RIBBON

Monday, February 07, 2022
Q&A guest: Writer/director/editor/star Non

A few weeks prior to the screening of Ribbon, the Film Committee had the privilege of welcoming one of Japan’s most internationally acclaimed creative artists, Min Tanaka, who appeared with director Isshin Inudo to discuss their documentary The Unnameable Dance.

On February 7, we were privileged to welcome Non (née Rena Nonen), 48 years younger than Tanaka but surely destined for her own international acclaim. Not only has she made one of the few Japanese films that addresses the effects of the Covid pandemic straight on with Ribbon, she has demonstrated a prodigious creativity with the film, her debut theatrical feature — writing, directing, editing, starring in and even creating the art for it.


 ©FCCJ

THE UNNAMEABLE DANCE

Monday, January 24, 2022
Q&A guests: Director Isshin Inudo and legendary dancer Min Tanaka

Internationally acclaimed dancer, award-winning actor and devoted farmer Min Tanaka responded so enthusiastically to questions from the FCCJ audience during the post-screening Q&A session following The Unnameable Dance (Nazuke-yo no nai Odori), that he extended the session to a full hour.

As he was descending the dais for the photocall afterward, he told the moderator, “Everyone was so alive, so engaged — it was just beautiful. I felt like I was in another country.” One imagines that Tanaka is in the habit of spontaneous generosity.

His life and work, with further examples of bigheartedness, are the subject of Isshin Inudo’s luminous documentary, which follows its 75-year-old star for nearly three years as he performs in multiple locations at home and abroad, tends to his organic farm in the mountains of Nagano, and reminisces about a challenging childhood. The film celebrates the artist’s sublime craftsmanship, as well as his restless spirit.


"Now that we've been through this process," said Tanaka,
"I think of Mr. Inudo as a comrade in dance
."  ©FCCJ

BOLT

Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Director Kaizo Hayashi and star Shiro Sano

The Film Committee’s final screening event of 2020 - our final screening event of the tumultuous 2010s, in fact — returned the audience to perhaps the decade’s biggest story, at least in Japan: the Fukushima disaster.

We had presented the big-budget Fukushima 50 at the beginning of the year, with stars Ken Watanabe and Koichi Sato on hand for the Q&A session. At the end of the year, we were privileged to provide a bookend of sorts with Bolt, the art-film version of similar events, and to welcome veteran director Kaizo Hayashi and star Shiro Sano for an illuminating Q&A.

(In a curious coincidence, Bolt features three of the actors who appear in Fukushima 50, Shiro Sano, Koichi Sato and Kazuhiko Kaneyama, although Bolt was completed several years earlier.)

The first responders in Bolt. ©Photo by JUMPEI TAINAKA

TEZUKA'S BARBARA

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Director Macoto Tezka

The day after Tezuka’s Barbara received the Golden Bat for Best Film at the 40th Fantafestival in Rome, Macoto Tezka appeared at FCCJ to discuss his prizewinning work.

“This is the first award given to the film, and I’m really happy that it comes from a fantastic film festival,” he told the audience following a sneak preview screening. “It has a lot of fantastical elements in it, so it brings me great joy that it’s been so wonderfully received by film enthusiasts who have an eye for such films.”

The Fantafestival jury had cited Tezuka’s Barbara for its “representation of an outside-the-box love story” and for “transcending the supernatural genre with great visual impact, in which the refined photography of the master, Christopher Doyle, excels.”


Barbara (Fumi Nikaido) and her latest rescue, Mikura (Goro Inagaki). ©2019 Barbara Film Committee

A GIRL MISSING

Monday, October 19, 2020
Director Koji Fukada, TIFF Festival Chairman Hiroyasu Ando and TIFF Selection Committee member Kohei Ando

The Film Committee has been collaborating on annual special screening events with the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) for a decade or more, but in this very challenging year, it feels more important than ever. TIFF announced last month that, barring catastrophe, it will hold a physical 33rd edition, with the implementation of strict health and safety measures, from October 31 – November 9 at theaters in Roppongi.

This in itself was a milestone, since many international festivals were forced to cancel due to the pandemic, and others were stymied by ongoing theater closures in their host cities. The most famous of canceled festivals was Cannes, which nevertheless announced a lineup of 'Cannes Premiere 2020' titles, a selection of films that it would have premiered at the festival, had one been held.

Among those titles was award-winning director Koji Fukada’s The Real Thing, a nearly 4-hour opus about a consummately dull salaryman whose life is overturned by an eccentric woman. Although Fukada was not able to appear in person, the film had its International premiere at the Pingyao Film Festival in mid-October, and will have its Japan premiere during TIFF, with the director and cast present.

