Nippon Connection, the largest showcase for Japanese film anywhere in the world, returns for its 22nd edition with another packed programme of in-person screenings in Frankfurt 24th – 29th May with a selection also available to stream online 30th May to 6th June. This year’s Nippon Honor Award goes to Masatoshi Nagase who stars in several of the features included in this year’s lineup.

Nippon Cinema

  • Any Crybabies Around? – a young father gets caught drunk and disorderly at a festival and runs away to the city before trying to repair his familial bonds after returning some years later.
  • The Asadas – latest from Ryota Nakano starring Kazunari Ninomiya in a real life story of a photographer who begins taking photos of survivors of the Tohoko earthquake.
  • A Balance – an idealistic documentarian’s journalistic ethics are strained when she uncovers scandal close to home in Yujiro Harumoto’s probing social drama. Review.
  • The End Of The Pale Hour – an office worker falls in love but is devastated when his girlfriend suddenly breaks off contact.
  • Intolerance – latest from Keisuke Yoshida in which the father of a teenage girl killed by a car while running away after being accused of shoplifting takes revenge.
  • Just Remembering – bittersweet love story from Daigo Matsui inspired by Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth.
  • Last Of The Wolves – no longer an earnest rookie, a corrupted Hioka attempts to keep the peace in Heisei Hiroshima in Kazuya Shirashi’s Blood of Wolves followup. Review.
  • A Madder Red – latest from Yuya Ishii starring Machiko Ono as a widowed single mother struggling under a highly stratified society in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Mole Song: Final – final instalment in Takashi Miike’s Mole Song Trilogy scripted by Kankuro Kudo and starring Toma Ikuta as undercover cop Reiji.
  • My Brother, The Android And Me – a lonely researcher attempts to ease his existential anxiety by building a simulacrum of himself in Junji Sakamoto’s gothic sci-fi chiller. Review.
  • Mystery Train – 1989 Jim Jarmusch classic starring Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh as Elvis-obsessed tourists visiting Memphis. Screening with German subtitles only
  • Parasite In Love – romantic drama starring Kento Hayashi and Nana Komatsu in which a mysophobic man falls in love with a scopophobic girl.
  • Popran – outlandish comedy from Shinichiro Ueda in which an arrogant CEO’s genitals decide to leave him and he has to find them within six days or lose them forever.
  • Sensei, Would You Sit Beside Me? – a mangaka and her cheating husband become locked in a cat and mouse game of ambiguous revenge in Takahiro Horie’s deliciously cynical anti-rom-com. Review.
  • Small, Slow But Steady – drama from Sho Miyake starring Yukino Kishii as a young deaf woman dreaming of becoming a pro-boxer.
  • The Sunday Runoff – comedy drama starring Rie Miyazawa as a politician’s daughter who decides to run for her father’s seat when he passes away suddenly in office.
  • Talking The Pictures – 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.
  • They Say Nothing Stays The Same – an ageing boatman finds himself adrift on the great river of time in Joe Odagiri’s exquisitely shot, ethereal meditation on transience and goodness. Review.
  • Under The Stars – latest drama from Tatsushi Omori starring Masatoshi Nagase and Tomoyo Harada as parents who enrol in a mysterious cult when holy water cures their daughter’s eczema.
  • We Made A Beautiful Bouquet – romantic drama from Nobuhiro Doi (Flying Colors) starring Masaki Suda and Kasumi Arimura as a young couple who meet after missing the last train home.
  • What She Likes… – high school drama in which a young man who feels unable to be open about his sexuality bonds with a young woman who is heavily into BL literature.
  • Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy – a series of chance meetings and a healthy dose of fantasy lead a collection of wounded souls towards a kind of liberation in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s whimsical triptych. Review.

Nippon Animation

  • Belle – Mamoru Hosoda reinterprets Beauty and the Beast as a grieving young woman becomes an in-app idol star but is also threatened by the presence of a mysterious dragon. Screening in Japanese with German subtitles only.
  • Dozens Of Norths – feature animation by Koji Yamamura.
  • Inu-Oh – a blind Biwa player and a cursed young man exorcise the spirits of the Heike through musical expression in Masaaki Yuasa’s stunning prog rock anime. Review.
  • Millennium Actress – Satoshi Kon’s 2001 feature voyaging through Japanese cinema history through the eyes of a golden age actress.
  • My Neighbor Totoro – Hayao Mizayaki’s 1988 classic in which two sisters befriend a mystical forest creature after moving to the country. Screening in German..
  • Sing A Bit Of Harmony – a mysterious transfer student quickly becomes popular but has a hidden secret.

