28 September 2011

2nd. Tokyo Food Lovers Film Festival 2011 (第2回東京ごはん映画祭)


2nd. Tokyo Food Lovers Film Festival 2011 
第2回東京ごはん映画祭
October 8 – 23, 2011

My good friend Ushka Wakelin, who teaches cooking lessons in the Tokyo area (see her JP profile at Niki’s Kitchen), recently sent me word that the 2nd annual Food Lovers Film Festival gets underway at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu on October 8th.  

I am a big fan of food themed movies, which have been a growing trend in Japan thanks to the dominance of women cinema-goers there.  My favourite food stylist is Nami Iijima, whom I wrote about earlier this year (see: Nami Iijima: Food Stylist Extraordinaire).  The festival programme features three films that she worked on: Naoko Ogigami's Seagull Diner (2006) and Toilet (2010) anShūichi Okita's Chef of the South Pole (2009).

The two week event will present a total of 17 Delicious Films for food lovers as well as Yuri Nomura's documentary eatrip. While food is central to the plot in many of the films, like the Ebi Fry in Chef of the South Pole, in others it is simply part of a memorable scene in the film, such as Dustin Hoffman comically making French toast with his son in Kramer vs. Kramer.  The festival hopes that visitors will experience firsthand the connections between people and food through by not only viewing the films, but sharing meals with likeminded movie fans.

In order to make the festival accessible to a wide audience, the festival offers several Special Movie Screenings for Moms. Moms are welcome to bring their children to these screenings. Children can feel free to cry or chat during the screenings without fear of disturbing other patrons. If a Mom brings two Mom friends with her, they will pay a discounted entry fee of 1,000 yen per Mom.

For the visually impaired, the screening site is equipped with audio guidance that can broadcast explanations simultaneously during the movie showing over radio waves. If you bring a FM radio receiver along, you will be able to “watch” and enjoy the movie with the rest in the same theater room. A portion of the sale receipts from the collaboration product, “eatrip picnic bag”, will go to funding for the production cost of audio guidance.

Many of the screening events will be held in partnership with local restaurants and cafes. Eatrip can be viewed while enjoying an Okinawan dinner, Cooking up Dreams with a Peruvian dinner, Dinner Rush with an Italian meal, The Hangover with drinks and dinner, and so on. Go to the website to learn about these and other events including workshops and live music.

Events are subject to change; please consult the official website for screening times and locations.

17 Delicious Films Programme

English language films (with Japanese subtitles)


Bagdad Café (バグダッド・カフェ)
Percy Adlon, GERMANY/USA, 1987

Dinner Rush (ディナーラッシュ)
Bob Giraldi, USA, 2000

Kramer vs. Kramer (クレイマー、クレイマー)
Robert Benton, USA, 1979)

My Blueberry Nights (マイ・ブルーベリー・ナイツ)
Wong Kar Wai, HONG KONG/CHINA/FRANCE, 2007

The Hangover (ハングオーバー! 消えた花ムコと史上最悪の二日酔い)
Todd Phillips, USA, 2009 (screening with dinner event only)

Into the Wild (イントゥ・ザ・ワイルド)
Sean Penn, USA, 2007

Japanese language films (only eatrip has English subtitles)


An Autumn Afternoon (秋刀魚の味/Sanma no Aji)
Yasujiro Ozu, JAPAN, 1962

Seagull Diner (かもめ食堂/Kamome Shokudo)
Naoko Ogigami, JAPAN, 2006

The Chef of the South Pole (南極料理人/Nankyoku Ryorinin)
Shūichi Okita, JAPAN, 2009

Still Walking (歩いても 歩いても/Aruitemo aruitemo)
Hirokazu Kore-eda, JAPAN, 2008

Toilet (トイレット)
Naoko Ogigami, JAPAN/CANADA, 2010

Adrift in Tokyo (転々/Ten-Ten)
Satoshi Miki, JAPAN, 2007

Other languages (no English subtitles)

Soul Kitchen (ソウル・キッチン) (German with Japanese subtitles)
Fatih Akin, GERMANY, 2009

The Road Home (初恋のきた道) (Mandarin with Japanese subtitles)
Zhang Yimou, CHINA/USA, 2000

Breathless (息もできない) (Korean with Japanese subtitles)
Jang Ik-Joon, SOUTH KOREA, 2009

The Japanese Premier of
Cooking Up Dreams (Spanish with Japanese subtitles)
Ernesto Cabellos, PERU, documentary, 2011

A Special Presentation of eatrip

eatrip
Yuri Nomura, JAPAN, documentary, 2009
http://www.eatripfilm.com/
* All screenings of eatrip are with English subtitles.
Featured food from the film: stewed whole chicken with lemon and green sauce

