In response to the level of interest shown in last year’s event the Japanese Film Festival has broadened its horizons, now taking in three locations across the country before making a welcome return to Dublin in the latter half of November. Festival programmer Shinji Yamada has compiled a schedule reflective of the imagination and forward-thinking that has made Japanese cinema an institution, affording Irish audiences the opportunity to appreciate the unique cinematic output of one of the world’s largest and oldest film industries.
The 1950s is often regarded as the golden age of Japanese cinema but the films you have selected show such imagination and innovation. Do you think that modern Japanese cinema may have entered into a period to rival that decade? Is it meeting the standards set by the likes of Kurosawa and Ozu?
I think that we have entered into a new phase and that the value of Japanese film has changed. Departures’ Oscar win this year is a reflection of people’s appreciation for what’s happening within the Japanese film industry. There is more variety in Japanese film now. Our films aren’t falling into certain stereotypical categories. The new generation of film-makers are quite keen to explore the outside market and are taking an international audience into consideration when making their films. In that respect it’s a very different kind of filmmaking to what we had in the 1950s. It certainly is an interesting and encouraging time for Japanese cinema.
Can you tell us about the programme and why you have chosen these particular films?
We try to promote a deeper understanding of Japanese society and culture. A lot of the films’ themes this year compliment that aim. We have five films for Dublin and I hope that I have selected a good combination that people will enjoy. The press responses to all of them have been very positive. We have Ponyo, the latest animation from Miyazaki who is quite well known from Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Ponyo was a huge hit in Japan. It is quite a deceptive film as it appears to be aimed at a younger audience but we can always expect Miyazaki to deliver a deeper message than the surface suggests. A Stranger of Mine is a very interesting film from a young director named Kenji Uchida. It is his first film, shot on a low budget and uses no famous actors. The brilliance of this film is its clever script and unusual structure. It has a great twist which I don’t want to say too much about. It’s the kind of film you will want to see twice! Kamikaze Girls is a beautiful coming-of-age story about teenage friendship and Japanese fashion subcultures. Shall We Dance, not to be confused with the Hollywood re-make, has become a modern classic in Japan. Departures is a fascinating film about Japanese death rites. It has become more widely available because of its Oscar win so we are delighted that we managed to secure it for the festival. I think all five films are good representations of the diversity and capabilities of Japanese cinema.
The Japanese Film Festival takes place in Cineworld on November 20th – 22nd. For more, see www.accesscinema.ie