AINU MOSIR

Thursday, October 08, 2020
Director Takeshi Fukunaga and actor Debo Akiba

Like many nations with colonial pasts, Japan once deployed a policy of forced assimilation, economic and social discrimination, even family separation against its indigenous Ainu people — almost completely erasing their culture and identity. In the 19th-20th centuries, the government denied them the right to speak their language (it has been classified as critically endangered by UNESCO), as well as their right to hunt and gather.

Only with the 2019 passage of the Ainu Policy Promotion Act, the first recognizing them as an indigenous people, were the Ainu extended the right to “live with pride in their ethnicity” and to be afforded equal treatment.

Takeshi Fukunaga’s beautifully crafted second feature, Ainu Mosir, thus arrives at an auspicious juncture. Five years in the making and already the recipient of several major international festival awards, it portrays, in the guise of a gentle coming-of-age tale, the ongoing challenges facing the natives who call Hokkaido’s Akan Ainu Kotan home.

Fukunaga smiles at Debo, on a screen to his left. ©Koichi Mori

THE ASADAS

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Director Ryota Nakano and photographer Masashi Asada

It’s the rare Japanese director who can balance humor and pathos with the dexterity demonstrated by Ryota Nakano. After just four feature films, he has established a familiar voice and a favorite subject: the family, as it faces dark days. Yet there is always brightness in the gloom, and scenes of gentle humor are punctuated by endearingly quirky details.

In his much-heralded feature debut, Capturing Dad (2012), the titular patriarch has just died, yet one remembers most the moments of mirth, like the payoff to a slow-building punchline about a young boy’s obsession with a tuna fish. Admittedly, Nakano’s next two releases, both enormous hits in Japan, elicited more tears than laughter —in Her Love Boils Bathwater (2016), a matriarch who runs a bathhouse is dying of cancer, and in A Long Goodbye (2019), an aging father is spiraling into Alzheimer’s.

©Koichi Mori

SOIRÉE

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Director Bunji Sotoyama and stars Nijiro Murakami and Haruka Imou

SOIRÉE

August 19, 2020
Q&A guests: Director Bunji Sotoyama and stars Nijiro Murakami and Haruka Imou

Director Bunji Sotoyama and stars Nijiro Murakami and Haruka Imou. ©FCCJ

In the future, Bunji Sotoyama’s visually and emotionally rewarding Soirée may be remembered as a film of important firsts. The first release of the freshly minted production company Shinsekai, it also marks the cultural moment when we all discovered Haruka Imou.

But for now, still on the cusp of stardom, it was not Ms. Imou’s presence that brought a huge contingent of still photographers and nine TV cameras to the Q&A session following our screening — it was the film’s producers, Kosuke Toyohara and Kyoko Koizumi, two of Japan’s most popular and prolific actors.

Citing the careers of John Cassavetes, Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster and Juzo Itami,
producer KosukeToyohara reassured journalists that he would continue to act,
as well as produce and direct. ©FCCJ

KUSHINA, WHAT WILL YOU BE (Kushina)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Director Moët Hayami, actors Yayoi Inamoto and Miyuki Ono

July 15, 2020
Q&A guests: Director Moët Hayami, actors Yayoi Inamoto and Miyuki Ono

Writer-director Moët Hayami (right) with her stars, Yayoi Inamoto (left), and Miyuki Ono. ©FCCJ

In these times of self-isolation and social distancing, a film like Kushina, what will you be feels almost like allegory.

From our mid-2020 vantage point, it's hard to resist reading it as a cautionary tale about the fragility of our cultural ecosystems, the ease with which interlopers can rend the social fabric, and the real/imagined threats that external forces pose to even the most tightknit of communities.

The enigmatic first feature of Moët Hayami, Kushina is set in a remote matriarchal utopia. Hidden deep in the forested mountains of Japan, cloaked in almost otherworldly scenery, its residents live off the grid among the near-ruins of what might be a long-vanished civilization, with only the basic necessities and clothing that appears nearly feudal.

TONY TAKITANI

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Mark Schilling

AN EVENING WITH VETERAN FILM CRITIC MARK SCHILLING

June 23, 2020
Q&A guest: Mark Schilling

Schilling, right, with Sachiko Ichikawa, widow of Jun Ichikawa, and Tony Takitani DP Taishi Hirokawa.

©Koichi Mori

Three long months after our last event, the Film Committee cautiously emerged from Covid-19 lockdown to host an intimate conversation with veteran film critic, festival advisor and cycling enthusiast Mark Schilling.

The small-town Ohio boy is now the world’s leading voice on Japanese film, with a catbird seat as a critic for the Japan Times since 1989. He has been the local correspondent since 1990 for Screen International and now Variety, is a cultural reporter for a wide range of international publications, and has authored six books on Japan, including the recently published “Art, Cult and Commerce: Japanese Cinema Since 2000.”