Camera Japan, the premier Dutch showcase for Japanese film, returns for 2017 with more than 40 films screening in two cites over two weekends – Rotterdam 21st – 24th September, and Amsterdam from 29th September to 1st October. With so many films on offer it get can a bit overwhelming, so here’s a handy list broken down by genre and/or medium.
Current Cinema – Indie / Arthouse
As usual Camera Japan has brought together some of the most eagerly anticipated recent independent and arthouse features including the latest from festival darlings Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Miwa Nishikawa, to Naoko Ogigami’s family comedy/drama Close-Knit, sleeper Cannes hit Oh Lucy! and a host of soon to be classics from up and coming directors.
- At the Terrace – Adapting his own stage play, Kenji Yamauchi’s At the Terrace is a scathing satirical comedy charting the gradual disintegration of the bourgeoisie over the course of one very awkward post dinner party drinking session. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 2.30pm, 23rd Sept. 5pm
- Bangkok Nites – The latest from Saudade director Katsuya Tomita who also stars in the film, Bangkok Nites is a sideways look at the continuing effects of colonialism. Review. Rotterdam only, Sept. 24, 1pm. Producers will be present for a Q&A.
- Before We Vanish – Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns to the sci-fi genre for the first time since 2013’s Real with an idiosyncratic take on the alien invasion movie. Screening with Dutch subtitles only at Rotterdam 21st Sept, 9.30pm / 23rd Sept. 7pm , and at Amsterdam 30th Sept., 7pm.
- Close-Knit – Less surreal than her previous films, Ogigami’s heartwarming family drama follows a neglected 11 year old girl who is taken in by her uncle and his transgender girlfriend, Rinko (played by Toma Ikuta). Review. Screening at Rotterdam 21st Sept. 7.30pm, 22nd Sept. 4.30pm, and Amsterdam 29th Sept. 7pm.
- Eriko Pretended – Eriko can’t bring herself to admit to her family that her career as an actress has stalled but discovers a new talent after a trip home for a funeral introduces her to the world of professional mourning in the debut feature from Akiyo Fujimura. Screening at Rotterdam only – Sept. 22, 2.30pm, and Sept. 24, 7.15pm.
- Going the Distance – Asahi is about to marry the love of his life when a face from the past reappears and threatens to come between them. Forced to choose between his wife-to-be, and a “brother” who grew up with him in the same orphanage, Asahi’s life reaches a crisis point in this comedy/drama debut from Yujiro Hamamoto. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 4.30pm, 22nd Sept. 4.45pm
- Hello/Goodbye – A young girl accidentally discovers her classmate is pregnant whilst trying to steal something from her bag leading the pair to encounter an old woman with alzheimer’s and a mystery she needs solving in this indie feature from Takeo Kikuchi. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 3pm, 24th Sept. 3pm
- Her Love Boils Bathwater – Capturing Dad’s Ryota Nakano takes a good look at mum in this heartbreaking comedy/drama which stars Rie Miyazawa as a long suffering wife and mother who learns she has a terminal illness and decides to mend her fractured family while she still can. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 24th Sept., 12.30pm, and Amsterdam 1st Oct. 12.30pm.
- Journey of the Tortoise – First time feature director Tadashi Nagama draws inspiration from his own relationship with his father as a boy, his dad, and the pet turtle, join an uncle and his fiancée for an anarchic cross country road trip. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 10.15, 24th Sept. 5pm.
- Kuro – Directed by Joji Koyama and Noriko Tujiko, Kuro is the story of a Japanese woman living in Paris who works in a karaoke bar and cares for her paraplegic lover at home. When a mysterious Mr. Ono arrives, he threatens to destabilise their previously settled lives. Screening at Rotterdam only 23rd Sept., 8.30pm & 10.30pm. The directors will be present for a Q&A.
- Life and Death on the Shore – Hikari Mitsushima stars in a tale of wartime romance. Part of the festival’s Kyushu focus. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept. 7pm.
- The Long Excuse – Miwa Nishikawa’s adaptation of her own novel examines the destructive effects of chronic insecurity as a self centred writer loses his wife in an accident but feels nothing only to have his emotional walls knocked down by the grieving family of her best friend. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 21st Sept. 4.45, 23rd Sept. 7.15, and at Amsterdam on 30th Sept., 12.30.