One of the festival highlights is the contemporary Japanese food culture documentary eatrip in which director Yuri Nomura traces the relationship between food, people, the environment and spirituality.  This documentary takes the audience on a journey throughout Japan looking at how life can be led optimally through the daily ritual of eating. From the Tsukiji fish market to an Okinawan farm, the film offers poignant interviews with intriguing personalities. Featuring interviews with Nichiji Sakai, head monk of the Ikegami Honmonji temple; Kanji Takahashi, a distributor of Japanese soup stock (bonito broth); Naoko Morioka, an Okinawan leading a self-sustainable lifestyle; So-oku Sen a tea ceremony master and descendant of famed Sen No Rikyu; and Yayako Uchida, a musician and writer who recites poems about food. eatrip culminates with a passionate meal cooked by the director herself for actor Tadanobu Asano and singer UA and a handful of other eclectic guests.


October 8 – 23, 2011
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
Yebisu Garden Place

Advance Admission: 1 ticket 1,300yen / 3 tickets 3,600yen
Admission at the Door: 1,500yen

http://tokyogohan.com/filmfestival/
twitter: @Gohan_Movie
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TokyoFoodLovers
info@tokyogohan.com

Lizard Planet (2009)


My kids just love this animated short by Tomoyoshi Joko. Not only is Lizard Planet (2009) bright and colourful, but it brings together two things my kids are fascinated by: lizards and outer space.

In this universe, cell-like planets float about the galaxy like bubbles in the sea. We follow the journey of a planet with a lizard on top as he delights in jellyfish, octopuses, and other “planets” passing by with glaciers and other natural objects on their backs. The lizard planet has a garden with trees and a small house on its back. He seems to be enjoying himself until his idyll is broken by the noise of a satellite dish.

Fascinated by the noisy satellite dish, the lizard planet follows it to a region of the galaxy full of space junk. There are rocket ships and floating remnants of human existence such as a lone chair. In this region, the lizard planets look old and weary and are weighted down with skyscrapers and freeways without a speck of greenery. As they pass by, our hero lizard planet’s back also transforms into a metropolis as he stares agape at the spectacular cityscapes around him. One of the ancient lizard planets gestures for him to come with them as they sacrifice themselves to a giant, sun-like orb. A fire lizard perched on the sun blows flames at the helpless lizards in an apocalyptic vision.

Our lizard hero miraculously survives this ordeal but has lost his planet. As he floats in a sea of junk, he spots another cell-like planet and grasps it, his body rounding it like a foetus in the womb. The film ends on an upbeat note with the lizard planet in a galaxy full of other lizard planets covered in lush greenery and flowers.

If one reads the lizard planet as representing our own planet as a living, breathing organism, then Tomoyoshi Joko’s film can be read as an environmentalist warning not to destroy our own environment. The film’s positive message of hope for the future led to the film being included in the recent screening event Films for Hope at the Japan Society in New York. Enjoy the film for yourself on Joko’s Youtube channel.


Tomoyoshi Joko (official website) studied animation under Taku Furukawa (Phenakistoscope, Jyōkyō Monogatari) at the Tokyo Polytechnic University. Since completed a graduate degree in March 2009 he has been working as an independent animator and teaching part time at Tokyo Polytechnic University. Joko and his wife, the acclaimed animator Hiroco Ichinose (The Last Breakfast, Ha・P, Ushi-nchi), have recently teamed up under the name DecoVocal (デコボーカル) in order to produce more ambitious animation projects together.

Filmography
2006 Afro
2006 God’s Gift
2007 Mr. Cloud and Mr. Rain
2008 Buildings
2009 Lizard Planet
2009 Kanagawa Dog

26 September 2011

Dōjōji (道成寺, 1976)


The Buddhist temple of Dōjō in Hidakagawa, Wakayama Prefecture is home to many National Treasures (国宝/kokuhō) and Important Cultural Properties (重要文化財/jūyō bunkazai). These include scrolls from the Muromachi period (c.1336-1573) called the Dōjō-ji Engi Emaki (紙本著色道成寺縁起) which depict the story of the lady Kiyohime and the monk Anchin. The story of this ill-fated pair has been told and retold for centuries.

Most English reviews of Kihachirō Kawamoto’s award-winning puppet animation Dōjōji (道成寺, 1976), describe it as a retelling of the 19th century Kabuki play Musume Dōjōji (The Maiden of Dojo Temple) which is still quite popular today. The Kabuki and Bunraku versions of the story were adapted from the Noh play Dōjōji (Dojo Temple) which dates back to the 14th century. The earliest known version of the tale is believed to date back as far as the 11th century (Donald Keene, Twenty Plays of the Nō Theatre, p. 238).

