Oh Lucy! To Open Raindance 2017

Oh Lucy still oneLondon’s Raindance International Film Festival returns from 20th September to 1st October 2017 with the best of recent independent cinema from across the world. East Asian titles have been thin on the ground for the past few years, but this time around Japan in particular is back with a vengeance.

oh lucy still 3The festival will open with Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Cannes sleeper hit Oh Lucy! which stars Shinobu Terajima as a 55 year old woman trapped in a boring office job who discovers a whole new side to herself after being given a blonde wig and the alternate identity of Lucy by an unorthodox English teacher (played by Josh Hartnett) whom she later becomes obsessed with.

boys for saleThe only feature documentary on the list, Boys for Sale takes a look at the young men who have sex with men for money in Tokyo’s red light district. Produced by frequent Raindance guest Ian Thomas Ash (A2-B-C, -1278), this innovative documentary mixes animation and straight to camera interviews to explore the various reasons why these young men have made a decision to work as “boys” and the nature of their lives in this hidden part of Tokyo nightlife.

ghost roads poster.jpgA haunted guitar amp promises a struggling musician everything he’s ever dreamed of in Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost Story!

junkhead still 1It has been centuries since humanity’s clones rebelled and went to live underground. Now an intrepid band of humans must venture into their world to investigate the the fate of the self exiled creatures in Takahide Hori’s impressive stop motion animation, Junk Head.

love and other cultsEiji Uchida’s Love and Other Cults receives its UK premiere at Raindance. The story of a young girl’s journey through cult devotee to mixed up kid and a life in the adult entertainment industry, Love and Other Cults is the latest Uchida/Third Window Films production. Review.

mukoku horizontal.jpgKazuyoshi Kumakiri (My Man, Sketches of Kaitan City, Antenna) returns with a tale of familial love and kendo in Mukoku as Go Ayano puts down his sword following a traumatic incident and proceeds to waste his life drinking and working as a security guard until a chance meeting with a talented high schooler shakes him out of his malaise.

noise posterYusaku Matsumoto’s Noise takes place eight years after a killing spree as three residents of Akihabara including the daughter of a murdered woman, an underground idol, and a delivery driver attempt to find meaning in their lives.

Perfect Revolution still one.jpgIn Junpei Matsumoto’s Perfect Revolution, Lily Franky plays a man with cerebral palsy who is an activist for the sexual rights of disabled people and falls in love with a sex worker who suffers from a personality disorder.

swaying mariko still 1Ordinary housewife Mariko is married to a younger man with whom she has a son, but Tomoharu is often away from home and she is beginning to believe he is having an affair. Meanwhile, her manager harasses her at work and the customers are constantly rude. Under such strains, Mariko’s perception of reality starts to disintegrate in Koji Segawa’s indie drama Swaying Mariko.

The foolish bird still 1.jpgThe only non-Japanese East Asian film on offer is Huang Ji & Ryuji Otsuka’s The Foolish Bird – a story of a “left behind child” forced to bring herself up in an unforgiving Chinese village.

The Raindance International Film Festival takes place at Vue West End from 20th September to 1st October and tickets are already on sale via the official website.

The First Lap, Sweating the Small Stuff Screen at Locarno 2017

Sweating the Small StuffNow in its 70th year, the Locarno Film Festival returns with another celebration of auteurist cinema from 2nd to 12th August, 2017. As usual there are a number of arthouse films from East Asia included in the programme hailing from China, Japan, Korea, and Myanmar.

dragon fly eyes stillVisual artist Xu Bing’s first debut feature Dragonfly Eyes is entirely composed of images taken from China’s many CCTV surveillance cameras as they capture the lives of two young people – Qu Ting, a young woman training to become a buddhist nun who returns to the secular world and takes a job at a dairy farm, and Ke Fan a young man who falls in love with her but finds himself sent to jail in the quest to win her heart. On his release he searches for her desperately only to discover she has reinvented herself as an online celebrity.

mrs fang stillWang Bing’s documentary Mrs. Fang tells the story of an elderly woman suffering with Alzheimer’s who is sent back to her rural village from the nursing home in which she had been living after it is decided they can offer no further treatment.

