Highlights from the 2016 Japanese Film Festival

NOW entering its 20th year, the 2016 Japanese Film Festival yet again is bringing a slate of some of the best films Japan has on offer both old and new. Vondra Tay spoke to the festival’s Program Coordinator Margarett Cortez for highlights on what to see. 


Twenty years as a film festival is certainly nothing to scoff at and one of the country’s most popular festivals, the Japanese Film Festival (JFF), once again returns for a big national tour starting in Canberra and ending in Melbourne (the Melbourne leg will run from November 24 to December 4).

As per previous years, JFF shines a spotlight on the best of Japanese culture through film and for its 20th anniversary, audiences can expect a special celebration.

“For our 20th anniversary, we programmed more films by high profile Japanese directors such as Hirokazu Koreeda,” JFF Program Coordinator, Margarett Cortez said.

Koreeda’s film, After the Storm, was recently featured at the Melbourne International Film Festival and its inclusion in JFF’s program as the festival’s opening night film will give audiences a second chance to see the director’s latest.

Other high profile directors in the festival this year include Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shunji Iwai whose films, Creepy and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle respectively, come as recommendations from Cortez.

Shunji Iwai's A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (left) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy (right) will be among the marquee films of this year's festival.

Shunji Iwai’s A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (left) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy (right) will be among the marquee films of this year’s festival.

On Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy, Cortez explains that it is “one of the most intense thrillers [she’s] seen in a while”. The film, which marks a return to horror filmmaking for Kurosawa, is about a former police detective re-opening a cold case about a missing family.

Shunji Iwai’s A Bride for Rip Van Winkle, meanwhile brings a more a more arthouse touch to the festival.

“It has such a mysterious plot and the all the actors are brilliant. The movie is an exhilarating watch that’s heartbreaking one moment and heart-warming the next,” Cortez said.

Though these directors do come with a fair amount of critical acclaim, Cortez says she personally prefers more off-beat titles that highlight the varied styles of filmmaking in Japan. Her recommendations?

“This year we have Seto & Utsumi, a quirky blend of the American mumblecore genre and Japanese slice of life. We also have Pink and Gray, which is a drama but it’s nothing like the regular Japanese melodrama we’re normally exposed to here in Australia.”

As for films with a much broader appeal, anime and manga fans will be pleased to know that they too will be represented at JFF as the two part live-action adaptation of Chihayafuru will also be included in the program.

“It ticks all the boxes for fans of Japanese culture — an exciting and youthful story, traditional Japanese culture, and a pretty cast!” Cortez said.


Outside of the main program, JFF’s beloved classics program will also return offering patrons a chance of seeing some great cinema from Japan’s past brought to life on the big screen. Included in the classic program are titles such as the original 1954 version of Godzilla, Kaneto Shindo’s Children of Hiroshima and the two-part Blue Mountains, starring the iconic Setsuko Hara.

For Melbourne, JFF patrons can find the festival hub at the ACMI Café & Bar in Federation Square. JFF ticket holders can expect some live music performances scheduled in the lounge for everyone to kick back, and relax.

Screenings will take place at Hoyts Melbourne Central and at ACMI and special guests, director Miwa Nishikawa and actor Masahiro Motoki will also be in attendance at this year’s festival for their film The Long Excuse to help make this year’s edition of the festival all the more memorable!

“The festival wouldn’t be successful without constant support from fans of Japanese film in Australia,” Cortez said, and no doubt we will continue to see more editions of the festival for years to come.

For the full program and to purchase tickets, visit the official website of the Japanese Film Festival.

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