While Kon Ichikawa’s lost (and recently recovered) puppet adaptation of Musume Dōjōji (The Girl at Dojo Temple / 娘道成寺, 1945) is definitely an adaptation of the Kabuki version – complete with Kiyohime’s dance – I believe that Kawamoto’s adaptation is actually drawn from the much more sinister Noh version.  The main plot points, thematic concerns and even the title all point to the Noh drama as being his main source of inspiration.  He has also clearly drawn on the ancient depictions of the tale of Kiyohime as inspiration for the design of his sets and puppets.


Anchin and his elderly mentor are on their yearly pilgrimage to Kumano. Along the way, they take shelter in the home of Kiyohime. She falls in love with Anchin and tries to seduce him, but he resists her. He uses his devotion to Buddha as his excuse for not falling for her charms. She begs and pleads with him, but to no avail. When she discovers that Anchin and his companion have left, she chases after him barefoot like a wild woman, paying no heed to her bleeding feet. When she finally catches up with Anchin, he no longer sees her human form but sees her as an oni (demon).

Anchin crosses the Hidaka River in his effort to escape Kiyohime and begs the boatman to help him. When Kiyohime arrives at the river, the boatman refuses to help her cross. Undeterred, she flings herself into the water in desperation and transforms into a serpent as she swims across. Meanwhile, Anchin reaches the Dōjō Temple and asks the priests there for assistance. They hide him under the giant bell. When Kiyohime, in the form of a serpent arrives, she wraps herself around the bell and burns him alive. She then returns to her human form and throws herself into the river. When the priests raise the bell, all that remains of Anchin is his skeleton with his Buddhist prayer beads unscathed still clutched in prayer in his hands. The priests begin to pray and a breeze filled with cherry blossoms blows the skeleton into dust.

The “woman as temptress” is an age old motif in mythology from around the world, included by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (pp. 101-5) in his elucidation of the monomyth. While the feminist in me recoils from this depiction of a wrathful woman – I am reminded by the famous line by William Congreve "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." (The Mourning Bride, 1697, III.viii) – the pragmatist in me recognizes that the woman is functioning as metaphor for the temptations of life. Anchin is on a spiritual journey, like Campbell’s hero-knight figure, and Kiyohime represents the obstacles that life throws in the way of his journey.


In his animated films, Kawamoto was interested in depicting the Buddhist concepts of the hardship and suffering of human life. It was actually during the making of Dōjōji that the composer Teizō Matsumura (松村禎三, 1929-2007) gave him the complete works of Shinobu Orikuchi (折口信夫, 1887-1953) (Animation Meister interview). It was Orikuchi’s story The Book of the Dead which was to result Kawamoto’s last masterpiece, which I consider one of the most beautiful expressions of Buddhist philosophy on film.

Stylistically, Dōjōji is also a masterpiece of puppet animation. The puppets have been masterfully carved and dressed, and the sets meticulously painted. The colours and seasonal elements (spring flowers like sakura and forsynthia) have all been carefully chosen according to traditional Japanese customs. As I mentioned in my review of The Demon (Oni, 1972), the unusual mixture of 2D (watercolour backgrounds) and 3D objects (the puppets, the Bodhisattva statuette) was achieved by the use of horizontal sets shot from above with sheets of glass used to add layers to the image. Many of the scenes resemble Yamato-e paintings in the way in which set elements are places in the set. Some of the most technically stunning scenes in the film for me are the depiction of the moving waves when Kiyohime transforms into the serpent and the scene when the serpent wraps herself around the bell.

Dōjōji won Kihachirō Kawamoto much acclaim including the Émile Renault Prize and Audience Prize at Annecy in 1976. He then went on to win his third Noburo Ofuji Award for innovation in animation at the Mainichi Film Awards.

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2011

This review is part of Nishikata Film Review’s  Noburo Ofuji Award Challenge.



This film is available with purchase with English subtitles from cdjapan:

Kihachiro Kawamoto Sakuhin shu / Animation
Kihachiro Kawamoto Sakuhin shu

Or from the U.S.:

Credits

Music
Teizo Matsumura

Sets 
Tsuyuhiko Mibu
Suzushi Nakagawa

Puppets
Kihachiro Kawamoto
Hiromi Wakasa
Kaoko Takahashi

Camera
Minoru Tamura

Sound
Isamu Katto

Sound Effects
Iwao Takahashi

Editing
Hisako Aizawa

Lab
Toyo Laboratory

Animation
Kihachiro Kawamoto
Ryo Ozaki
Hirokazu Minegishi
Tokiko Omukai

Animation Special Effects
Hiroshi Jinsenji
Takashi Komae

Title Calligraphy 
Hideo Goto

Screenplay/Direction
Kihachiro Kawamoto

23 September 2011

The Demon (鬼, 1972)


When Kihachirō Kawamoto (川本 喜八郎, 1925-2010) travelled to Prague in 1963 to visit the studios of Jiří Trnka (1912-1969), he was famously given the advice to look at his own country’s history of puppet traditions in order to improve his craft as a puppet animator. While he did throw himself into the study of the Bunraku theatre upon his return to Japan, he did not adapt any traditional Bunraku plays for his puppet films.  Instead, he looked to the wealth of legends from Japan's ancient past.