first lap stillIn Kim Dae-hwan’s The First Lap Su-hyeon and Ji-young have been living together for the last six years but the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy forces the pair to reassess their relationships with their old families before starting a new one.

sweating small stuff still 2Ryutaro Ninomiya directs himself in Sweating the Small Stuff as he plays a 27 year old mechanic who decides to pay a visit to the terminally ill mother of a friend he has been avoiding seeing despite knowing of her illness.

blood amber stillThe first feature documentary from Lee Yong Chao, Blood Amber takes a look at a Burmese forest controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in which the inhabitants eke out a living mining hoping to find a way out whilst also living in fear of military action.

There are also two short films from East Asia:

crossing river stillHan Yumeng’s Crossing River follows a group Chinese construction workers

signature stillKei Chikaura’s Signature centres on a young Chinese man lost in the middle of Shibuya.

The 70th Locarno Film Festival runs from 2nd – 10th August, 2017. You can find full details for all films as well as the complete lineup on the official festival website, and you can keep up with all the latest developments via the Festival’s Facebook Page, Twitter account, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Outrage Coda to close Venice 2017

outragebyond-決a02The Venice Film Festival has unveiled the full lineup for 2017. Sadly, it is a poor showing for East Asian cinema with only four films in total included in this year’s programme (bar the possibility of a few late additions announced as the festival gets closer) and only Japan and China represented.

outrage coda stillThe biggest hitter in terms of the festival as a whole is Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Coda. The third in Kitano’s Outrage saga, Coda follows Otomo (played by Kitano himself) as he returns to Japan following gang trouble in South Korea. Outrage Coda will screen as the closing night gala.

third murder horizontal posterThe only other Japanese film included in the programme this year is the latest from festival favourite Hirokazu Koreeda – The Third Murder. A departure from Koreeda’s usual focus on drama, The Third Murder is a crime thriller in which Masaharu Fukuyama (Like Father, Like Son) plays top lawyer Shigemori working on the defence of a murder/robbery suspect (Koji Yakusho) who previously served time for murder 30 years before. The defendant admits his crime and wants to plead guilty even if he will almost certainly get the death penalty but the more Shigemori looks into the case the more doubts he accrues.

1260733_Human-FlowMoving on to China, Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow charts the global scale of the ongoing refugee crisis. Playing in competition.

©22 HOURS FILMSFinally Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White is the story of two teenage girls assaulted in a hotel room by a middle aged man, and the receptionist who says nothing in fear of losing her job. Sadly, Vivian Qu is also the only female director with a film playing in competition.

The Venice Film Festival runs from 30th August to 9th September.

Japan Foundation London’s Summer Explorers 3 to Serve up a Selection of Food Themed Treats

there is no lid on the sea stillJapan Foundation London is back with another early summer series of free film screenings and this time the focus is very much on food! Summer Explorers 3 takes place over two Saturdays – 15th and 22nd July, 2017, at the Prince Charles Cinema and BAFTA respectively. Tickets are free but you can only reserve seats at one film on each day (if you apply for more than one film you’ll be placed on the waiting list for your second choice). Full details on how to apply can be found on the Japan Foundation’s website.

The lineup for Saturday 15th includes:

KAKI_B5_SHIRO_CS5Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary The Oyster Factory which examines a local oyster fishing community as it welcomes two workers from China.

Akanezora - Beyond the Crimson Sky posterCo-written by Masahiro Shinoda, Masaki Hamamoto’s Akanezora – Beyond the Crimson Sky stars Masaaki Uchino as a tofu maker who travels from Kyoto to Edo, sets up a shop and marries a local girl.

Moving on to 22nd:

silver spoonInspired by Hiromu Arakawa’s popular manga, Silver Spoon is the story of city boy Yugo who enrols in an agricultural college in Hokkaido to get away from his overbearing parents.

There is no lid on the sea poster

Adapted from the novel by Banana Yoshimoto, There is no Lid on the Sea follows a young woman who decides to return to her hometown to sell shaved ice after growing bored with her life in Tokyo.

