I’m back from a much-needed Christmas break, and there’s no better way to kick off 2018 than looking at this year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme line-up!
The theme for this year is (Un)true Colours: Secrets and Lies in Japanese Cinema. Everybody has once told a lie or kept something hidden from others. Whether for good intentions or otherwise, it is a fundamental and intriguing aspect of human nature which has provided inspiration to countless storytellers and filmmakers. From modern films to classics to anime, there’s something for everyone!
An impressive 18 venues across the UK are hosting #JFTFP this year. The programme starts off in London and continues on to Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Colchester, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, Inverness, Kendal, Leicester, Lewes, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Stirling. You can find a venue near you here.
Here’s a quick look at the line-up below. You can find out more about the films and book tickets here.
Oh Lucy! (Dir: Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017)
Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a 55-year-old office drone, depressed, lovelorn and chain-smoking her way to an early grave. One day, Setsuko finds salvation in the form of John, a teacher in a run-down Tokyo English school who has a rather unorthodox approach to education which includes giving Setsuko the English name “Lucy”. Knowing that John has abruptly left Tokyo to return home, Setsuko sets off to the States on a journey of discovery…
Memoirs of a Murderer (Dir: Yu Irie, 2017)
When a legal loophole allows a string of unsolved brutal murders to pass the statute of limitations, the fame-hungry killer, known as the Tokyo strangler (Tatsuya Fujiwara), suddenly emerges in public spotlight, announcing the release of his “tell-all” book confessing to the unsolved brutal murders committed decades ago. Watching the media frenzy unfold is detective Makimura (Hideaki Ito), wracked by his failure to crack the case years ago. However, a series of lingering questions leads Makimura to delve deeper in search of closure.
The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (Dir: Takashi Miike, 2013)
Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) is an inept rookie cop with a strong sense of justice. Fired for trying to arrest a city councillor caught molesting a teenage girl, he is secretly re-hired as an undercover agent and sent on a mission to infiltrate Sukiya-kai, Japan’s most notorious Yakuza clan. Suffering various hardships along the way, Reiji fights to survive the ruthless yakuza world by becoming a sworn brother to the senior member, Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whilst acting as an informer to the police.
The Dark Maidens (Dir: Saiji Yakumo, 2017)
Set in an academy for daughters of the rich and powerful, this murder mystery involves six girls with a dark secret. Literature club chairman Itsumi Shiraishi (Marie Iitoyo), has fallen to her death from the school roof. Rumours soon circulate that one of the members of the literature club is the culprit. New chairman and friend of the victim, Sayuri Sumikawa (Fumika Shimizu), holds a meeting and asks each member to recount their whereabouts at the time of Itsumi’s death. Who is telling a lie and what really happened to Itsumi?
After School (Dir: Kenji Uchida, 2008)
Jinno (Yo Oizumi) is a middle school teacher whose friend Kimura (Masato Sakai) and his wife are expecting a baby. However, on the day of the baby’s delivery, Kimura suddenly goes missing. Meanwhile a seedy private detective (Kuranosuke Sasaki) hired by a black company seeks the whereabouts of Kimura. Before long, unknown shocking facts about Kimura are revealed and the situation turns to the course nobody would expect.
Room for Let (Dir: Yuzo Kawashima, 1957)
When Yumiko Tsuyama, a potter by profession, enters an old mansion overlooking Osaka enquiring about a room to rent, she discovers a bizarre collection of characters dwelling in the humble abode. There’s a low-level gangster and panty thief, an old army sergeant and cabbage roll specialist, and a female illegal liquor vendor – to name a few. The leader of the menagerie is Yoda Goro, an eccentric jack of all trades; his simplicity and naivety, however, leave him susceptible to unscrupulous manipulators.
Birds Without Names (Dir: Kazuya Shiraishi, 2017)
Towako lives with Jinji, 15 years her senior, an uncouth man she doesn’t love. Despite Jinji’s selfless devotion Towako never gives anything in return. Instead, Towako cannot forget her ex-boyfriend Kurosakai (Yutaka Takenouchi) and even sleeps with other men who evoke memories of him. One day a policeman arrives at her door, revealing that Kurosaki has been missing for five years.