The Demon (鬼/Oni, 1972), which I think stands as Kawamoto’s first great masterpiece of puppet animation, is an adaptation of a tale from the 12th century anthology Konjaku Monogatari (今昔物語). The story concerns an ancient legend that says that when people grow old they turn into demons who will devour their own children. The story is told with title cards instead of a narrator with traditional musical accompaniment by Seiji Tsurusawa on shamisen and Goro Yamaguchi on shakuhachi. The music was also composed by Tsurusawa.

Two brothers live with their aged mother, the title cards tell us. The introduction to the story mixes puppets with a series of drawn images etched on black which sets up the story of the mother’s life of suffering. Born into this world to unfeeling parents, she was an outcast of her community as a child and suffered greatly at the hands of her husband. Her life has been truly wretched as she has only known illness and poverty. In the end, the title cards tell us, she has suffered a “human life inhuman without a trace of light.”

One day, while out hunting, the brother dressed in blue’s chonmage (topknot) is grasped by a ghostly hand from above. Unable to escape, the brother dressed in red rescues him by shooting the arm off using his bow and arrow. The brother in blue falls to the ground with the gruesome hand still grasping the chonmage. “A demon’s arm!” cry the brothers, and they run home in terror. When they arrive, they find their mother in bed with one of her arms gone. The mother transforms into an oni (demon) and dances with the disembodied arm. The film ends by relating to us the ancient superstition, ending with the observation “how horrible”.

In his early puppet films like The Demon, Dojoji (1976) and House of Flames (1979),  Kawamoto constructed horizontal sets and shot them from above. This is a technique which he had seen Břetislav Pojar (b. 1923) use during his 1963 visit to Eastern Europe (see the JMAF Animation Meister interview by Takayuki Oguchi). Using this technique, Kawamoto could also place images in the background and foreground using plates of glass, giving the film its Yamato-e look. The film looks absolutely stunning with its autumnal colour palette against black. I love the artistic flair of little touches like the bamboo forest and the twinkling fireflies.  The puppet movement is more refined than in his first independent puppet film The Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (花折り/Hana-ori, 1968).  In fact, in some scenes the puppets almost look as if they are dancing.


The theme of suffering in the film comes from Kawamoto’s study of Buddhist philosophy - which is openly referenced in the art of the opening sequence (see above image). Each of his animated films tackles the theme of suffering in some way, particularly his final masterpiece The Book of the Dead (2005), which depicts a woman on the path to enlightenment.

The Demon won Kawamoto his first of six Noburo Ofuji awards – one of which was for his completion of his friend Tadanari Okamoto’s final film The Restaurant of Many Orders (注文の多い料理店, 1991).

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2011

This review is part of Nishikata Film Review’s  2011 Noburo Ofuji Award Challenge.



This film is available with purchase with English subtitles from cdjapan:

Kihachiro Kawamoto Sakuhin shu / Animation

Or from the U.S.;



21 September 2011

Koji Yamamura interviewed on NHK World


Koji Yamamura was a featured guest the NHK World programme  imagine-nation today.  He first spoke about his early childhood interest in drawing animation.  He then went on to discuss his latest film Muybridge's Strings, which is playing this month at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art (learn more about this event):



On his childhood and his creative process
"I think my earliest memory of drawing something was at home, before I started kindergarten. In fact, I almost think that’s my first memory altogether. Drawing pictures is so natural to me that I don’t think there was even a day when I didn’t draw. By the time I thought about it, I found myself in a job in which I draw every single day. It’s a fundamental part of my life." 
"I was an extremely curious child and this was something that I realized even at the time. I love drawing, but I wanted to try so many different things as well. Even when watching anime on TV, instead of just enjoying it, I looked at it from the production side. I thought about how they drew certain things and what kids of pens and paints they used. I was fascinated by all those technical questions." 

