Every year on this blog (I believe!) I’ve covered the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. For me it’s one of the best recurring UK-Japan events and one I always look forward to.
As the UK continues into its third COVID lockdown, the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme’s organisers have brought us a line-up as strong as previous years, which everyone can watch online from the safety of their homes… for free! If like me budget and time was the only thing preventing you from trying to see all the films on offer, this is very good news.
I have been tweeting about the programme quite a bit but am slightly late bringing it to the blog, which isn’t great planning on my part as you do need to book in advance to view the films when they become available as per a carefully curated schedule (between 19 February to 10 March). The first ‘tranche’ of bookings has already passed and most screenings have ‘sold out’ but a new round of tickets will be released on Monday 15 February 12pm! So mark that in your diary. You can book your tickets here.
On top of that there is also a series of free online talks and events for those which can be booked here.
The theme of this year’s programme is This Is My Place: Carving out a sense of existing and belong in Japanese cinema.
Rather than run through all the films this year, I’ve picked out some of my personal highlights and recommendations. You can check out the full line-up yourself here.
Farewell: Comedy of Life Begins with A Lie (dir: Narushima Izuru)
Loosely based on Osamu Dazai’s final and unfinished novel, this comedy is set in the postwar Showa era while Japan is labouring under the occupation of American forces. Shuji (Oizumi Yo) has a cushy job as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine and is a raging philanderer juggling many women. One day, he decides he cannot continue living this way but, finding it impossible to do his own dirty work, he hires coarse and straight-talking Kinuko (Koike Eiko) to masquerade as his false wife with the intention of ridding himself of the other women.
HELLO WORLD (dir: Ito Tomohiko)
Set in near-future 2027 Kyoto where technology has massively evolved, high-schooler Naomi (Kitamura Takumi) adores his classmate Ruri (Hamabe Himami) from afar. One day he is approached by a man who claims to be his future self and wants to prevent a tragedy that will befall Ruri, the future love of his life. But the adult Naomi hides a secret agenda…
One Night (dir: Shiraishi Kazuya)
Fifteen years after their mother murdered her abusive alcoholic husband and turned herself into the police, three siblings who are haunted by her words ‘Live how you want. You’re free’. Their lives have taken trajectories far from what their mother hoped for them, and now they bear psychological scars which come to the fore when they reunite.
Samurai Shifters (dir: Inudo Isshin)
Based on the real-life story of feudal lord Matsudaira Naonori, shy librarian Katagiri Harunosuke (Hoshino Gen) and Oran (Takahata Mitsuki), the daughter of a former magistrate, are tasked with relocating their entire town by order of the shogunate. Together with a band of friends, they undertake the almost impossible mission of relocating their domain with little to no money and a lot of herculean energy. Will they succeed or fail and risk punishment?
Me and My Brother’s Mistress (dir: Haga Takashi, Suzuki Sho)
Highschooler Yoko (Kasamatsu Nanami) has a penchant for meddling and is shocked to discover that her brother, on the verge of engagement, is having an affair. She confronts his mistress Misa (Murata Yui) but when she realises she may in fact be a better match for her brother, an unlikely alliance forms.
Mrs Noisy (dir: Amano Chihiro)
Once successful novelist Maki (Shinohara Yukiko) moves into a new apartment hoping it’s the change she needs to break her writers block. However her neighbour’s (Ootaka Yoko) infuriating behaviour constantly interrupts her night and day and, in a rage, she confronts her. The seemingly small argument snowballs into a fight that is caught on camera and goes viral, but in the ensuring fallout Maki gets an idea for her novel…
his (dir: Imaizumi Rikiya)
Shun (Miyazawa Hio) leads a solitary life in the Japanese countryside, living in fear of being outed and shunned for being gay. He hardly thinks about his past relationship with Nagisa (Fujiwara Kisetsu) who, eight years ago at university, said he couldn’t see a future with him and left. Then Nagisa turns up at Shun’s doorstep out of the blue with his 6-year-old daughter in tow and Shun allows them to stay for a while. But their new life doesn’t come without a price.
Little Miss Period (dir: Shinada Shunsuke)
The struggles of periods is personified in literal monthly visitations by an obtrusive Little Miss Period who is blissfully unaware of the nuisance she is. The film follows several women as they navigate their daily lives, from a high-flying magazine editor to a young girl frustrated by the trials of puberty, with Little Miss Period on hand to provide funny commentary, life lessons and physical discomfort in equal measure.