The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2016 has kick started the year with some great movies for people to watch to educate themselves in Japanese culture. This years theme is IKIRU: The Highs and Lows of Life in Japanese Cinema.
Running from 5 February to 26 March 2016, the first stop is London ICA, the ICA is particularly one of my favourite cinemas as they are tucked away in between Charring Cross and Piccadilly on the outskirts of a serene park. Inside a home to art exhibits, cafe, trendy bar, walk in gift shop and comfy cinema screens for lots of independent films.
The Japan Foundation added two anime’s to the list due to popular demand and here are the titles:
Anthem of the Heart
We follow Jun Naruse a young girl who believes her words have caused unmeasurable trouble. She is one day visited by a mysterious ‘Egg Fairy’ who casts a spell on her preventing her from speaking, stopping her from conveying her emotions. When she enters high-school, Jun is asked to join a musical – a group which turns out to be an unexpected mix of students all suffering from emotional trauma just like Jun. Through the key themes of friendship and music can will Jun be able to find her voice again?
A charming story from the creators behind the smash hit movie, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. The creative team of director Tatsuyuki Nagai, scriptwriter Mari Okada and character designer Masayoshi Tanaka return with a completely original animated film which was a huge hit upon its domestic theatrical release in late 2015, touching many hearts across Japan. (Distributed by All the Anime)
A animation from the Keiichi Hara who, who’s film, Colorful, the Japan Foundation screened previously. (Watch the interview with Keiichi Hara here.) Set in early Edo period, this animation brings to life the story of O-Ei, the daughter of the ukiyo-e master, Katsushika Hokusai (globally famous for his piece The Great Wave).
Based on the original manga Sarusuberi by Hinako Sugiura, an adaptation which Hara, a huge fan of the series, called ‘a dream come true,’ the film brings Sugiura’s comic and worldview to the big screen, creating a wonderfully detailed recreation of Edo life through combining hand-drawn 2-D with 3-D techniques. The film scooped three awards at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, including the Satoshi Kon Award for best animated feature film. (Distributed by All the Anime)
Here are also a few that have taken my fancy:
An award-wining film telling the admirable story of Seiichi, a ‘kirareyaku’ actor whose main job in samurai movies is simply to be killed-off by the lead star. When the studio where Seiichi works decides to discontinue its samurai epics, Seiichi finds himself at a loss but hope arrives in the form of a young woman named Satsuki, who soon becomes his disciple.
Using Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight as an underlying theme, this film pays homage to the unsung heroes of Japanese movies filmed in Uzumasa film studios (Kyoto), Japan’s Hollywood. The semi-autobiographical performance by real-life kirareyaku, 71-year-old Seizo Fukumoto, who is said to have acted out 50,000 on-screen deaths, earned him the best actor prize at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Montreal, in 2014, with the film also winning the festival’s Cheval Noir for best film. (Distributed by Third Windows Film)
I’ll Give it My All…Tomorrow
Fed-up forty-something Shizuo (Shinichi Tsutsumi) quits his secure job to become a full-time slacker, embarking on a reluctant pursuit to follow his true dreams. Despite now spending most of his time hanging around the house in his underwear playing video games and working part-time at a fast-food restaurant, Shizuo eventually comes to realise his true passion in life: Manga! Without much preparation or any skill, Shizuo starts working on his masterpiece…
Adapted from Shunju Aono’s popular manga series, this comedy by Yuichi Fukuda (the director behind HK: Forbidden Super Hero) follows the mid-life crisis of a loveable lazybones trying to find his calling. It will no doubt delight many aspiring manga writers of all stages of their lives! (Distributed by Shochiku)
Starting at the prestigious ICA London from 5th February – 11th February
Find the full list of movies and anime on the Japan Foundation website.