"I was 13 when I tackled my first animation. I created the entire story, the pictures, background and direction and even composed the music for it. I handled every aspect of it myself. This was during my childhood, so we’re talking about the 70s, I guess. There were very few independent full stop animations back then, let alone ones created by children, so I got a lot of attention for it. How I felt back then is part of the foundation of who I am when I create something today." 
"Thinking about the nature of life and the world is something that feeds the part of me that makes animation. It’s a vital process that allows me to create animation. Of course, I’m focusing on the work at hand itself, but I’m always thinking about my life as I create. Lots of different feelings and ideas change during that period. I’m always trying to find something new and to keep thinking as part of my creative process."
On Muybridge’s Strings

 It took a total of seven years from Yamamura coming up with the original concept until the animated short's completion.  Muybridge's Strings is partly inspired by the life of photography and early cinema pioneer Eadward Muybridge (1830-1904).  His most famous photography experiment was set up to settle a debate about  whether or not a galloping horse has all four of his hooves off the ground at any point.  He set up a number of cameras that used glass plates in a line, with the cameras triggered by strings as the horse passed by.  

A parallel contemporary story runs through Muybridge's Strings that is based on Yamamura's own experience of his teenage daughter growing up.  Yamamura explains:
"The two time periods are drawn in parallel and the animation aims to make people think about the actual nature of time. It was partly inspired by the idea of using string to take photographs, which tickled me as a visual image. The other story comes from my own life."
"Through watching my daughter grow up I have a strong sense of the fragility and the extraordinary nature of time. Animation has a way of making “meaningful” time out of “empty” time. So I think about it a lot and always wanted to use time as a theme. I guess that’s how this work came about."

"I’m pretty fast at drawing so the pictures are done quite quickly, nut the animation itself is a labour intensive process. Therefore, I get the chance to think a lot while I’m tied up in that process. In that sense animation is perhaps the best reflection of who I really am."

Support Koji Yamamura buy ordering his work on DVD:

To order from Japan via cdjapan:

"Toshi wo Totta Wani" & Koji Yamamura Select Animation / Animation
Atamayama - Koji yamamura Sakuhinshu / Animation
Mt. Head and Selected Works  (JP with English subs)

Kafka Inaka Isha / Animation
Kafka Inaka Isha (JP only)

From the US:



20 September 2011

Mirai Mizue debuts Modern No. 2 at the 68th Venice Film Festival



This month’s Venice Film Festival was a great success for Japan with Shinya Tsukamoto’s film Kotoko winning an Orrizonti Prize and teenagers Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido winning the Marcello Mastroianni Award for their performances in Sion Sono’s Himizu.

Mirai Mizue of CALF also had the honour of presenting  his latest animated short Modern No. 2 (2011) at Venice. It is a follow-up to his work Modern (2010) which was inspired by optical illusions, like the paintings of M.C.Escher. He made the films using isometric drawings on graph paper. In the “Making of” extra on his DVD Mirai Mizue Works 2003-2010 (order now from CALF), he explained that while making Modern he set himself the rule of using only three kinds of lines: one vertical and two slanting lines. Mizue is interested in the concept that animation can be very good when one imposes a limitation on movements. He tried to come up with many ideas while keeping within the rules he set for himself in order to prove that one can make great films even when using a minimal number of elements.


When people come across Mizue’s work on video-streaming sites (check out his profiles on Vimeo and Youtube), they often mistake his geometric and cell animation for CG. Mizue could have chosen to make Modern using CG, especially as it only involves straight lines, but in fact he always draws each individual frame by hand. They are then scanned and edited into a video on the computer.  If you look closely, you can see how his films differ from CG in their textures and movements.

In his shared press conference with Shinya Tsukamoto, Mizue explains his techniques and his inspiration for Modern No. 2 The colours were inspired by traditional Japanese art. Instead of the grey tones of the backgrounds in Modern, for Modern No. 2 he uses warm-hued washi paper (traditional rice paper) which, judging from the trailer, are sometimes painted boldly in green and black.


Mizue goes on to explain how he collaborated with twoth for the music. He felt that Modern had a slower rhythm, so for Modern No. 2 he told twoth that he wanted to increase the tempo. This surprised the interviewer at the Venice Film Festival, who found even the first Modern remarkably fast.

As Mizue uses graph paper to plan his designs, in order to reduce the rhythm, he used just one square – and to make the movement quicker, the line uses 2 or 3 squares. As a result, he found that the speed of No. 1 was quite even, but that No. 2 has many variations – some of which he described as “bounces”. In conclusion, Mizue said that he believes that animation must not necessarily tell a story, but to amuse and make people feel good.

