Japan film fest returns onsite

AFTER being held online for two years because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Japan Foundation Manila returns to on-site screenings for this year’s edition of the Japanese Film Festival (JFF).

This year will also see the launch of two online sites supporting the festival, plus related sweets making workshops.

Ten full-length films will be screened in selected cinemas nationwide from Jan. 22 to Feb. 22.

Launched in 1997, the JFF, formerly known as EIGASAI, is presented and run by the Japan Foundation, Manila. It shows everything from drama to animé and mystery films, including recently released films.

“The Japanese Film Festival continues to offer new and contemporary takes on the development of Japanese cinema with a global perspective,” said Ben Suzuki, director of Japan Foundation Manila, at a press conference on Jan. 10 at the Red Carpet Cinema at the Shangri-la Plaza mall. “Films are a powerful vehicle for cultural exchange and bilateral relations We at the Japan Foundation Manila would like to take this opportunity to further strengthen ties between Japan and the Philippines through movie showing,” he said.

The festival kicks off on Jan. 22 at the Shangri-la Plaza in Mandaluyong City, with screenings until Feb. 3. There will also be simultaneous screenings at SM City Baguio, SM Seaside Cebu, SM City Davao from Jan. 27 to 31; followed by film showings at Cinematheque Manila, Cinematheque Negros, Cinematheque Iloilo, Cinematheque Davao, and Cinematheque Nabunturan on Jan. 28 and 29; and at the Cine Adarna in UP Diliman, Quezon City, from Feb.17 to 22. Admission is P100 per screening.THE 10 FILMS

The festival opens with Hosoda Mamoru’s animated film Belle, starring the voices of Nakamura Kaho and Satoh Takeru. The 2021 film tells the story of a high school girl Suzu who lost the ability to sing when her mother died in an accident when she was young. One day, she is invited to join a virtual world known as “U” where she creates an alter-ego and becomes popular as the singer Belle.

Keisuke Yoshida’s Intolerance is about the father of a junior high school girl who dies in an accident after allegedly trying to shoplift. Wanting to prove her innocence, he doggedly chases down everyone involved. The drama film stars Arata Furuta and Tori Matsuzaka.

Keisuke Yoshida’s In Blue follows Urita (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) who loves boxing but fails to win in matches. Meanwhile, his younger rival Ogawa is close to becoming the Japan champion and is preparing to marry Urita’s childhood friend. Though everything he ever wanted is within Ogawa’s grasp, Urita continues to work toward his dream.

Maeda Tetsu’s And So The Baton Is Passed is about Yuko (Nagano Mei) a high school student who lives with her stepfather Morimiya (Kei Tanaka). Morimiya is her third father. Her mother, Rika (Satomi Ishihara), is a free spirited person who has remarried several times, and disappeared from Yuko’s life. Even though Yuko and her stepfather are not blood related, she is fully loved by him.

In Yoshino Kohei’s Animé Supremacy!, Hitomi Saito works for a major animation production company and has been given her first chance to direct a series, but storm clouds soon gather over the production. The film stars Yoshioka Riho, Nakamura Tomoya, Emoto Tasuku, and Ono Machiko.

Tachibana Masaki’s Blue Thermal follows Tamaki (Hotta Mayu) who wants nothing more than an ordinary life in college. Unfortunately, she damages a glider shortly after school starts and ends up taking a gofer position with the aviation club to pay back the damages. She then becomes fascinated with the world of the skies.

Zeze Takahisa’s In the Wake follows a series of baffling serial killings where the victims were tied up and left to starve. Just released from prison, Tone (Satoh Takeru) surfaces as a suspect but detective Tomashiro (Abe Hiroshi) cannot nail down conclusive proof.

In Shiraishi Kazuya’s Lesson in Murder, Masaya Kakei attends a low-ranked university, a situation he finds depressing. One day, he receives a letter from Yamato Haimura, a high-profile serial murderer convicted and sentenced to death for nine of the 24 killings he had been accused of. Reaching out to Masaya, Yamato freely admits his guilt but insists the ninth conviction was a frameup and implores him to find the true killer The film stars Abe Sadawo and Okada Kenshi.

Yuasa Masaaki’s Inu-Oh is an animated film about an encounter between the unusual looking Inu-Oh and the young minstrel Tomona. The two become inseparable friends and foster one another’s talents, releasing successive hit songs and gradually rising to stardom.

In Omori Tatsushi’s Every Day a Good Day, Noriko (Kuroki) and her cousin Michiko (Tabe Mikako) start taking tea ceremony lessons with Takeda, who has a reputation for being an extraordinary teacher. At first, Noriko is confused by the intricate rules, but after two years she comes to realize the profundity of the tea ceremony. The film stars Yoshimura Tomomi, Kanai Takaharu, and Kondo Takahiko.

JFF ONLINE, INDEPENDENT CINEMATo strengthen the distribution of Japanese films, the Japan Film Festival has launched two online platforms for overseas viewers.

“As you know, the pandemic has completely changed the situation in the global entertainment industry. The Japanese film industry has faced a crisis with its annual box office revenue falling by about 50%,” Masafumi Konomi, producer of JFF and JFF Plus Online said in a video.

“Despite this, more than 500 films continue to be produced each year in Japan. Even though many films have been produced, hardly any Japanese films are released overseas. Therefore, the JFF distributes a variety of Japanese films not only at the annual cinema festival but also on JFF Plus Online,” Mr. Konomi said.

JFF Plus Online (https://jftor.org/events/jff-plus/about/) is a website for Japanese cinema with content primarily in English and Japanese. The featured films are based on the annual Japanese Film Festival.

The second streaming platform, launched in December 2022, is JFF+ Independent Cinema (https://watch.jff.jpf.go.jp/). It is a free online streaming program featuring 12 Japanese independent films. Its content runs until March 15.

SWEETS-MAKING WORKSHOPSInspired by one of the films in this year’s line-up, Every Day a Good Day, the JFF is also hosting wagashi or traditional Japanese sweets workshops on Jan. 20 and 21, facilitated by wagashi master Momoko Takai.

The Nerikiri Workshop, to be held on Jan. 21 (at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) at the Shangri-la Plaza’s Grand Atrium focuses on making decorative rice cake with white beans. Nerikiri is a type of Japanese wagashi made by kneading and mixing sweetened white bean jam, yam, and glutinous rice flour. Nerikiri visually reflects seasonal features and is tinted with different colors and molded into various shapes according to the season. Seats will be provided for non-participating viewers. To register for the workshop, visit https://japanesefilmfestph.jfmo.org.ph/side-events/.

Meanwhile, the Daifuku Workshop will be held online on Jan. 22, 11:30 a.m. It will bestreaming on the JFM Instagram live and will focus on making rice cakes with sweet filling. Enjoyed during teatime, daifuku are soft rice cake (mochi) wrapped around a small round of sweet bean paste or other fillings like fruit, then covered with a light dusting of potato starch to keep them from sticking together. Daifuku also means “great luck.”

For more information on the films and workshops, and screening schedule details, visit https://www.facebook.com/jfmanila and https://japanesefilmfestph.jfmo.org.ph/.