Drop of the Grapevine posterYukiko Mishima’s Drop of the Grapevine is the second in the director’s Hokkaido series and stars Yo Oizumi and Shota Sometani as two farming brothers one of whom operates a vineyard while the other grows wheat to make bread.

The screenings on 15th July take place at The Prince Charles Cinema near Leicester Square while those on 22nd July take place at BATFA on Piccadilly. At BAFTA on 22nd there will also be a selection of food themed language activities taking place between the films. You can find full details for all the films as well as screening times and information regarding reservations via the official website, and you can all keep up with the all the latest Japan Foundation London news via the official Twitter account and Facebook page.

Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess Makes UK Premiere at FrightFest 2017

the villainess posterFresh from its Cannes premiere, Jung Byung-gil’s action thriller The Villainess will get its first UK screening at FrightFest 2017. The horror-centric film festival takes place at Cineworld Leicester Square and the Prince Charles Cinema in Central London across the August bank holiday from 24th to 28th August, 2017.

the villainess horizontal postThe Villainess stars Kim Ok-bin as a young woman trained as an assassin from an early age and living a double life as a theatre actress and hit woman. Her existence is threatened by the reappearance of two very different men from her past.

crow's blood horizontal posterOther East Asian offerings include a preview of the Japan produced TV series which originally ran on streaming service Hulu, Crow’s Blood. The series focuses on a “mysterious transfer student” whose touch proves deadly! Episodes one and two will be shown back to back.

MEATBALL MACHINE KODOKU posterThe final film on offer, Meatball Machine Kodoku is the latest from splatter director Yoshihiro Nishimura and a sequel to the original Meatball Machine. A terminally ill debt collector finds he has an unexpected advantage when the world is taken over by necroborgs!

FrightFest takes place in Central London from 24th – 28th August, 2017 at Cineworld Leicester Sq and the Prince Charles Cinema. Festival and Day Passes will be available from 12pm on 1st July with single tickets for individual films available from 9am on 29th July. You can find full details for all the films included in this year’s programme on the official website, and you can keep up with all the latest news via the official Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube channels.

Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) Honours Seijun Suzuki with Retrospective

suzukiThe complete programme for the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival 2017 has now been revealed and as reported, the festival will be paying homage to the late director Seijun Suzuki with a retrospective featuring ten of his best loved films.

detective 2 3 go to hell bastards stillDetective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards is everything its name suggests – crazy, cartoonish fun as a Joe Shishido goes undercover, hangs out in Christmas themed cabaret bars and sings a few songs all the name of justice (and a paycheck). Review.

youth of the beast stillYouth of the Beast proved a turning point in Suzuki’s career. No longer content to play along with restrictive studio codes, Suzuki embraces his talent for colourful absurdism as Shishido once again finds himself undercover in the yakuza underworld.

tokyo drifter stillTokyo Drifter found few fans among studio bosses, but takes Suzuki’s psychedelic use of colour to all new highs in the story of a gangster unable to escape from his violent past.

gate of flesh stillMaking another foray into wartime desperation, Suzuki adapts Taijiro Tamura’s Gate of Flesh with Shishido as a washed-up former soldier driving a wedge between a group of fiercely loyal prostitutes. Review.

branded to killThe one that got him fired from Nikkatsu, Branded to Kill is the absurd story of a steely hitman with an addiction to the smell of cooking rice who finds his life derailed by a beautiful woman and a butterfly. Review.

ZigeunerweisenZigeunerweisen marks Suzuki’s return to filmmaking after the long series of court battles following his dismissal from Nikkatsu. The first in the Taisho Trilogy, Zigeunerweisen stars Yoshio Harada as one third of an eerily surreal love triangle. Review.

SuzukiKageroza1The follow up to Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za stars Yusaku Matsuda in a ghostly tale of love and writer’s block. Review.

fighting elegy stillSuzuki takes a wry look at the origins of fascism in Fighting Elegy as the young men of his age engage themselves in “manly” pursuits but are obliged to sublimate their other desires into a lust for violence. Review.

princess raccoon stillJoe Odagiri and Zhang Ziyi star in the bizarre yet infectious folktale inspired musical, Princess Raccoon.

pistol Opera stillFor his final film, Pistol Opera, Suzuki revisits Branded to Kill but replaces Shishido with a female assassin longing to be number one.