MODERN No.2   4'10"/color/DCP/16 : 9/stereo/Japan/2011

Director / Writer / Editor / Animation Mirai Mizue
Music / Sound Design twoth
Colour Design Mirai Mizue and Saori Shiroki 

18 September 2011

Japan in Germany 5: Japan Week 2011 in Frankfurt am Main


For the past 35 years, the Japanese have been promoting their culture and business interests abroad by hosting a Japan Week in major cities around the world. As this year marks the 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Germany (or Prussia as it then was) and Japan.  This year’s Japan Week will take place in Frankfurt am Main between the 5th and 12th of November. Events will include theatre, dance, an art and handicrafts market and exhibition, a food pavilion, an ikebana workshop, cooking classes, a football (soccer) tournament and much, much more. See the official website for details (DE/EN/JP)

The highlight for me will, of course, be the film programme organized by Nippon Connection at the newly renovated Film Museum. Many filmmakers will be on hand to participate in lively discussions after the screenings. In order to highlight the theme of German-Japanese relations, the programme includes Japan-themed documentaries by  German directors and a Japanese director who works in Germany.  There are also  two films made by graduates of the Tokyo University of the Arts in Yokohama – which is the future sister city of Frankfurt.

The most anticipated event is the world premiere of the crowdfunded documentary RADIOACTIVISTS which looks closely at Japan after the disaster in Fukushima with a focus of the efforts of the anti-nuclear movement.


Saturday, November 5th, 16:00
Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia Special
http://www.shortshorts.org/

The Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia is the biggest short film fest in Asia. It is held each summer in Tokyo and Yokohama and features short films from around the world. For Japan Week, Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia has put together a special programme of recent Japanese shorts with English subtitles.

Romance (Toshiro SONODA, Japan 2010, 3 Min., OmeU)
Ken and Kazu (Hiroshi SHOJI, Japan 2011, 23 Min., OmeU)
Tourism Hokkaido "City" (Yosuke YAMAGUCHI, Japan 2010, 18 Min., OmeU)
Meat (Takahiro KIMURA, Japan 2009, 17 Min., OmeU)
bonz (Shohei TADA, Japan 2010, 5 Min., OmeU)
Mister Rococo (Naoto HIDAKA, Japan 2010, 13 Min., OmeU)
Heaven's Island (Naoko SHIMADA, Japan 2010, 14 Min., OmeU)

Saturday, November 5th, 20:30
Yellow Kid 
(Tetsuya MARIKO, Japan, 2009, 107 Min., OmeU)
German Premiere, www.yellow-kid.jp

Debut feature film from Tetsuya MARIKO, an up-and-coming director and winner for two consecutive years of the Off-Theater Competition Grand Prix of the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival with THE FAR EAST APARTMENT (Kyokuto no Manshon) in 2003 and MARIKO’S 30 PIRATES (Mariko Sanjukki) in 2004. This quick-paced film with exhaustive camera work depicts the interaction of two youths living in two completely different worlds - boxing and manga. Boxing is what maintains the spirits of Tamura (Endo Kaname) who is leading a financially constrained life while taking care of his grandmother with dementia. One day, Hattori (Iwase Ryo), a manga-ka, visits the boxing gym where Tamura practices to gather material. Mariko’s latest film NINIFUNI showed at this year’s film festival in Locarno.

Sunday, September 6th, 20:00
Panorama 
(Ryo YOSHIKAWA, Japan, 2011, 89 Min., OmeU)
International Premiere
Special Guest: Ryo YOSHIKAWA
Made possible by the support of the The City of Yokohama - Frankfurt Representative Office

Haruka’s partner has walked out on her. She drops her son off with his grandmother and tries her luck out working at a hostess club. Kana pretends that all is well with her marriage, even though she knows her husband is involved with other women. Things don’t turn out the way both women had hoped.

PANORAMA is Ryo YOSHIKAWA’s graduate film for the Tokyo University of the Arts in Yokohama.

Wednesday, November 9th, 20:30
They Call Us Aliens
(Veit HELMER, Germany/Japan, 2008, 78 Min, EN/JP/PO/RU, OmeU)

Three Ukrainian girls break into the modelling business, a South African bachelor prepares for his Shinto wedding and a priest from Finland runs for election... Just a few protagonists of this documentary film by German director Veit Helmer (TUVALU, ABSURDISTAN). Japan was closed for foreigners until 1853. Now people from all over the world move to Tokyo to explore Japanese culture. Japanese meet foreigners with curiosity and anxiety. The film observes how foreigners struggle to make a living in a totally different culture.

Supporting film:
OSHIMA
(Lars Henning, Germany, 2011, 34 Min.)
Special Guest: actor Yuki IWAMOTO

An urban fairy tale about a sad and overtired Japanese salaryman on a business trip.  In the course of one night in a strange German city  he begins to lose more and more of himself.  Yuki Iwamoto, whose face is well known to fans of Nippon Connection, stars in the lead role of Oshima.