- Love and Other Cults – Eiji Uchida returns with another tale of wandering youth as a young girl raised in a cult craves real love but struggles to find it in an increasingly strange world. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 21st Sept., 5pm, 22nd Sept. at midnight, and Amsterdam 29th Sept. at midnight. Director Eiji Uchida will be attending the Amsterdam screening for a Q&A.
- Noise – 12 years after a spate of random stabbings in Akihabara three ordinary people attempt to deal with the longterm effects in Yusaku Matsumoto’s debut feature. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 24th Sept., 7pm. Director and members of the crew will be present for a Q&A.
- Oh Lucy! – A sleeper hit in Cannes, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s debut is the story of a lonely middle-aged office lady who decides to spice up her life with English lessons but discovers a whole new side of herself when the charismatic teacher (played by Josh Hartnett) gives her a blonde wig and the alter-ego Lucy. Screening once only at Rotterdam, Sept. 24, 12.30pm.
- Over the Fence – The last of three films inspired by novels of Yasushi Sato, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence is a tale of new beginnings and the courage it takes to find them. Review. Screening at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 4.35pm, and Amsterdam 9.30pm.
- Parks – Set in Inokashira park, Natsuki Seta’s charming drama centres on three youngsters who bond through the discovery of a tape featuring an unfinished lovesong. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, Sept. 23, 14.30.
- Poolsideman – A timely look at a life of quiet desperation from Hirobumi Watanabe. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, Sept. 23, 9.45pm.
- Rage – The latest from Lee Sang-il, Rage is a tale of three possible murderers, doubt, suspicion and violence. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 22nd September, 9.30pm, 23rd Sept. 9.30pm, and Amsterdam 30th Sept. 9.30pm.
- Same Old Same Old – Rikiya Imaizumi’s reflexive drama is the story of a director in over his head, a grieving son, and an actress trying to cover up the suicide of her boyfriend. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. 4.30pm.
- The Sower – A powerful film about guilt, responsibility, and redemption, The Sower is a painful tale of a family’s disintegration when a long lost brother returns home from a mental hospital only to encounter a family tragedy. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept., 9.45pm.
- Seto & Utsumi – Tatsushi Omori’s adaptation of the popular manga is a predictably charming affair comprised of brief vignettes as the two high school boys of the title chat their days away hanging out on the way home from school. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept., 5pm, 22nd Sept. 5pm.
Current Cinema – Mainstream / Genre
Of course there’s plenty of blockbuster fare on offer too from the latest in the Death Note franchise to cat-centric dramas, tales of Shogi playing geniuses, splatter horror, and one family’s strange journey to familial harmony when all the lights go off.
- Death Note – Premier blockbuster director Shinsuke Sato brings his typically polished visuals to this spin-off of the main series following officers from the Death Note Taskforce as they face the increasingly global Death Note threat. Review. Screening at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. 9.30pm and Amsterdam, 1st October 2.45pm.
- Meatball Machine Kodoku – Yoshihiro Nishimura returns with another splatter fuelled assault on the senses. Screening at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. at midnight, and Amsterdam, 30th Sept. at midnight.
- Neko Atsume House – Adaptation of the popular smartphone game in which a blocked writer moves to the country for inspiration but finds his life overtaken by cats! Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept., 7.30pm, and 23rd Sept. 2.30pm.
- Neko Ninja – A young ninja completes his first mission but gains an unexpected follower in the form of a pudgy cat he thinks might be the reincarnation of his long lost father. Screening at Rotterdam on 23rd Sept. 5pm, 24th Sept. 10pm, and Amsterdam on 30th Sept. 3pm.
- Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow – A biopic of the real life shogi player who battled serious and life long illness to reach the top of the shogi tree. Review. Screening at Rotterdam on 22nd Sept., 7pm, and Amsterdam on 1st Oct. 7.30pm.
- The Sun – Yu Irie’s sci-fi/horror takes place in a world in which vampirism rules the Earth and the only path to survival is to become a vampire. Screening at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 9.30pm, and Amsterdam 1st Oct., 9.45pm.
