FROM ANIME to historical comedies, stories of financial corruption to all kinds of romance, the seventh annual Japanese Film Festival promises a programme of acclaimed new Japanese cinema from some of the country’s leading directors and actors.
The festival, organised by the Embassy of Japan, access>CINEMA, and the Ireland Japan Association, tours Ireland this month, and will host screenings in The Eye Cinema, Wellpark from Sunday April 12 to Thursday 16, and among the highlights will be the Irish premiere of The Light Shines Only There (April 12, 9pm ), Japan’s official submission to the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film category.
Tatsuo spends his nights drinking to oblivion until he meets the brash Takuji, who invites him to the seaside hovel he shares with his bedridden father, careworn mother, and world-weary sister Chinatsu. Tatsuo and Chinatsu take tentative steps towards a relationship, but nothing is ever that simple.
Also being screened at the festival is the comedy Thermae Romae II (April 12 ), where the architect Lucius finds that his new job of building baths for the wounded combatants of the gladiatorial combats in the Coliseum, is just the start of his problems.
In Wood Job! (April 13 ), an underachieving teen tries his hand at forestry in this coming-of-age comedy drama. Yuki Hirano fails his university entrance exams, and decides to leave city life behind, prompted by a brochure that advertises a one-year forestry programme. He winds up in Kamusari, where he learns to love the outdoor life.
Daihachi Yoshida’s award-winning drama Pale Moon (April 14 ) asks, what tempts anyone from the straight and narrow? Bank employee Rika (Rie Miyazawa ) casts aside respectability to get what she really wants from life. She starts to embezzle large sums of money and soon acquires a toy boy lover and a taste for the high life. It cannot end well... The film won Best Actress and the Audience Award at the 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival.
A Japanese version of My Fair Lady, set in the world of the geisha, comes to the screen in the form of Lady Maiko (April 15 ). Country girl Haruko arrives in Kyoto to meet Momoharu, the only apprentice geisha at the Bansuraku teahouse. There is only one problem, Maiko’s rural dialect is deemed unacceptable - she needs to speak ‘posh’. Enter Prof Kyono to save the day. Variety called the film “exuberantly choreographed...a visual treat”.
No festival of Japanese film would be complete without some anime and The Eye will screen A Letter to Momo (2011 ) on April 18 at 7pm. Directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (Jin-Roh, Ghost In The Shell ), it centres on Mono, a teenage girl whose father has just died. She is traumatised by the discovery of an un?nished letter her father was writing to her, and rightly put out by the three heaven-sent goblins whose bumbling efforts to protect her cause more chaos than good.
The film won the Grand Prize at the 2012 New York International Children Film Festival. Variety said “the ?lm’s sensitive portrayal of a teenager dealing with grief proves its most compelling element...Momo rivals mature live-action drama.”
Chihiro Atsumi, Ambassador of Japan to Ireland, said the success of the festival is “thanks to the dedication of the organisers, but above all the enthusiasm of the Irish audience. I am delighted to see that there is such an appetite for Japanese cinema in Ireland. I hope Irish people will have a chance to enjoy many of the films in the cherry blossom season”.