8 films you shouldn’t miss at the 12th Kyoto Historica International Film Festival

These are eight films you shouldn’t miss at the 12th Kyoto Historica International Film Festival which will take place online (via Mirail platform) and at the Museum of Kyoto from October 31st – November 8th, in Japan.

About the festival:
“The Kyoto HISTORICA International Film Festival has entered its 12th year. It is the only film festival in the world specialising in history. We started up in the cultural land of Kyoto which grew up in its long history, and have presented the dynamics of period films and entertainment to the world. This is an international film festival that questions us about the ways of the contemporary society, and we hope to become a clue for new businesses.

This year, the festival will be held in the midst of the COVID-19, with us all facing the devastating influences on our daily lives and still coping with many hardships, however, we will overcome these troubles to present an exciting festival, to share dreams, hope and courage with everyone. For your safety and security, this year we will hold a hybrid film festival mixing both real and online screenings. It will be a great pleasure to find new fans, who could not participate in the past, to discover our film festival with this new venture.” Chairman Isao Takeda.

How to enjoy the festival:
We encourage readers to visit the following link to know how to watch this festival in theaters and online: (See the How To Enjoy section)

Selected Films:

Abacus and Sword by Yoshimitsu Morita – Japan | 2010 – 129 minutes
Section: Historica Focus

From Bakumatsu to Meiji. There was a family that survived a tumultuous time through wisdom and love. The low-rank samurai Inoyama Naoyuki, accountant to the Kaga do-main, excels with the abacus and gets promoted. However, with family relations, child-care fees and ceremonies, expenses increase each time he gets promoted due to the samurai customs, and their family finance winds up in a difficulty! Naoyuki declares a scheme to recover the household under their predicament. The family unites to live a provident life. A story depicting the family love and the bond between parent and child over three generations of the Inoyama family. (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Schedule: November 3rd, 2020 (Tuesday) – 10:30 am
Available Online: NO

Gwen by William McGregor – UK | 2018 – 84 minutes
Section: Historica World

19th century Wales, England, at the end of the industrial revolution. The young girl Gwen awaits her absent father in the bleak hills of Snowdonia, living a simple life with her mother and sister, Mary. The untouched hills become a target of exploitation by a mining company, and the family try desperately to protect their land from encroachment. However, as her mother’s mysterious illness grows worse, eerie events continue to descend upon Gwen. The local community also begin to act suspiciously… A folk horror with a new perspective of historical film, merging gothic drama and social realism. (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Schedule: October 31st, 2020 (Saturday) – 18:30 pm
Online Schedule: November 2nd – November 8th on MIRAIL platform.


Horse Thieves by Lisa Takeba, Yerlan Nurmukhambetov – Japan, Kazakhstan | 2019 – 81 minutes
Section: Kyoto Filmmakers Lab Screenings

Fields in the summer, dry wind with the scent of grass, horses neighing. In a small house in the fields embraced under the great sky, lived young Olzhas with his family. One day, his horse-breeder father does not return after leaving for the market. Concurrently, a man Kairat comes to visit them. Kairat, who appears in front of the family who had just lost their father, was an old lover of Olzhas’ mother, and his biological father. Hiding the truth, the three head towards his cousin’s home. Though without many words, Kairat and Olzhas both acknowledge each other’s talent in art, and begin to connect with each other. Meanwhile, as they stop at a cafe with a broken car, Olzhas sees a man wearing his late father’s watch…

Theater Schedule: October 7th, 2020 (Saturday) – 15:00 pm
Available Online: NO


Samurai Hustle by Katsuhide Motoki – Japan | 2014 – 119 minutes
Section: Historica Focus

Edo period under the reign of the eighth shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune. The Edo Sho-gunate places impossible orders to acquire a gold mine, said to be in the small, low productivity Yunagaya domain in Iwaki. If they did not go to Edo for ‘Sankin Kotai’ (pol-icy for the lord to alternate living a year in Edo) within 5 days, the domain was to be demolished! The Yunagaya domain had no time or money. Usually preparation would take half a year, and the travel alone eight days… and they had no stocks left either. Domain leader Naito Masaatsu hires the ninja Danzo Kumogakure as his guide, and takes elite vassals onto an eccentric plan. However, council elder Matsudaira Nobutoki has also hired a ninja assassin, in order to hinder their Sankin Kotai. Will they be able to safely accomplish Sankin Kotai and protect their domain? (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Screening – November 3rd, 2020 (Tuesday) – 18:30 pm
Online Schedule: October 31st – November 15th on MIRAIL platform.