The full programme for the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival which takes place between 30th June and 8th July, 2017 is now available on the official website. You can also keep up with all the latest news via the festival’s Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Mumon: The Land of Stealth To Open Japan Cuts 2017

MumonNow in its 11th year, Japan Cuts returns to Japan Society New York from 13th to 23rd July bringing some of the best in recent Japanese cinema with it as well as a host of special guests and events. The festival will open with Yoshihiro Nakamura’s ninja drama, Mumon: The Land on Stealth on 13th July while award-winning animation In This Corner of the World will close the proceedings on July 23. The full lineup is as follows:

mumon stillYoshihiro Nakamura’s ninja epic Mumon: The Land of Stealth finds the secretive warriors uncomfortable with the new order but young mercenary Mumon has his own problems with a new wife who values her material comforts. Director Yoshihiro Nakamura will be present on the opening night to present the film.

Tokyo Idols stillKyoko Miyake’s documentary Tokyo Idols follows an aspiring star as she makes her way through one of the most controversial areas of the Japanese entertainment industry.

THE TOKYO NIGHT SKY IS ALWAYS THE DENSEST SHADE OF BLUE stillTaking inspiration from the poetry of Tahi Saihate, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is a complicated love/hate letter to the city from The Great Passage’s Yuya Ishii. Review.

satoshi stillKenichi Matsuyama stars in a moving biopic of the real life shoji star who gave it all for the game in Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow. Review.

hengyo stillThe latest film from Okinawan filmmaker Go TakamineHengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) follows two old men living in the village where those who failed to die continue to exist as they set off on a strange journey to escape persecution after being falsely accused of stealing something from a local store.

alley cat stillYosuke Kubozuka plays a depressed boxer who finds friendship in the Alley Cat of the title only to realise he’s being two-timed with a grungy mechanic.

tale of a whaleMegumi Sasaki’s documentary A Whale of a Tale takes an in-depth look at the controversial practice of whaling.

22 year confession stillTetsuya Fujiwara and Hideaki Ito star in Memoirs of a Murderer – an adaptation of Jung Byoung-Gil’s Confession of Murder directed by Yu Irie. A mysterious man confesses to a series of unsolved crimes shortly after the statute of limitations passes and becomes a media sensation but the cop who failed to solve the case just can’t let it go.

neko assume house stillBased on the hit smartphone game Neko Atsume House stars Atsushi Ito as a blocked writer who moves to the country hoping to stimulate himself with a change of scene only to be immediately adopted by a bunch of demanding cats!

The ondekozaTai Kato’s underseen documentary The Ondekoza plays in the classic strand in its new 4K restoration and centres on the taiko drummers of Sado Island, mixing training footage with their famously intense performances for a feverish visual feast.

LOVE AND GOODBYE AND HAWAII stillShingo Matsumura’s gentle Love, Goodbye, and Hawaii is the story of a technically broken up couple who still live together and are forced to face their lingering feelings when one of them meets someone else.

At the terrace テラスにてKenji Yamauchi adapts his own stage play skewering the middle classes as a boring dinner party gets progressively out of hand exposing each of their flaws, weaknesses, and well hidden secrets in At the Terrace. Review.

harunekoProduced by Shinji Aoyama and Takenori Sento, Sora Hokimoto’s debut feature Haruneko is a tale of life and death told through music and light in a mysterious forest.

oce upon a dream stillKei Shichiri revisits Before the Day Breaks ten years on and adds all-new sound and imaging. Based on the manga by Naoki Yamamoto, Once Upon a Dream follows a girl who sleeps too much but never feels as if she has slept enough.

daguerrotype stillThe first film made outside of Japan for veteran filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Daguerrotype stars Tahar Rahim in a classic European gothic ghost story perfectly melding this classic genre with Kurosawa’s uniquely creepy visuals.

