The BFI London Film Festival 2017 has been and gone! No doubt you’ll have seen one of the many posters on the London Underground and managed to catch at least one film yourself. I caught a few other foreign films but, for the purposes of this blog, here are the three Japanese films I caught.
Close-Knit (dir. Naoko Ogigami)
Close-Knit (Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki wa) was a wonderful LGBT addition to the BFI line-up this year. When Tomo’s absent mother leaves town and leaves her daughter in the lurch again, she moves in with her uncle and his girlfriend, Rinko, a transwoman. While Rinko works hard to gain Tomo’s trust, teaching her to knit, preparing delicious bento lunches and caring for her in ways Tomo’s mother never did. But Rinko faces discrimination daily, particularly from the strict and conservative mother of Tomo’s friend who is struggling with his own sexuality. Close Knit is a touching, at-time hilarious and sensitive film that is both an exploration of conservative societal attitudes and familial love. Tomo Ikuta plays the role of Rinko fantastically and Rinka Kakihara (Tomo) is a promising young actress.
Big Fish and Begonia (dir. Xuan Liang, Chun Zhang)
Big Fish and Begonia is a Chinese film but it’s been licensed by MangaUK and is probably the closest thing you’ll see to a new Ghibli film this year, so I’m including it in this round-up! In the mystical world beneath the ocean, Chun joins other 16-year-olds in surfacing to the human world as a dolphin. On her journey, she encounters a young man and is forced to make a life or death decision. When she returns to the world below, she has an opportunity to make amends. The world of Big Fish and Begonia is colourful, beautiful and exquisitely animated and is a must-watch for Studio Ghibli and Disney fans. Don’t worry if you missed it as BFI as it’s getting an official cinema release in 2018!
And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (dir. Makoto Nagahisa)
And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (Soushite Watashitachi ha Pool ni Kingyo wo) was part of the Hoping, Fearing, Dreaming short film collection at BFI. I don’t often get the opportunity to watch short films but there are some real gems among them. And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool tells the true story of four middle school girls in Saitama who dump hundreds of goldfish in their school swimming pool. Stuck in a small town with nothing to do other than hang out in the shopping mall, our four girls are aware that they are eking out a mundane existence and could well be stuck there forever. When an opportunity to steal hundreds of goldfish arise, they take it for no reason other than ‘we thought it would look pretty’. The original use of filming angles and fourth wall-breaking is an creative way of presenting the otherwise very ordinary and familiar life of four school girls.