The Japanese Film Festival run by the Japan Foundation, Sydney has been running since 1997. At the 2016 festival I spent a weekend watching five films:
- Kampai! For the Love of Sake (カンパイ! 世界が恋する日本酒)
- SIX FOUR: Part 1 (64 ロクヨン 前編)
- SIX FOUR: Part 2 (64 ロクヨン 後編)
- What a Wonderful Family! (家族はつらいよ)
- The Mohican Comes Home (モヒカン故郷に帰る)
Not long after I also watched:
Kampai! is a documentary about three people who are involved in the sake industry: John Gauntner – a Western sake expert, Philip Harper – a British-born sake brewer working in Japanese breweries, and Kosuke Kuji – a 5th generation sake brewery owner. If you are interested in sake, booze, or documentaries, I suggest watching it if you get the chance.
Based on a best selling novel SIX FOUR is a single massive story divided into two feature length films. I saw part one on the flight back from Japan after ICFP and was super excited to see them both at the film festival. The story follows a large cast of characters involved in the unsolved kidnapping, ransom, and murder of a little girl. It was the only major case in the year Shōwa 64 (which only lasted a week), hence the name. It spends a lot of time on the interaction between the police and the press and on politics within and between the prefectural and national police agencies but the personal dramas of the central police officer and the murdered girl’s father. Highly recommended!
What a Wonderful Family kicks off when Tomiko’s birthday request of Shuzo – her husband of 50 years – assent to the divorce papers she’s had prepared. The resulting family drama was, if I recall correctly, mostly played for laughs. Not too serious but fun nonetheless.
The Mohican Comes Home is something of a “fish out of water” film. It follows a Eikichi and Yuka – a metal musician and his big city girlfriend – as they visit the small island village he grew up in. The film was funny and poignant by turns and I quite enjoyed it but don’t go out of your way to track it down.
At about the same time the Japanese Film Festival was in Sydney the super excellent anime film Your Name (君の名は) had a fairly wide Australian cinema release (capital cities and some other centres) and I went to see that too. It’s begins with the two teenage main characters – a girl who lives in a small town and a boy from Tokyo – waking up having swapped bodies (which they continue to do on a semi regular basis). Eventually it becomes clear that her life is a few years in the past relative to his and that her small town was (will be) destroyed by a meteorite killing most of the residents! I loved this film a lot! I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on pretty heavy rotation and am really hanging out for the DVD release. If you don’t hate anime, see it!