The Assassin by Masahiro Shinoda – Japan | 1964 – 104 minutes
Section: Historica Focus

In the centre of action between ‘Joi’ (pro the expulsion of foreigners) and ‘Tobaku’ (against the Shogunate) factions, was the Hokushin Itto-ryu swordsman Kiyokawa Hachiro, a samurai excelling in both literary and arts; and he was pressed for killing Kikatsu, a spy of the Shogunate. He was also under the orders of Matsudaira Chikaranosuke to group up ronins, to oppress the Kino (pro-Emperor) samurais that were disturbing peace in Kyoto. The Kino samurais, furious at Kiyokawa for his betrayal, send an assassin, who ends up getting defeated. Kiyokawa recruits every ronin who applied, and heads off to Kyoto in high spirits. However, Kiyokawa yet again shows his ambition with a clever scheme. The cunning Kiyokawa, betraying the Tobaku and the ronins, is deemed enemy from both the Kino and Sabaku (pro-Shogunate). (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Screening: November 5th, 2020 (Thursday) – 18:30 pm
Online Schedule: October 31st – November 15th via MIRAIL platform.

The Ballad of Narayama by Keisuke Kinoshita – Japan | 1958 – 98 minutes
Section: Historica Focus

A poor village in the mountains. Here, there was a custom of visiting the Narayama once reaching the age of 70. Visiting Narayama meant senicide to decrease the population. At 69 years old, Orin was looking after her three grandchildren, while searching for a new wife for her son Tatsuhei, who had lost his wife the year before. On the day of the biggest festival of the village, Narayama Festival, they finally manage to welcome a new wife Tamayan from a neighboring village. Though she finally thought that she could peacefully visit Narayama, the glutton Matsuyan who was pregnant with her grandson Kesakichi’s child also started to live with them. And Orin, says that she will “go to the mountain tomorrow” before the new year came… (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Screening: No date
Online Schedule: October 31st – November 15th via MIRAIL platform.


The Night of Firefly by Heinosuke Gosho – Japan | 1958 – 123 minutes
Section: Historica Focus

In the disquiet days with the pro-Emperor against pro-Shogu- nate, the reliable landlady Otose manages the boathouse Teradaya in Fushimi. Her husband is good-for-nothing, and even has a mistress. She loves her adopted child Oryo as a real daughter. One day, a man comes in through the backdoor – Sakamoto Ryoma. His desire is to make the world a place where there are no poor people; and she is drawn him. However, Oryo and Ryoma are also attracted to each other. Otose learns of the two, and does all she can to stop his persistent flooding pursuers, and lets the two escape… (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Screening: November 6th, 2020 – 18:30 pm
Available Online: NO

The Twilight Samurai by Yoji Yamada – Japan | 2002 – 129 minutes
Section: Historica Special

Bakumatsu in Shonai; the Unasaka clan. Low-rank samurai Iguchi Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) who had lost his wife, rushes home every day for his two daughters and old mother as soon as the taiko sounds to leave the castle. His colleagues mocked him as ‘tasogare’ (twilight) Seibei because of this. One day, as he rescues his childhood friend Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), his sword-fighting skills become known, and Seibei is selected as an executioner. Unable to defy the clan’s order, he confesses to Tomoe, and departs into the jaws of death where Yogo Zen’emon (Min Tanaka) holes up in opposition to seppuku… (KHIFF 2020)

Theater Screening: October 31st, 2020 (Saturday) – 11:00 am
Available Online: NO


For more information about the festival and the programme please visit the official website here:

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