The Japanese Film Festival today announced its full program and first two guests for 2018: Australian-born rising star Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2) delivers a stellar performance in highlight indie comedy Oh Lucy! and renowned Japanese auteur Isao Yukisada, for his turbulent coming-of-age drama River’s Edge.
The 2018 Festival will showcase 30 features and one fascinating documentary across Canberra (17 – 21 Oct.), Brisbane (24 – 28 Oct.), Perth (31 Oct. – 4 Nov.), Adelaide (9 – 11 Nov.), Sydney (15 – 25 Nov.) and Melbourne (22 Nov. – 2 Dec.).
Each city features carefully curated programming by The Japan Foundation, Sydney, from star-studded dramaYakiniku Dragon and tear-jerking true storyThe 8 Year Engagement, to viral genre-bender One Cut of the Dead.
The Festival in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth kicks off with romantic detective mystery DESTINY: The Tale of Kamakura, touted as the live-action version of the Ghibli classic Spirited Away. An adaptation of Ryohei Saigan’s popular Kamakura Monogatari manga series by Takashi Yamazaki (Always: Sunset on Third Street), this modern fairy tale follows a writer into a netherworld of supernatural creatures to save his wife.
Sydney and Melbourne will open with viral microbudget genre-bender One Cut of the Dead. Direct from sold-out screenings across Japan, this action-packed spectacle is a brilliantly-disguised low-budget, high-concept take on the zombie comedy genre. Flowing seamlessly from monster mayhem, to hilarious satire, into a family comedy-drama, Shinichiro Ueda’s debut follows a film crew shooting a zombie flick, during which they are attacked by real zombies.
“With sophisticated thrillers, captivating romance, and sexuality in the censorship era, the Festival is proud to present this handpicked selection of diverse Japanese cinematic gems,” said Japanese Film Festival Programmer Alison Groves. “This year’s program is a provocative cross-section of modern Japanese filmmaking, and stunning works from the country’s ‘New New Wave’ of cutting edge filmmakers: Summer Blooms by up-and-comer Ryutaro Nakagawa, and Goodbye, Grandpa! by Yukihiro Morigaki.”
Rising star Shioli Kutsuna will attend the Festival to introduce Oh Lucy!, and engage in audience Q&As. Kutsuna stars alongside Golden Globe-nominated actress Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) and Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) in the full-length adaptation of director Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Sundance Short Film Jury Prize-winning short, about a lonely Japanese woman who awakens her alter ego in an English class.
Other program highlights include Yakiniku Dragon, featuring a star-studded cast including Jeong-eun Lee (Okja), Yoko Maki (The Grudge), and Yo Oizumi (Bread of Happiness). Based on Wui-Sin Chong’s award-winning 2008 play, it tells a heart-warming story of resilience that draws on Chong’s own experiences as a Korean-Japanese immigrant.
Top cinephile picks include two films from Official Competition in Venice: The Third Murder, a probing courtroom drama by master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters); and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Killing, starring Yu Aoi (Japanese Girls Never Die) and Sosuke Ikematsu (Shoplifters); plus Love At Least, about a hypersomniac recluse and her boyfriend, whose lives are turned upside down by a scheming ex-girlfriend.
The edgy and erotic take centre stage in River’s Edge, with Festival guest Isao Yukisada (Crying Out Love in the Centre of the World) introducing the film and engaging in an audience Q&A; Call Boy, a portrayal of female sexuality as navigated by a male prostitute searching for purpose; and Dynamite Graffiti, a biopic on Akira Suei, whose photography mag Photo Age became a pornographic source in Japan’s censorship era.
The Festival will also showcase the versatility of pink film maestro Takahisa Zeze with three distinct films: The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine, about militant anarchists who fall in love with a female sumo troupe; tear-jerking drama The 8-Year Engagement, the viral true story of a man standing by his fiancée after a coma erases her memory; and My Friend ‘A’, following a failed journalist uncovering his colleague’s murderous past.
Not to be missed is a delectable 4K restoration of iconic 1985 foodie classic Tampopo featuring the breakthrough role of Oscar-nominated actor Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai). Dubbed a “ramen Western,” the comedy explores the relationship between love and food through a truck driver who helps save a family’s run-down noodle shop.
The Festival will also present a free classic film program from 29 September – 2 December in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Featuring works adapted from novels by celebrated authors such as Junichiro Tanizaki and Kyoka Izumi, the program showcases influential works from cinematic masters from the Japanese Golden Age and New Wave.
2018 Japanese Film Festival screening dates:
CANBERRA: 17 – 21 October at Dendy, Canberra Centre
BRISBANE: 24 – 28 October at Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre
PERTH: 31 October – 4 November at Event Cinemas Innaloo
ADELAIDE: 9 – 11 November at GU Film House Adelaide
SYDNEY: 15 – 25 November at Event Cinemas George Street
MELBOURNE: 22 November – 2 December at Melbourne Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) & Hoyts Melbourne Central