RESISTANCE AT TULE LAKE stillKonrad Aderer’s documentary Resistance at Tulle Lake tells the story of 12000 Japanese Americans labelled “disloyal” and incarcerated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center for refusing to obey the government’s internment order.

extremeists Opera stillTheatre director Junko Emoto makes her film debut with The Extremists’ Opera adapted from her own autobiographical novel centring on an all female performance troupe.

over the fence still 1The third in a series of films adapted from the works of Hakodate native novelist Yasushi Sato, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence stars Joe Odagiri as a recently divorced man returning to his home town to start over but failing until he meets eccentric bar girl/zookeeper Satoshi played Yu Aoi. Joe Odagiri is a special guest at this year’s festival and will be attending in person to introduce the film as well as collect this year’s CUT ABOVE award.

FOUJITAJoe Odagiri stars as the artist Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita who became a part of the ’20s Paris art scene before returning to militarist Japan in 1933 and providing artwork for the propaganda movement. Joe Odagiri will also attend in person for an introduction and Q&A.

teiichi stillElite public school boy Teiichi dreams of becoming Prime Minister in Akira Nagai’s manga adaptation, Teiichi Battle of Supreme High but finds his (lack of) ideology questioned by a well meaning working class transfer student. Review.

shippu rondo horizontalAn adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s 2013 novel, Shippu Rondo sees Hiroshi Abe play a research scientist hot on the trail of a stolen biological weapon in a slapstick filled comedy thriller.

senjoe eThe Japan Cuts 2017 Shorts Showcase features four films by veteran and brand new filmmakers including:

  • Birds – Directed by Koji Fukada this 8 minute short features an awkward encounter between a wife, her husband, and his mistress.
  • We Are Shooting – Raita Minorita’s 26 minute short is a behind the scenes tale of the trials and tribulations of movie making.
  • White T-shirt and Feeble Things – directed by Yun Su Kim, White T-shirt and Feeble Things is the story of a man who only wears plain white T-shirts but can’t keep any of them clean.
  • Breathless Lovers – Directed by Shumpei Shimizu Breathless Lovers is the story of 23-year-old Toshiyuki chasing his boyfriend’s ghost across Tokyo.

west north west 2An Iranian student and depressed bartender face a series of romantic and cross cultural confusions in Takuro Nakamura’s West North West. Actresses Hanae Kan and Sahel Rosa will attend the screening for an introduction and Q&A. Review.

yamato california stillDepressed teenager Sakura (Hanae Kan) has a complicated relationship with Americanisation thanks to growing up near Japan’s biggest mainland American military base but an encounter with the half-American daughter of her mother’s boyfriend prompts a reconsideration of her life goals in Daisuke Miyazaki’s Yamato (California). Review.

Anti-porno stillSion Sono’s entry into Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno Reboot Project, Anti-Porno is the story of celebrity novelist Kyoko and her strange relationship with her assistant Noriko.

dad and mr ito stillThe latest film from Yuki Tanada, My Dad and Mr. Ito, is a tale of cross-cultural romance as an elderly father moves in with his middle-aged daughter only to find she is already living with a much older man.

summer nightsSummer Lights marks the Japan debut for French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot. A Japanese filmmaker living in Paris returns to Japan in order to make a documentary about Hiroshima and ends up on a journey with a mysterious woman.

ZigeunerweisenThe first in the Taisho Trilogy, Zigeunerweisen is a late career masterpiece from Seijun Suzuki centring on a university professor’s odd relationship with a roguish friend and a mysterious geisha. Review.

in this corner of the world horizontalSunao Katabuchi’s award-winning animation In This Corner of the World is the story of one ordinary woman in World War II Hiroshima. Producer Taro Maki will be present for a Q&A after the film.

Japan Cuts takes place at Japan Society New York, from July 13 – 23, 2017. Ticket links and full details for all the films can be found on the festival’s official website,  and you can keep up with all the latest news as well as the year round film programme via the Japan Society Film Facebook page and Twitter account. Tickets are already on sale to members with public sales available 12th June.