by James Fletcher

Marking its 25th year, the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) has grown over the past quarter century to become the largest celebration of Japanese cinema beyond its own borders, with an estimated 40,000 participants enjoying a hybrid festival of online and socially distanced screenings in 2020.

And in 2021, thanks to a new partnership with Palace Cinemas, the festival is looking to deliver to an even wider audience as it returns to a full in-cinema season with a bold program set to screen across the country. Kicking off its national tour in Canberra on October 28, the JFF edition will then head to Perth (November 4), Brisbane (November 11), and Melbourne (November 18) before landing in Sydney on November 25.

Some notable highlights of the 2021 program include a slate  of Japanese manga adaptions, led by box-office hits such as The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, a slick, supernatural procedural; The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill, the comedic follow up to 2019’s assassin-centric The Fable, and the (anti) romance drama The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese, starring Tadayoshi Ōkura of the popular male idol group Kanjani Eight and Ryō Narita (of Your Name fame), all set to make their Australian debuts.

Other pop-culture-tinged additions of the festival include the corporate thriller AI Amok, a teen rom-com based on the popular manga series Liar x Liar, the time twisting indie feature Beyond Two Infinite Minutes [pictured, main image] and the beautifully crafted dystopian stop-motion sci-fi Junk Head, praised by director Guillermo del Toro as a ‘work of deranged brilliance’.

This year’s Festival will also see a select package showcasing Japan’s rising pool of female directors, headlined by the Tokyo International Film Festival’s 2020 Audience Award winner Hold Me Back [above] from writer/director Akiko Ōku, the coming-of-age drama True Mothers from Naomi Kawase (Radiance) and the acclaimed drama Under the Open Sky from Miwa Kishikawa (Dreams for Sale).

Complimenting an already impressive line-up, the 25th edition of the JFF will also feature a beautifully curated retrospective of provocateur filmmaker Shūji Terayama with screenings that include Farewell The Ark [below], a poignant adaption of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and which marks Terayama’s final film before his passing in 1983; The Fruits of Passion (1974) which teams Terayama with producer Anatole Dauman (In The Realm of the Senses) to deliver a sexually explicit political opus of manipulation and passion; and the short film Glass Labyrinth (1979), which compresses many of the themes and imagery that have defined Terayama’s legacy as a filmmaker.

With the lockdowns thankfully in our collective rearview mirror, the Japanese Film Festival is back with a vengeance, delivering one of its strongest programs in recent years. For a full breakdown of the movies, shorts and documentaries on offer, details of participating Palace Cinema locations nationally and screening times visit


Leave a Reply