Friday, November 11th, 18:00
The Red Spot 
(Der Rote Punkt, Marie MIYAYAMA, Germany, 2008, 82 Min., DE/JP, OmU)
Special Guest: Marie MIYAYAMA
www.derrotepunkt-derfilm.de


A Japanese student named Aki Onodera travels to Germany to retrace the steps of her lost family.  She is armed with a map marked with a red spot - the location of the tragic accident that took her family from her.  In idyllic eastern Allgäu, she is taken in by the Weber family as their guest.  Her arrival causes great disruption in the Weber family as Aki's presence awakens a terrible secret held by one of the family members.  

Saturday, November 12th, 20:00
Radioactivists 
(Julia LESER and Clarissa SEIDEL, Germany/Japan 2011, 72 Min., JP, OmeU)
World Premiere, Special Guests: Julia LESER and Clarissa SEIDEL
www.radioactivists.org
Followed by a discussion with Prof. Steffi Richter of Leipzig University

When Japan’s triple catastrophe took place on the 11th of March 2011, two German filmmakers Julia Leser and Clarissa Seidel were already on location in the country. They immediately decided to follow the re-birth of the anti-nuclear protest movement and to document their demonstrations in order to counterbalance the one-sided media coverage of the nuclear crisis. Japanese intellectuals, sociologists, scientists and anti-nucler activists critical of the sequence of events surrounding the ill-fated Tepco (Tokyo electric Power Company) are all given a chance to speak their piece. RADIOACTIVISTS is a unique historical documentation of one of Japan’s greatest human tragedies.

Venue:
Schaumainkai 41, 60596 Frankfurt am Main

Entry fees: 7 euro / 5 euro

To reserve tickets call:
069 961 220 220

OmU = original version with German subtitles
OmeU = original version with English subtitles

This event is supported by:
Referat für Internationale Angelegenheiten der Stadt Frankfurt am Main
The City of Yokohama - Frankfurt Representative Office

Organized by:
Nippon Connection e.V., c/o AStA, Mertonstr. 26-28, 60325 Frankfurt am Main
info@nipponconnection.com, www.nipponconnection.com


This blog post is part the Japan in Germany series.


16 September 2011

Japan Media Arts Festival Short Film Special


The Japan Media Arts Festival Dortmund 2011 put together a selection of award-winning and jury recommended animated shorts, music videos and commercials (CM) from the past decade. The thirteen works will be screening in the main cinema on September 24th at 19:00 and on October 2nd at 18:00. They also screen on a continuous loop on one of three TV screens in the exhibition itself where up to two people can watch at one time.

The animated shorts include two videos which have had much success online: Hiroyasu Ishida’s humorous Fumiko's Confession (2010), which is a great showcase of the young animator’s talent, and Riichiro Mashiro’s hilarious Ski Jumping Pairs (2003). Koji Yamamura’s A Child’s Metaphysics (2007) is a brilliant lesser known film by the master and Ryo Okawara’s Animal Dance, which made my list of Best Japanese Animated Shorts 2010 is also on the program. A low res version of Nobuo Takahashi’s Musashino Plateau has been online for some time, but it was much more impressive in high res at the festival.

Other animated shorts included Noriaki Okamoto’s unusual textured piece Algol (2008) about a world in which only machines and the scientist who created them exist. Yusuke Sakamoto, whose stop motion film Dandelion’s Sister (2007) totally blew me away at Nippon Connection 2008, was back with another atmospheric work, this time done in paint, about the end of a relationship.  Takeuchi Taijin is another great young animator, whose film A Wolf Loves Pork (2008) made my list of Top Animated Shorts of the Decade,  won recognition from the JMAF Jury in 2010 for his film a song like a fish, which I would describe as Tomoyasu Murata’s stop motion animation meets Takashi Ishida’s stop motion painting of interior spaces.

If I had been the programmer, I would have rounded the animated shorts out with Atsushi Wada’s In a Pig’s Eye (2010), Kunio Kato’s La maison en petits cubes (2008), Tochka’s PiKA PiKA (2006), Amica Kubo/Seita Inoue’s Bloomed Words (2006), Akino Kondoh’s The Evening Traveling (2002), Tomoyasu Murata’s Nostalgia (2001), or other worthy winners of the JMAF Animation Excellence Prize.

Although the music videos and the Nike commercial are all entertaining and very creative, it was odd having them mixed with the less commercial fare. I would have put them into a separate programme of their own.  There have certainly been enough creative music videos and CM winning awards at JMAF in the past decade and a half that it has been running to do so.  My hands down favourite of these is the music video Hibi no Neiro (Tone of the Everyday) which has used webcam technology in a most original way. The videos embedded below are all belonging to commercial works or those shared online by the artists themselves. Where possible, I encourage supporting independent artists with your wallet – which you can do by purchasing Koji Yamamura’s work – see my review of A Child's Metaphysics for purchasing options.

