AFTER a successful run across Australia’s major cities, the Japanese Film Festival will round out its national tour in Melbourne. Hieu Chau spoke with festival director Masafumi Konomi, to better understand which films people should keep an eye on.
Originally starting with only three films for the public, the Japanese Film Festival – currently running its 17th year – has mobilised its efforts to not only show a greater breadth of films, but to also showcase Japanese cinema to Australia.
Starting November 28 through to December 8, fans of Japanese films and culture will be able to participate in the 17th Japanese Film Festival where audiences will be treated to the latest in Japanese film.
This year marks the first time the Japanese Film Festival has toured all across Australia, hitting each state and territory’s capital city as well as some of its accompanying cities. The Melbourne leg of the festival will conclude the festival’s national tour, which kicked off in Broome in September.
Speaking with festival director Masafumi Konomi – who at the time of speaking was present in Canberra for the festival’s stopover in Australia’s capital – he expressed that mobilising the festival’s efforts across the nation was “always one of the festival’s intentions.”
For Mr Konomi, the backbone of the festival has always been to celebrate hope and to explore the will and tenacity of the Japanese spirit. As we spoke, Konomi reflected on the importance of these values and how they have shaped the festival line-up.
“I believe that we should share some part of the responsibility in restoring hope to our nation. This year, I have included in the program the film Reunion. This film looks at the immediate ten days after the [March 2011 earthquake and tsunami] and focuses on the local efforts of the people,” he said.
Other films that Mr Konomi feels is indicative of this hopeful theme also include the opening and closing films of the festival, The Great Passage and Fruits of Faith respectively.
Apart from the hopeful films of the festival, there are plenty of other interesting films included on the program. From Takashi Miike’s (13 Assassins, Audition) new film Shield of Straw to Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the program isn’t short of different and inspiring films.
Among these is The God of Ramen, a documentary about renowned ramen master Kazuo Yamigishi. The documentary is a simple one that focuses on the life and struggles of the ramen master rather than his delectable ramen. Though by no means groundbreaking, Yamigishi’s story is told effectively.
“The documentary is about himself rather than the technique [he uses to make his] ramen. [Yamagishi’s] noodle shop is closed now but [during the 40+ years that the noodle shop was open], he taught 300 – 500 students,” Mr Konomi said.
An interesting character, the story of Yamagishi and his humble little noodle shop will certainly stir an appetite for ramen after watching the film.
Exclusive to the Japanese Film Festival’s run in Melbourne will be the special guest appearance of director Satoshi Miki (Adrift in Tokyo). Miki will be in attendance to present his brand new film, Ore Ore, and will also stay around after the film’s screening for a Q&A session where fans and audience members in attendance can pick apart at the celebrated filmmaker.
Starring Japanese heartthrob Kazuya Kamenashi (formerly of the Japanese boy band KAT-TUN), Ore Ore tells the story of a young man’s loss of identity as he encounters multiple versions of himself throughout the course of the film.
Described by Mr Konomi as “unique”, fans of Japanese idol Kamenashi will certainly enjoy seeing the actor put on a predominately one-man show as he acts alongside himself for the majority of the film.
In addition to the festival’s screening of contemporary films, a series of screenings for classic Japanese films has also been planned. These screenings, which are all free of charge, showcase the films of famous Japanese production house Daiei.
Of the five films that Mr Konomi has programmed for the Daiei retrospective, he encourages audiences to check out Elegant Beast.
“I really recommend people watch Elegant Beast [because] I was really amazed by [how] it feels really contemporary and modern.”
Mr Konomi also described the film as being very similar in style to that of master director Alfred Hitchcock.
Another recommendation of Mr Konomi’s also goes to the recent Japanese critical favourite The Devil’s Path. Based on true events, this dark film explores the mind of a serial killer and was described by Konomi as “one of the best films of the year” – though he says that once you’ve left the cinema “you’ll think and have bad feelings”.
As one of the premier film festivals to look out for this year, the Japanese Film Festival’s expansion grows stronger and stronger with each outing. With 2013 marking the year’s first national tour in all the major Australian cities, one has to wonder what other goals Mr Konomi has for the festival from here on out.
“I think next year I’m going to try and [bring] the Japanese Film Festival [to] New Zealand. I want to [be able to] foster Japanese cinema [over there] as well,” he said.
If you want to see these films and more at this year’s Japanese Film Festival, enter our competition below for your chance to win one of three double passes to the Japanese Film Festival during its run in Melbourne! The double pass can be used for any session throughout the festival’s run in Melbourne.
The 17th Japanese Film Festival will be showing between November 28 – December 8 in Melbourne with screenings taking place both at Hoyts Melbourne Central and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). More information about the film festival can be found at the Japanese Film Festival’s official website.