The Long Excuse (Dir: Miwa Nishikawa, 2016)
Sachio (Masahiro Motoki), a celebrity novelist, discovers that his wife of many years has died in an accident but is unable to shed a tear. Having been with another woman at the time of his wife’s death, Sachio now discovers he must play the role of a grieving husband. Then, he meets Yoichi, the devastated widower of his wife’s friend who also died in the accident, leaving two young children behind. Without really knowing why, Sachio offers to look after them while their father is at work. With his newfound family, Sachio begins to come to terms with the void left by his wife.
MUMON: The Land of Stealth (Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2017)
Mumon (Satoshi Ono) is an invincible shinobi of the Iga ninja clan. Despite his lazy nature he is eager to seek money to keep his wife Okuni (Satomi Ishihara) happy. In the deadly war against the imperious warlords, the Nobunaga clan, Mumon leads the Iga family to battle with a secret plan and some of the most cunning and unimaginable tactics.
Joy of Man’s Desiring (Dir: Masakazu Sugita, 2014)
After a huge earthquake strikes Japan, young siblings Haruna (Ayane Omori) and Shota (Riku Ohishi) are left orphaned and homeless. Haruna is left traumatised by witnessing her parents’ death, while younger Shota is oblivious to the fact that they are no longer coming back. Soon Haruna and Shota are taken in by a relative, but even with a new house and new family, little can fill the void left by the parents and no one, including Haruna, can tell Shota the awful truth.
Where I Belong (Dir: Shinji Azuma, 2016)
Izumi (Kento Hayashi), a lowlife thief cowardly targeting women and the elderly, goes on the run and finds himself stranded in the mountains of Miyazaki in southern Japan. Along one of the remote roads Izumi encounters an injured elderly woman, Suma (Etsuko Ichihara), and reluctantly comes to her aid. Indebted to Izumi for saving her life, Izumi takes in the homeless ‘good Samaritan’ and treats him like her own grandson, uninterested in his true identity. Can Izumi settle into a new life in the village, or will his secret wrongdoings in the past catch up with him?
Sword of the Stranger (Dir: Masahiro Ando, 2007)
In feudal era Japan, young Kotaro is pursued by the royal army of China’s Ming Dynasty. When his loyal dog Tobimaru is injured in an ambush, Kotaru reluctantly recruits a mysterious, nameless samurai as his bodyguard. However, “No-name” has a guilty past and his own inner demons to battle.
Gukoroku – Traces of Sin (Dir: Kei Ishikawa, 2016)
Tanaka, an investigative reporter who grew up in a troubled family, is going through a tough time trying to support his younger sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima), recently arrested and held in prison. Meanwhile, he immerses himself into a story about a shocking murder of the ‘perfect’ family – a successful businessman, a beautiful wife and an adorable child – who were brutally massacred the year before, with the case going cold and remaining unsolved. Through interviewing their friends and acquaintances, stories of their true nature unfold and it becomes apparent that the family was not the ideal it appeared to be. In turn, the interviewees unveil their own hidden natures, revealing a disturbing portrait of social elitism.
Sing my Life (Dir: Nobuo Mizuta, 2016)
Katsu (Mitsuko Baisho) is an eccentric and sharp-tongued grandmother who has worked hard throughout her life in order to make ends meet. Now 73, Katsu regrets being unable to live life to the fullest and not being able to pursue her dreams. One day, while taking a short walk seeking respite from her hectic family life, Katsu stumbles upon a mysterious photography studio – one which magically transforms her back into her 20-year-old self (Mikako Tabe). With newfound freedom and youthful energy, Katsu joins her oblivious grandson’s pop band as a singer and embarks on a journey to stardom.
Initiation Love (Dir: Yukihiki Tsutsumi, 2015)
Portrayed in the classic music format of an “A-B sided cassette tape”, Initiation Love is a deceptive and entertaining love story with dark undertones set in late 1980s Japan. The story follows university student Suzuki (Shota Matsuda) and his life-changing meeting with Mayu (Atsuko Maeda), but the theme soon alters as it is flipped to side B. Suddenly Suzuki is transferred to Tokyo and the two are forced into a long distance relationship with many complications.
Japanese Girls Never Die (Dir: Daigo Matsui, 2016)
A multi-stranded drama surrounding the disappearance of Haruko Azumi (Yu Aoi), a 27-year-old unmarried woman stuck in a dead-end job who goes missing without a trace. When Haruko’s missing person’s poster attracts the attention of two wannabe graffiti artists, her image soon becomes the unwitting face behind a pop phenomenon. Meanwhile, a mysterious group of high school girls begin attacking men at random around town. Are these events all connected to Haruko’s disappearance?