Fumiko's Confession 
(フミコの告白, Hiroyasu Ishida, 2010)

natsu wo matteimashita

music video for amazarashi (夏を待っていました, YKBX, 2010)

Animal Dance 
(アニマルダンス, Ryo Ōkawara, 2009)

A Child's Metaphysics 
(こどもの形而上学, Kōji Yamamura, 2007)

the river 
(川旅行, Yusuke Sakamoto, 2009)

Algol 
(Noriaki Okamoto, 2008)

Musashino Plateau

(ムサシノ プラトー, Nobuo Takahashi, 2006)

a song like a fish 
(魚に似た唄, Taijin Takeuchi, 2010)

make.believe / Genki Rockets 

(Tetsuya Mizuguchi/Kenji Tamai, 2010)

arukuaround / sakanaction 
watch video at JMAF website
(Kazuaki Seki, 2010)

Hibi No Neiro (日々の音色/Tone of everyday)
(Magico Nakamura/Masayoshi Nakamura/Masashi Kawamura/Hal Kirkland, 2009)

Nike Music Shoe 

See how they made the commercial here.
(Naoki Ito/Frank Hahn, 2010)

Ski Jumping Pairs

(スキージャンプ・ペア, Riichiro Mashima, 2003)

15 September 2011

Koji Yamamura interviewed on Dommune



Earlier today (around midday Central European Summer Time), Dommune did a live broadcast event with Koji Yamamura on USTREAM Live. He was interviewed by Shuzo Shiota, the president and CEO of Polygon Pictures – and one of the co-producers for Muybridge’s Strings. Also participating in the talk was animation expert Yukio Hiruma. In addition to co-producing some of Yamamura’s early work (Kid’s Castle and Kipling, Jr.), Hiruma also recently acted as a digital effects supervisor on Keita Kurosaka’s masterpiece Midori-ko (2010)

The middle of the day was a bit awkward for me because my live-in translator (ie. my husband) was not around to help me out with the nuances of the Japanese language and I had to pick up my kids from school. Some of the highlights that I did catch included:

Original drawings from the production of Muybridge’s Strings:


Behind the scenes photographs from the soundtrack recording and mixing sessions in the NFB studios in Montréal – Yamamura talked reverentially about the whole experience of working at the NFB studios. . . and with shock about how cold it gets in Montréal in the winter.

Normand Roget at work

The original music and sound design are by Normand Roger, Pierre Yves Drapeau, Denis Chartrand. Yamamura talked a bit about the impressive career of Norman Roger - who has done the soundtracks to more than a hundred films by top animators from around the world. Yamamura mentioned in particular Roger’s collaborations with Frédéric Back such as Crac! (1981) and The Man Who Planted Trees (1988). Yamamura was careful to point out that although the two men have collaborated together that Back was not an NFB employee. Learn more about this collaboration at filmjourney and Back's official website.

Yamamura getting the NFB studio experience

I tried to get a couple of screencaps of a wonderful illustration of how a sequence of music borrowed from Bach should go together with the animation. The image was too shaky to get a good shot of it, so I do hope that it appears in the Making Of footage / DVD extras when the time comes – it was a piece of art in itself.



Shiota, Yamamura, and Hiruma then moved into a discussion about the Muybridge’s Strings Road Show, which opens on September 17th and runs until October 7th at the at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu. They went through Program B discussing the films by Norman McLaren, Jacques Drouin, Ishu Patel, Georges Schwitzgebel, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby that will be running alongside Yamamura’s work.


Admiring Norman McLaren's handiwork

Before I had to race out the door to pick up my kids, I managed to catch a some the clips of McLaren’s Canon (1964), Drouin’s Mindscape and Patel’s Afterlife (1978) - not a part of the program but they indulged in a clip anyways - and The Bead Game (1977). Yamamura had brought along some wonderful items from his personal collection including a present of 5 pins from Drouin who is famed for his use of the pinscreen technique.
5 Pins for Koji from Jacques Drouin

He also told an anecdote about meeting Ishu Patel for the first time when he was a very young man. I thought I heard him say that it was at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, and when I looked it up I found that Patel had indeed been on the International Jury of the first ever animation festival in Hiroshima in 1985 when Yamamura would have been a university student.
First meeting with Patel - look how young Yamamura is!!

Can’t wait for Muybridge’s Strings to make it to Europe!

To see all the screencaps I took, see my Google Plus Photos

Support Koji Yamamura buy ordering his work on DVD:

Order from Japan via cdjapan:

Atamayama - Koji yamamura Sakuhinshu / Animation
Mt. Head and Selected Works  (JP with English subs)

Kafka Inaka Isha / Animation
Kafka Inaka Isha (JP only)

From the US:



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