So, Nippon Cinema aimed to bring some of the best mainstream leaning hits to festival screens, but what does Nippon Visions have to offer? As the name implies, this strand is dedicated to indie, experimental, and innovative forward-looking filmmaking.
Nippon Visions is home to this year’s festival focus, documentaries, as well as a selection of art house and independent films. This section involves two awards – the Nippon Visions Jury Award which offers free subtitles courtesy of Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy (JVTA), and the Nippon Visions Audience Award which features a €1000 prize sponsored by Japanisches Kultur- und Sprachzentrum.
Japanese-American director Kimi Takesue’s 95 and 6 to Go was filmed over six years during which she travelled to Hawaii following the death of her grandmother to learn more about the history of her family. Talking to her grandfather about his life and her own stalled film project, Takesue neatly weaves the personal and the universal for a meditation on life, love, loss and endurance.
Produced by Ian Thomas Ash (A2-B-C, -1287) Boys for Sale is the debut feature from Itako and focuses on the world of male prostitution in Tokyo’s Shinjuku 2-chome.
Come on Home to Sato is the debut feature from Yoshiki Shigee. Filmed over three years, the film follows the social workers and professionals involved with Kodomo no Sato – a safehaven for children of all ages and backgrounds in Osaka’s Nishinari district.
The intriguingly titled Gui Aiueo:S A Stone From Another Mountain To Polish Your Own Stone is a strange road movie/documentary/performance piece from Go Shibata featuring UFOs, hermits, and sustainable toilets.
A selection of three short NHK documentaries :
The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families – a documentary about a disconnected phone box used to call absent loved ones.
Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki
What You Taught Me About My Son – a documentary about The Reason I Jump author Naoki Higashida
Gilles Laurent’s La Terre Abandonée follows the residents of Tomioka who refused to obey the evacuation order after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Steven Okazaki’s Mifune: The Last Samurai is an attempt to chart the legendary actor’s career as it intersects with the history of samurai cinema.
Atsushi Funahashi’s Raise Your Arms and Twist! Documentary of NMB48 follows the aspiring idol stars as they go about their tightly controlled lives in one of the most controversial sectors of the Japanese entertainment industry.
Start Line charts deaf filmmaker Ayako Imamura’s bicycle journey through Japan.
Masked wrestling provides a ray of hope for a directionless little boy in Kohei Taniguchi’s Dynamite Wolf. Sponsored by the Dotonbori Pro Wrestling League.
Ayako Fujimura’s charming family drama Eriko, Pretended follows its aspiring actress protagonist as she travels home for the funeral of her older sister. Having pretended to be much more successful than she really was, Eriko makes the abrupt decision to stay behind in her hometown, look after her sister’s orphaned son and take over her job as a professional mourner.
Boxing trainer Asahi plans to marry his long-term girlfriend Kaori and has found a job for his close childhood friend, Hiroto, to bring him to Tokyo. Everything seems fine but Hiroto has fallen victim to a scammer and needs Asahi’s help. His first instinct is to postpone the wedding and help his friend whom he regards as a “brother” as they grew up in the same orphanage but Kaori wants her elderly grandmother to come so it needs to be as soon as possible. Going the Distance is the debut feature from director Masahiro Umeda who is expected to attend the festival in person to present his film.
Tamaki and Kaori just can’t say Good/Bye in Izumi Matsuno’s nuanced drama. Despite having “broken up” the pair continue to share their apartment, marking their individual territories with coloured tape but new romantic possibilities force them to re-examine their peculiar relationship.
Hirokazu Kai’s hard-hitting coming of age drama Innocent 15 tells the story of an abused teenage girl and a boy just discovering that his widowed father is in love with another man but as bleak as things get there are always signs of hope. Review.
Another technically broken up but still living together drama, Shingo Matsumura’s Love and Goodbye and Hawaii presents its heroine Rinko with a problem when she realises her ex Isamu might have found someone else.
Set in Inokashira Park, Natsuki Seta’s Parks stars Ai Hashimoto as a college student who teams up with Shota Sometani and Mei Nagano to recreate the missing portions of a mysterious love song.
The latest film from Hirobumi Watanabe, Poolsideman won the Japanese Cinema Splash Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2016 and focuses on the dull and lonely life of a lifeguard whose existence changes when he’s sent to a different pool.
Yusuke Takeuchi won the best director award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival for The Sower. Dealing with guilt and atonement, this sombre film follows Mitsuo as he returns from three years in a mental institution and bonds with his two nieces only for his fragile happiness to be disrupted by unexpected tragedy.
The latest film from Yuya Ishii, The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue stars Shizuka Ishibashi and Sosuke Ikematsu in an exploration of youthful alienation.
Daisuke Miyazaki’s Yamato California explores themes of cross cultural pollination through the story of teenager Sakura who lives near the biggest American military base in Japan and dreams of becoming a rapper. When she meets the Japanese-American daughter of her mother’s boyfriend, she finally finds an ally in an otherwise alienating place.
Skip City Shorts includes four of the short films created for the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival in Saitama.
Vanish – Yusuke Hatai
Ping Pang – Yoichi Tanaka
Son of the Bakery – Shintaro Hihara
Lies – Yuji Mitsuhashi
Six young filmmakers show different sides of Tokyo in the TKY2015 Short Film Series.
Homerun – Shumpei Shimizu
Get My Hair Washed – Akira Ikeda
45 x 45 – Daisuke Shimote
The Light Dances – Hajime Izuki
After Hours – Tatsuo Kobayashi
An Interview on the Street in Ginza, Tokyo, Conducted on 27th December 2015. – Yusuke Shibata
Two shorts made by students of the Graduate School for Film and New Media at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Icarus and the Son – Kohei Sanada
Snake Beneath the Flower Petals – Rina Takada
Nippon Connection takes place in Frankfurt, Germany from May 23 – 28, 2017. You can find the full details for all the films, screening times and ticket links on the festival’s official website and you can also keep up with all the latest news via the Nippon Connection Facebook Page, Twitter account, and Instagram channel.