Nippon Visions

  • Angry Son – a resentful young man comes to a better understanding of his place in the world while searching for his estranged father in Kasho Iizuka’s sensitive coming-of-age drama. Review.
  • Backlight – LGBTQ+ drama set in Onomichi in the 1970s in which a student brings home a friend from university.
  • Just The Two Of Us – a man paralysed from the neck down and the blind woman who cares for him find themselves struggling against the prejudices of an ableist society in Keita Fujimoto’s empathetic social drama. Review.
  • Let Me Hear It Barefoot – LGBTQ+ drama in which two men bond while recording sound tapes for a blind woman who longs to travel the world.
  • Melting Sounds – displaced youngsters begin to find a new sense of place thanks to a warmhearted young woman and an old man’s ambient sound obsession in Kahori Higashi’s quirky drama. Review.
  • Mr. Suzuki -A Man In God’s Country- – near future tale in which an umarried 44-year-old woman attempts to find a partner in order to escape being drafted to solve the declining birth rate.
  • Ninja Girl – an ordinary young woman gains the courage to stand up to injustice after discovering her ninja heritage in Yu Irie’s absurdist political satire. Review.
  • One Day, You Will Reach The Sea – powerful drama from Ryutaro Nakagawa in which a young woman struggles to come to terms with the loss of a friend who went missing in the 2011 tsunami. 
  • Pure Japanese – action drama from Daishi Matsunaga in which an action star takes it upon himself to protect a young girl.
  • Ring Wandering – drama revolving around a manga artist planning a series about wolves.
  • Song of a Dying Summer – melancholy summer youth drama.
  • Unlock Your Heart – teen romantic drama in which a high school girl befriends her crush’s girlfriend.

Nippon Docs

  • Double Layered Town / Making A Song To Replace Our Positions – 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.
  • I Go Gaga, Welcome Home Mom – Naoko Nobutomo’s follow up to I Go Gaga.
  • Origami – documentary following artist Atsushi Suwa as he creates a portrait of a deceased young man.
  • Paper City – documentary following three survivors of the fire bombing of Tokyo as they attempt leave a record of the wartime tragedy.
  • Salaryman – documentary exploring the mythos behind the salaryman.
  • Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist – Pascal-Alex Vincent paints an enigmatic picture of the late Perfect Blue director.
  • Target – documentary focussing on the life of Takashi Uemura who wrote the article in the Asahi Shimbun about wartime sex slavery later branded a fabrication by conservative commentators.
  • Tokyo Kurds – documentary exploring the lives of young Kurdish refugees in Japan.

Nippon Retro

  • The Approach Of Autumn – 1960 Mikio Naruse drama in which a little boy moves to Tokyo with his mother after his father’s death.
  • Canary – post-Aum drama from Akihiko Shiota in which a young boy raised in a cult bonds with a girl seeking escape from an abusive home.
  • Children Hand in Hand – Susumi Hani’s remake of the 1948 film by Hiroshi Inagaki in which a group of schoolboys learn to mediate their friendship.
  • Muddy River – the innocent friendship between two boys is disrupted by the post-war reality in Kohei Oguri’s quietly devastating 1981 drama. Review.
  • Pastoral Hide And Seek – 1974 avant-garde autobiographical drama from Shuji Terayama.
  • A Town Of Love And Hope – a young man’s pigeon selling scam eventually ruins his cross-class friendship with a wealthy young woman in Nagisa Oshima’s biting sociopolitical drama. Review.
  • The Young And Wild – 1986 childhood drama from Nobuhiko Obayashi in which a young boy falls in love with an older woman soon to be sold into sex work.
  • Young Murderer – 1976 ATG drama in which a young man murders his father in a dispute over his girlfriend.

Nippon Connection takes place in Frankfurt, Germany from 24th – 29th May. Tickets are available from 7th May via the official website where you’ll shortly be able to find full details on all the films as well as timetabling information. A limited selection of films will also be available to stream online 30th May to 6th June (the full lineup will be revealed May 29). Unless otherwise stated, films screen in Japanese with English subtitles. You can keep up with all the latest information by following the festival on FacebookTwitterYouTubeFlickr, and Instagram.

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