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Why You Should Not Miss Japanese Film Festival 2016

The Japan Foundation together with Golden Screen Cinemas bring us old favourites and new discoveries in Japanese movies.

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Why You Should Not Miss Japanese Film Festival 2016
The threesome of An. (Image credit for all visuals: JFF 2016, The Japan Foundation, GSC)
To the young, Japanese film culture is synonymous with popular manga comic and anime series, but the gamut of Japanese cinema actually involves different genres appealing to a wide spectrum of cinema-goers. The proof of is showcased in Japanese Film Festival 2016 (JFF 2016) that’s currently running at Golden Screen Cinemas nationwide. From September 8 to 14, JFF 2016 is presented at GSC MidValley, Pavilion, I Utama and Nu Sentral, before moving on to Penang GSC Gurney Plaza from September 15 to 18, Kuching GSC CityONE Megamall from September 22 to 25, and concluding at Kota Kinabalu GSC Suria Sabah from September 29 to Oct 2.
 
This 13th edition of this delightful celebration of Japanese film gems organized by The Japan Foundation (Kuala Lumpur) is one not to be missed, with its eclectic cache of blockbusters, comedies, award winners and arthouse wonders. All films come accompanied with English subtitles and for more info on film synopses, screening times and other info, head to www.jfkl.org.my or www.gsc.com.my.  Tickets for JFF 2016 films are priced at RM8 (incl. of GST 6%) and can be purchased from September 6, 2016 onwards via GSC box office, GSC e-payment at gsc.com.my or GSC mobile app (IOS, Android and Windows Phone).

A quick rundown of the 13 films screening at the JFF 2016.

After the Storm
This Kore-eda Hirokazu film tells of the broken life of divorced father Ryota, who tries to renew contact with his estranged family as he struggles to regain control of his existence and to get in his son’s good graces.



An
The new business relationship-cum-friendship between dorayaki maker Sentaro and 76-year-old Tokue blooms before they old wounds and painful secrets are revealed.


Bakuman

Novice writer/illustrator team and high schoolers Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi try to make it into Weekly Shonen Jump, the most widely-read, influential manga magazine in Japan against all odds.



The Boy and the Beast
A young street urchin stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, where he is taken in by a gruff warrior before the pair forms a bond as surrogate father and son in the face of conflicts.


Creepy
Police detective Takakura quits active duty but finds himself investigating an unsolved case of a missing family.


Chihayafuru Part 1
Childhood friends Chihaya, Taichi and Arata are bound by their passion for competitive karuta and together they form a karuta club in order to enter the national championships.


Chihayafuru Part 2
Chihaya’s karuta club is in dire straits especially once she learns she will go head-to-head against the reigning Queen of Karuta. How does her team return the club to its former glory?


Desperate Sunflowers
Cousins Tetsuko and cousin Natsuko become lawyer and client, and they have to find a way to resolve their contentious relationship in the quest to solve their myriad love and legal troubles.


Flying Colors
Teenage delinquent Sayaka enrols at a cram school and is encouraged to apply for admission to one of the toughest universities in Japan by her optimistic teacher amidst sneering friends and family.


The Magnificent Nine
The residents of an 18th-century town are confronted with challenges to survive being indebted to their feudal lord. An ingenious plot to turn their fortunes around comes at the risk of losing their lives.


The Mohican Comes Home
Deadbeat Tokyo punk rocker Eikichi returns to his hometown with pregnant girlfriend and the brief sojourn instead turns into a lengthy stay with news that his disapproving father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.


My Love Story!!
Unlucky in love, Takeo Goda meets a girl named Yamato, rescuing her from a pervert. Unable to believe his new fate, he mistakenly thinks his new admirer is meant for his more handsome friend, Sunakawa.


What a Wonderful Family!
Retired patriarch Shuzo is in shock when dutiful wife of 50 years Tomiko requests for a divorce as a birthday present. The nuclear family unreels into a panic, dredging up more relationship anxieties.

In conjunction with JFF 2016, here's an up-close-and personal conversation with ith Kiki Kilin, the iconic Japanese actress starring in After The Storm and An at JFF 2016.



To grace the opening of JFF 2016 and to present two of her starring vehicles After The Storm and An, the legendary and three-time Japan Academy Prize-winner Kiki Kilin was flown to Kuala Lumpur to do the honours. Kiki, a cinematic force who has carved a reputation for her roles portraying sages of otherworldly wisdom, is in real life, a beyond cool older lady with  a bustling sense of wit and dark humour, we find out as she fields a quick round of Q & A after the special preview of An.

