mysterious background, much to the dismay of Momomi Dannoura (Fumi Nikaido; Himizu & JFF 2018’s River’s Edge), the overly-pampered son of the governor of Tokyo and the student council president. It isn’t long before the two meet, and Momomi finds out the truth about Rei. In an unexpected turn of events, Momomi changes his tune, and starts supporting Rei in his quest for equality. Together, they battle defence officers armed with hairdryer-shaped tasers and cruel Chiba natives whose debaucherous torture methods leave little to the imagination.

Screenings:
October 26th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 18:30 pm
November 17th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 16:00 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 20:45 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 18:00 pm

Trailer:

Kakegurui

Kakegurui by Tsutomu Hanabusa – Japan | 2019 – 119 minutes

Forget grades at Hyakkaou Private Academy, an elite school for the rich. Here, gambling is the only way to succeed. Blackjack, poker, rock-paper-scissors—as long as you bet, it doesn’t matter! Winners rule the school, while the losers are stripped of their humanity and forced to become ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’. This year, the ultimate prize is up for grabs: a ‘blank future’ that allows the winner to do whatever they want after graduation, rather than have their life’s path decided for them.

Everyone knows the student council president will secure victory—that is, until new transfer student Yumeko Jabami enters the equation. She seems to love nothing more than taking risks, but does she have what it takes to topple the president?

Screenings:
October 27th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 15:00 pm
November 16th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 15:25 pm
December 1st (Sunday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:00 pm

Trailer:

Little Love Song

Little Love Song by Kojiro Hashimoto – Japan | 2019 – 123 minutes

Life in Okinawa has never looked sweeter for four high schoolers in a pop-rock band that sings catchy songs that evoke images of love and vibrant youth. All that changes when one evening a band member is tragically killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Grief takes hold, and their dreams of making it big in Tokyo are shattered. Political tensions on the island rise when police investigations point to the presence of the U.S. military base being involved in the accident.
Meanwhile, Mai, the younger sister of the deceased band member, seeks to reconcile her grief. In a moment of courage, she takes up his guitar and revives the band with the help of Lisa, their sweet-tempered muse living on the U.S. base. Inspired by the songs of MONGOL800, this coming of age film will make you believe in the power of music.

Screenings:
October 20th (Sunday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 14:15 pm
October 27th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 10:30 am
November 3rd (Sunday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 10:30 am
November 21st (Thursday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:00 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 12:00 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 10:30 am
November 26th (Tuesday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:15 pm

Trailer:

Melancholic

Melancholic by Siji Tanaka – Japan | 2018 – 113 minutes

Despite having a degree from a prestigious university, Kazuhiko is unemployed and living with his parents with no plans for the future. Having no work experience and a lacklustre attitude toward life, the strange, awkward and socially inept Kazuhiko eventually finds a job at the local bathhouse scrubbing tiles. While his days are rosier now with the regular stream of income, suspicious interactions between his boss and coworker lead him to question the use of his workplace outside of hours. On one particular night, he is accidentally caught witnessing a yakuza execution in the bathhouse. What begins as a film about a lonely ill-fitting man drifting along the outskirts of society, quickly develops a cross-genre edginess that is viscerally thrilling, darkly funny and heartwarming.

Screenings:
October 18th (Friday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 21:00 pm
October 25th (Friday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 20:45 pm
November 1st (Friday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 20:45 pm
November 30th (Saturday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:30 pm
November 30th (Saturday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 20:00 pm

Trailer:

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler by Kyohei Fujimura – Japan | 2018 – 111 minutes

Pro wrestling champion Hiroshi Tanahashi makes his acting debut as the gentle giant dad to nine-year-old Shota, whose understanding of goodies versus baddies is challenged in the wrestling arena when he discovers his father is actually the despicable heel wrestler Cockroach (Gokiburi) Mask.

Confronted by the idea of having a father that cowardly grapples people and blinds them with bug spray, Shota misleads his classmates into believing his father is the popular blonde babyface Dragon George instead. Shota’s lie creates a rift between his classmates and family, while his dad hopes to be taken seriously by the wrestling community once more. But Cockroach Mask is not without his zealous fans, such as journalist Michiko, who are excitedly looking forward to the special round between the underdog and hero.

Screenings:
October 20th (Sunday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 12:00 pm
October 26th (Brisbane) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Saturday) | 11:15 pm
November 2nd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 12:00 pm
November 17th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 15:30 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 11:00 am
November 24th (Sunday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 11:30 am
November 30th (Saturday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:30 pm

Trailer:

Noise

Noise by Yusaku Matsumoto – Japan | 2018 – 115 minutes

Akihabara is a playground for anime, gaming and idol subcultures, but also home to a shady underbelly riddled with exploitation and isolation. Eight years after the Akihabara massacre, the ripple effects of trauma manifest in the lives of three young adults: Misa, (whose mother was killed in the incident) an underground idol and JK masseuse; Rie, who secretly dropped out of school to hang with the wrong crowd; and Ken, a young man dragged into debt by his own mother, with a festering violent streak waiting to be unleashed.

