Japan Cuts returns for 2021 in a hybrid edition featuring a series of in-person screenings as well as a virtual festival streaming in the US (and in some cases beyond) Aug. 20 – Sept. 2. This year’s Cut Above award goes to actress Yu Aoi who stars in Centrepiece Presentation Wife of a Spy, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 8K World War II espionage drama.
Two women involved with the same man eventually find interclass solidarity in Yukiko Sode’s empathetic critique of a highly stratified and fiercely patriarchal society. Review.
A detective investigates the connection between the discovery of an old woman’s skeleton and a series of real estate scams by interviewing the local residents many of whom are migrant workers from other areas of Asia.
A workplace trip descends into mistrust and suspicion following an accusation of harassment in Atsushi Funahashi’s contemplative drama. Review.
Drama in which a young girl raised in a foster home after her mother was convicted of a crime takes care of a new girl abused by her mum.
A small boy is forced to embrace his legacy as the descendent of a legendary yokai hunter when the supernatural realm is thrown into chaos by the awakening of a giant rolling resentment monster set to steamroll Tokyo while breaking the seal on a nameless evil in Takashi Miike’s long awaited return to the world of Great Yokai War.
Online & in-person
A jidaigeki-obsessed high schooler sets out to make her own summer samurai movie in Soshi Matsumoto’s charming sci-fi-inflected teen rom-com. Review.
A shy young woman with a talent for Tsugaru shamisen grows in confidence after getting a job at a maid cafe in Satoko Yokohama’s warmhearted drama. Review.
Yo Oizumi stars in the role he apparently inspired as a maverick magazine editor caught up in a dynastic struggle while trying to save a moribund culture magazine in Daihachi Yoshida’s adaptation of the novel by Takeshi Shiota.
A poetic advocation of the transformative power of art, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s final film takes a surrealist odyssey through the history of warfare as three youngsters chase the image of Japan in the labyrinths of cinema. Review.
Historical drama starring Koji Yakusho as real life historical figure Tsuginosuke Kawai who tried but failed to broker a peaceful solution to Bakumatsu confusion.
An aspiring benshi finds himself dealing with issues of crime and authenticity in Masayuki Suo’s heartfelt tribute to the not so silent movies. Review.
In-person & online (with limited availability)
Originally commissioned for 8K TV, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s wartime drama stars Yu Aoi as the titular wife who finds herself working against her husband, Issey Takahashi, when she discovers that he intends to blow the whistle after observing something he shouldn’t have while working in Manchuria. An awards season favourite, the film also picked up the Silver Lion at the 77th Venice International Film Festival.
An impromptu going away party descends into a psychedelic rave of death and rebirth in Masashi Yamamoto’s defiantly surreal nighttime odyssey. Review.
Online only. Available worldwide.
A policeman and psychiatrist attempt to investigate a bizarre killing through unlocking the testimony of a young woman with MPD in Kosuke Nakahama’s visually striking, hugely accomplished feature debut. Review.
A mild mannered casting agent’s life is disrupted when he returns home one day to discover a mysterious woman in place of his girlfriend of five years.
A self-involved aspiring TV producer is becoming fed up with her longterm boyfriend only for him to suddenly drop the bombshell that he thinks he’s pregnant in the feature debut from Kozue Nomoto.
Online only. Available worldwide except Netherlands, Japan and Poland.
A struggling actor finds himself thinking back on memories of a larger than life high school friend in Takuya Uchiyama’s melancholy youth drama. Review.
Tokyo-set ensemble drama following 13 young people trying to find their place in the modern metropolis.
Laidback coming-of-age drama set in a sunny Kyushu in which two co-dependent childhood friends struggle with the anxieties of impending adulthood marking an impressive directorial debut from Elaiza Ikeda.
Shinya Tsukamoto’s adaptation of Daijiro Morohoshi’s Yokai Hunter starring ’70s pop idol Kenji Sawada as a disgraced archeologist teaming up with a high schooler to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances.
Masashi Yamamoto’s 16mm Bubble-era adventure stars Kumiko Ohta as a slacker who crafts a bohemian garden in the former industrial heartland of outer Tokyo.
Online & in-person at Le Petit Versailles
Kaizo Hayashi’s 1986 debut feature in which an ageing starlet sends a pair of detectives into a sleepless world of silent cinema in search of her kidnapped daughter.
Documentary exploring the long and varied career of Haruomi Hosono.
Filmed mainly with hidden camera, Thomas Ash’s harrowing documentary exposes a series of human rights abuses at the Ushiku immigration detention centre. Review.
Online only. Available in North America.
Probing doc from Arata Oshima following an idealistic political candidate over 17 years.
A soldier seconded to play in a marching band begins to question the eternal war with the village on the other side of the river in Akira Ikeda’s absurdist drama.
Four young travellers relate the stories of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in verbatim stage performances running concurrently with a fictional narrative set in 2031.
Tickets for in-person screenings are on sale now via the official website. Passes for the virtual festival priced at $69 are currently available with individual rentals on sale from Aug. 20. You can also keep up with all the festival news as well as the year round programme via Japan Society New York’s website, or by following them on Twitter and Facebook.