What is your impression of Malaysia from the last time you were here?
I was very impressed by what can be brought about by economic development but just like in Japan, I’m wondering whether that success is necessary good for people here. This morning around 5 or 6am, there was tremendous lightning and rain pouring down and the opportunity to see it pouring down like that around the Twin Towers was a highlight for the trip.
 
I heard it was a very hard filming schedule for An. Can you elaborate?
Director (Naomi) Kawase San is a lady and if you look at parts of her face, it’s not the most attractive but altogether it makes this great beautiful package. She is not very feminine but very masculine and very tough. Normally when a film is shot and scenes that appear at the same location in the film are shot together in succession but with Kawase San, she wanted to shoot in the order that the scenes appear in the film, and it took one year. There were 60 hours of usable footage that were taken but then they were edited down into 2 hours. She was very brave in chopping off the scenes and actors who had made an appearance disappeared and people who had a lot of dialogue no longer had any.
With Kawase San, she placed value and emphasis on the silent voices of the azuki (red beans) or the moon or the light, and the movement of the winds. Very much attention paid to nature itself, but she was very brusque when it came to the actors, and for some reason when it was put together, it all came together. She would ask, “Kiki San, you can hear the voice of the azuki, can’t you? You can hear the voice of the moon, can’t you? And I’d be like ‘no’, that’s how it was.” (Laughter is heard from the audience)
 
And in An, you also acted together with your granddaughter. Did you have a  chance to talk to her during or before the film?
Actually I take advantage of being a celebrity in the sense that or I try to attach myself or make use of my position to my advantage. And so the reason I got them  to let my granddaughter audition is that I wanted to have a record of her at 14 years of age shot through the talented skills of professionals so I used my wiles to get my way. But in hindsight, I feel her qualities really matched what this film was about. I have no complaints. She lived in the UK at that time and still does, and because the shoot was done in chronological order, but if they could have done all her scenes in a row, that’d be better. She had to go back and forth and just from her airfares alone, we were in the red. Economically, it was a big loss but it was definitely a plus in other ways.
 
The screening of After The Storm followed the opening of JFF 2016. How was it like working with director Kore-eda Hirokuza in After The Storm?
Among the Japanese directors we have now, Kore-eda San is one who really pays attention to the acting of the actors. Oftentimes and nowadays, we have directors who are more concerned about the visuals. They are more concerned with trying to achieve a certain look or certain finish and not many of them look to the souls of the actors. And so now generally with older actresses, they tend to get less work but because a lot of actresses don’t want to play older women, I end up being approached with these roles by Kore-eda San and other directors. With director Kore-eda’s works, they focus on real, everyday daily like in After The Storm (screened last night). It was shot in an apartment complex that was very narrow with no lifts. I said at this age, I don’t want to work in this kind of a setting and he replied in return that he lived precisely in those apartments from 9 to 21 years old. That was the only location they could get hold of. (The audience breaks out in laughter again here.) And when we were filming there, people who had lived there since he was a child would approach him and give him a handful of coins as pocket money and say ‘Well done! You’ve got this far.” So he’s the star of that apartment block.
 
Did your character Tokue in An have a sweet tooth and did she like sweets?
I do like sweets and the boss (referring to Sentaro in the movie) he prefers cigarettes, yes.
 
The recipe used to make the bean paste in the movie. Was it yours or the director’s? Did you practise a lot for the scene of cooking the an?
No, it’s a recipe from long ago in Japan. In France, we had 300k people watch this film and there was a bit of boom over there to make dorayaki. I went to a cooking school from early in morning and practised all the way. I don’t want to see anymore dorayaki. (Again, laughter from the audience is heard.) I guess dorayaki isn’t suited for hot, humid climate but is best suited when it is cold with a hot cup of tea.
 
To conclude the session, Kiki Kilin goes on a discourse about the subliminal themes and messages behind the film, An.
In Japan, grandmothers like the one you saw just now have been locked up for many years because of their health conditions, but the character you saw in the film did whatever she could to try to open up her soul. It could be an allegory used in Japan nowadays I think in hindsight. It feels but might not necessarily be the author’s intention that young people for one reason or another tend to tie themselves down and limit what they can do. It seems pertinent that way but I don’t know how you felt watching the film. As countries prosper and cultures beome mature, in a way I think people lose ability to see hope, or aim to search for a reason or goal to live for and in that sense, I think this film has that message. And so when we are lacking things when we are not very prosperous, people tend to work and try harder, but once you achieve a certain level, you start to question how one should live and things like that, and I believe this is what we are seeing in Japan as well. And so Tokue in the film, although she was unhappy having been cut off from the world, did manage to find happiness in her daily life and achieve a certain level of satisfaction. I think in Malaysia too, you’ll soon find yourself at such a road block at which time will be a major issue, but I hope the youth out there will be able to overcome that.

 
 
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