Idol Kokoro Shinozaki (Miss iD, 2015) shines in her breakthrough role as troubled and complex Misa. Much like her character, the actress experienced a tough family life growing up and worked at a JK (high school girl) massage parlour and as an underground idol as a teenager.

Screenings:
October 26th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 20:45 pm
November 2nd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 20:30 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 21:00 pm
November 30th (Saturday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 20:00 pm

Trailer:

Rent a Friend

Rent a Friend by Mayu Akiyama – Japan | 2018 – 78 minutes

Do platonic friendships between the sexes really exist? Despite a lack of personal experience, columnist Nasa thinks it’s possible. After a chance encounter with a charming friend-for-hire, she contrives to use his rented friendship to fuel a new article series exploring the topic. Intrigued by rented friend Sota’s concept of a ‘friendship-romance switch’, Nasa secretly sets out to test their individual limits but quickly finds finds herself in too deep. When Nasa’s vocalist roommate also finds an easy connection with Sota through their shared passion for music, a messy triangle blurring the lines of friendship and ‘something more’ emerges. As their personal connections slide into the danger zones, personal and professional boundaries become anyone’s game.

Understanding her honesty and fakery in the rented friendship, Nasa begins to question: how much of Sota’s friendship is authentic, and how much is the performance of a professional? More importantly, who in their friendship group will be the first to ‘cross the line’?

Screenings:
October 18th (Friday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 18:00 pm
October 25th (Friday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 20:30 pm
November 16th (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:00 pm
November 22nd (Friday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 20:30 pm
November 22nd (Friday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 18:30 pm
December 1st (Sunday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 13:30 pm

Trailer:

Sea of Revival

Sea of Revival by Kazuya Shiraishi – Japan | 2019 – 125 minutes

Sea of Revival tells a story of a working class family trying to get by despite their own personal demons. Ikou (Shingo Katori) is a 40-year-old punter who moves to his partner Ayumi’s (Naomi Nishida) coastal hometown in Miyagi with her reticent teenage daughter Minami. The relocation is triggered by Ayumi’s father’s ailing health as a result of stage IV cancer. Just when it seems like the family has gone through enough, a tragedy befalls one of them, and Ikou’s guilt turns his gambling addiction into a never-ending purgatory. The film also stars Lily Franky (Shoplifters) as the ever-obliging family friend Onodera, who is always there to save the day when Ikou falls into the vicious cycle of addiction. Ikou has been given more than enough chances to change his luck, but he can’t seem to turn things around. Is he still deserving of his friend and family’s compassion?

Screenings:
November 2nd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 18:45 pm
November 21st (Thursday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 20:30 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 18:00 pm
November 23rd (Saturday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 20:45 pm
November 27th (Wednesday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 19:45 pm

Trailer:

Samurai Shifters

Samurai Shifters by Isshin Inudo – Japan | 2019 – 120 minutes

Socially awkward Katagiri Harunosuke (Gen Hoshino; JFF 2018’s The Night is Short, Walk On Girl) is a samurai librarian stuck between a rock and the entire Echisen Matsudaira samurai clan. Threatened with harakiri, he is forced to take charge of a large-scale mission to relocate the whole town on horses and porters across the water and over 500 kilometres away. Thankfully Oran Itakura (Mitsuki Takahata; JFF 2018’s Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura), daughter of the former relocation chief understands how complex and thankless this role is and eventually gives into her compassionate side and helps the pitiful Katagiri. Now with the assistance of Oran and a very tight budget to work with, Katagiri must come up with ingenious ways to fund the move and persuade fellow civilians to pack light—including a decluttering approach Marie Kondo would adore.

Screenings:
October 19th (Saturday) | Dendy Canberra Centre (Canberra) | 18:00 pm
October 25th (Friday) | Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre (Brisbane) | 18:00 pm
November 1st (Friday) | Event Cinemas Innaloo (Perth) | 18:20 pm
November 20th (Wednesday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 20:45 pm
November 24th (Sunday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Sydney) | 13:25 pm
November 28th (Thursday) | Treasury Theatre (Melbourne) | 17:15 pm
November 30th (Saturday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 14:30 pm

Trailer:

Tower of the Sun

Tower of the Sun by Kosai Sekine – Japan | 2018 – 112 minutes

Fondly thought of as the Picasso of Japan, Taro Okamoto worked as a prolific avant-garde artist, philosopher, and writer until his death at 85 years old. Kosai Sekine’s colourfully ambitious debut documentary is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the roots of Okamoto’s iconic work, Tower of the Sun, constructed for the government-organised Expo ’70 in Osaka, themed ‘Progress and Harmony for Mankind’. Conversely, the artist’s 70-metre tall tower was the antithesis to this message and a comment on Okamoto’s political and social concerns for the future of Japan. After almost 50 years since its construction, the interior of the Tower of the Sun was finally reopened in 2018, allowing the public to once again marvel at the exquisite artwork that lies within.

Screenings:
November 21st (Thursday) | Event Cinemas George Street (Syndey) | 18:30 pm
November 28th (Thursday) | The Capitol Theatre (Melbourne) | 19:50 pm

Trailer:

For more information about the programme please visit the official website of the festival: Japanese Film Festival in Australia

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