- Survival Family – Shinobu Yaguchi returns with another ensemble comedy following one Tokyo family’s attempts to survive in a post-electric world. Review. Screening at Rotterdam on 24th Sept. 7.30pm and 30th Sept, 4.45pm.
Alongside latest releases, Camera Japan has also brought together some classic movies from the recent and not so recent past.
- Blind Woman’s Curse – Starring Meiko Kaji this ero-guro tale of female revenge features some very strange black cat/tattoo action. Screening at Rotterdam only, 22nd Sept., 10pm. Introduced by Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes whose Meiko Kaji book, Unchained Melody, is released on 11th Sept.
- Eureka – Screening as part of the Kyushu focus, Shinji Aoyama’s 3.5hr masterpiece from 2000 stars Koji Yakusho as a bus driver attempting to live with the effects of a hijacking. Screening once only at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 7pm.
- Naoko: Winning Runners – Also part of the Kyushu focus, this 2008 sports movie follows a young man hoping to fulfil his father’s legacy by competing in the marathon relay race with his high school team. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept. 4.30pm
- A Page of Madness – Teinosuke Kinugasa’s landmark silent screens with live score from Bruno Ferro Xavier da Silva. Screening at Rotterdam 24th Sept. 7.30pm.
Documentary fans also have a lot to look forward to with three very different explorations of modern Japanese life.
- Boys for Sale – Produced by Ian Thomas Ash (A2-B-C, -1287), Boys for Sale mixes animation and talking heads interviews to explore the lives of the (mostly straight) young men working in the sex industry in Tokyo’s Shinjuku 2-chome. Screening at Rotterdam only, Sept. 22, 7.30pm. Producer Ian Thomas Ash will present for a Q&A.
- Mother I’ve Pretty Much Forgotten Your Face – fascinating documentary following Michiru Endo, the lead singer of one of Japan’s most high profile ’80s punk bands, The Stalin, still on tour at 60 when the Great East Japan Earthquake strikes. Screening at Rotterdam only , Sept. 24, 9.30pm.
- Start Line – Ayako Imamura, who was born deaf, charts her long distance bike ride. Screens at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 9.30pm.
There’s no shortage of animation either with four new releases including the award winning In this Corner of the World, and Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke.
- Ancien and the Magic Tablet (AKA Napping Princess) – The latest from Ghost in the Shell’s Kenji Kamiyama, this family friendly, sci-fi infused tale follows a young girl’s attempt to stop an international conspiracy from within her dreamworld. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 7.15, 22nd 7.15pm.
- In This Corner of the World – Award winning animation from the director of Mai Mai Miracle following the early life of a young woman of Hiroshima during the war. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 22nd Sept., 2pm, 23rd Sept. 4pm, and at Amsterdam on 1st Oct. 5.15pm.
- Princess Mononoke – Classic Studio Ghibli animation features in the festival’s Kyushu focus. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 5pm.
- A Silent Voice – Heartrending tale of a girl with hearing difficulties and the boy who bullied her. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. at 7pm.
- Your Voice – High school girl Natsuki is unsure what to do with the rest of her life until she wanders into a radio station and enjoys a stint as a DJ leading her to wonder if her grandmother’s stories of spirits from other worlds could really be true. Screening at Rotterdam only, 23rd September, 2pm, and 24th Sept, 3pm.
WARM-UP @ WORM: concert + movie
Trippy psychedelic road movie, Gui aiueo:S A Stone from Another Mountain to Polish Your Own Stone, produced by and starring Gui aiueo:S, will screen at WORM Rotterdam alongside a live performance from Krautrock band Minami Deutsch on 15th Sept. as a special warm-up event.
The festival will see two more live concerts by Yasuhito Arai and Noriko Tujiko whose film Kuro is also playing in the festival, as part of a series of special events including beer tasting, sencha and miso workshops, and the film brunch.
Full information on all the films as well as ticketing links can be found on the official website. You can also keep up to date with all the latest news via Camera Japan’s official Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram channel.
Follow our ongoing coverage and find reviews for all the films covered so far in our Camera Japan 2017 category.