Since 2004, the Japan Foundation, London has organised a Japanese film programme in close partnership with distinguished film venues and programme advisors in the UK. Each year, a programme of titles are put together under a carefully chosen theme to highlight trends in Japanese cinema and showcase the versatility and uniqueness displayed by Japanese filmmakers. The programme also showcases directors and works which, while being worthwhile, may have slipped under the radar of other film festivals or programmes.
There are several venues taking part from around the UK between February and April. To find one near you, visit the website.
Some of the highlights include:
The Anthem of the Heart
Jun Naruse is a young girl who believes that her words have caused unmeasurable trouble. Carrying the guilt with her, she is one day visited by a mysterious ‘Egg Fairy’ who casts a spell on her preventing her from speaking, making her bottle up all her emotions. Now older and a high-school student, Jun is asked to join a group of students to take part in a musical – a group which turns out to be an unexpected mix of students all suffering from emotional trauma just like Jun. Through discovering about the importance of friendship and how music can create bonds between people, will Jun be able to find her voice again?
The Life of Mr Everyman
Eburi is a lowly salaryman who drunkenly promises two magazine editors that he will write them a masterpiece. Once sober, Eburi commits himself to his promise and after deliberating over what to write about, he decides to write a novella using himself, his middle class life and his experiences as the theme.
A Japanese Tragedy
Having lost her husband in the war, Haruko (Yuko Mochizuki) struggles to bring up her ungrateful materialistic-minded son and daughter. Despite her countless sacrifices, including selling her land and even her body, her now grown-up children reject their mother, driving her to despair.
An award-wining film telling the admirable story of Seiichi, a ‘kirareyaku’ actor whose main job in samurai movies is simply to be killed-off by the lead star. When the studio where Seiichi works decides to discontinue its samurai epics, Seiichi finds himself at a loss but hope arrives in the form of a young woman named Satsuki, who soon becomes his disciple.
Noriben: The Recipe for Fortune
Komaki (Manami Konishi) is a 31-year-old woman who decides to leave her aspiring writer but jobless husband and move back to her hometown, a small working-class district in Tokyo with her young daughter Non-chan. After the ‘noriben’ lunch box (a “bento” featuring toasted “nori” (seaweed) on rice) that she packed for Non-chan becomes a huge hit at school, Komaki decides to try and make ends meet by opening her own “bento” shop and offering inexpensive but undoubtedly delicious food.
Cheers from Heaven
When “bento” (lunch box) shop owner Hikaru (Hiroshi Abe) learns that a group of local high school students have no place to practice music, he decides to build a studio beneath his store allowing them to play there for free. The students begin to grow fond of Hikaru but still know little of his terminal illness which Hikaru has been battling and keeping secret from his family and friends.
Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days
Yuiichi Okano is a baby boomer born and raised in Nagasaki, Japan by his mother Mitsue. Now divorced, and a much older comic book artist with not much hair on left on his head, Yuiichi, who goes by the nickname Pecoross due to his bald head’s likeness to a ‘pecoross’ onion, is forced to face the fact that his dementia-suffering mother will need to be moved to a nursing home. As his mother Mitsue spends time in the home with its idiosyncratic inhabitants, her memories gradually lead her to retrace her secret past.
Set in early 19th century Japan during the Edo period, this animation brings to life the story of O-Ei, the daughter of the ukiyo-e master, Katsushika Hokusai (globally famous for his piece The Great Wave). O-Ei is no doubt an inheritor of both her father’s stubbornness and his talent, and her art is so powerful that it leads her into trouble.