One of the easiest ways to access a culture from a different country is through cinema. Cinema's ability to transport you to any location, any time period and any emotion allows you to immerse yourself in a world you might not encounter on a regular basis.
Film festivals serve just that purpose, and this year's Japanese Film Festival (JFF) lets people experience, through film, the rich, vibrant and complex nature of the Japanese culture. From contemporary to traditional, from comedy to drama, from films featuring samurai and yakuza action, to the ever-popular manga films and so much more, the Japanese Film Festival aims to offer the very best of Japanese cinema for Australian audiences.
This year it runs in Sydney until 26th November at Event Cinemas in George Street, Sydney City, and will in fact run nationally until the 3rd December where its last screening will be in Melbourne.
The Festival will also host a number of special guest Q&A screenings in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Japanese Film Festival is organised by the Japan Foundation, Sydney, the Australian arm of a foundation established by the Japanese government to promote cultural, social and academic dialogue between Japan and Australia. The Japan Foundation, Sydney also run programs and events including exhibitions, talk events and Japanese language courses.
The festival's Program Coordinator, Margarett Cortez, is proud of the specially curated lineup for this year's event. "Every film in this year's program was handpicked to present fresh perspectives and showcase the next generation of Japanese cinema", she said. Opening night speeches by both Japanese and Australian dignitaries spoke of the unique ability for both cultures to share experiences and viewpoints through the Japanese Film Festival, as well as give Australians the chance to be entertained by Japanese cinema.
The opening night film, MUMON: THE LAND OF STEALTH, is an action-comedy about a happy-go-lucky, lazy but extremely skilled ninja (played by Satoshi Ohno) who, through no fault of his own, sets off a battle between a powerful army and the ninjas in his province. It's a film with a lot of action, comedy and heart, and is also the ninth-highest-grossing Japanese film of 2017.
Cortez talks about other films in the festival's line-up. "Among this selection are genre-benders such as BEFORE WE VANISH by veteran Kiyoshi Kurosawa, stunning arthouse comeback film SNOW WOMAN by Asia's indie darling Kiki Sugino, and international collaborations such as GUKOROKU - TRACES OF SIN by filmmaker Kei Ishikawa and Polish cinematographer Piotr Niemyjski. We're also excited to introduce new blood in the Japanese cinema industry through a short film special supported by 'New Directions in Japanese Cinema', a Japanese government program supporting emerging filmmakers."
Other films include BIRDS WITHOUT NAMES, which also screened at the Toronto Film Festival and A DOUBLE LIFE, director Yoshiyuki Kishi's first feature film, who was also nominated for Best Director at London's Raindance Film Festival in 2016.
There will also be screenings of popular Japanese films honoring late director Seijun Suzuki, a visionary in avant-garde films, who also influenced the works of Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch.
From the film MY UNCLE, about 8-year-old Yukio and his favourite 'useless' uncle!
A short film program is also included in the festival, with screenings of WE'RE SHOOTING A MOVIE, DAD'S WEDDING and HIGH HEELS – A FAIRY TALE BORN OF OBSESSION.
For Sydney residents the Japanese Film Festival lineup can be seen here:
SYDNEY - 16 to 26 November 2017 at Event Cinemas George Street
SYDNEY CLASSICS – 1 to 25 October 2017 at Art Gallery of NSW – free admission