JAPAN CUTS, North America’s largest festival of new Japanese film, returns for its 10th anniversary edition from July 14-24. Offering eleven days of impossible-to-see-anywhere-else screenings of the best new movies made in and around Japan, the festival offers special guest filmmakers and stars, post-screening Q&As, parties, giveaways and much more.
Kicking off the festival with a rocking celebration, the Opening Film is the North American Premiere of Mohican Comes Home, a heartwarming, offbeat comedy about a punk rocker who heads back to the country with his girlfriend by JAPAN CUTS alum Shuichi Okita. The director will be in attendance along with star and former AKB48 idol Atsuko Maeda for a post-screening Q&A, followed by the Opening Night Party.
As previously announced, this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film is the venerated actor Lily Franky, who will appear for the North American Premiere of the Centerpiece Presentation title The Shell Collector, an enigmatic and sensual second feature by emerging auteur Yoshifumi Tsubota. This screening will be followed by a Q&A and beach-themed Underwater Dream Party with members of the cast and crew in attendance.
In the Closing Film slot, JAPAN CUTS is proud to present the North American Premiere of arthouse director Satoko Yokohama’s The Actor. Anchored by Ken Yasuda’s irresistible lead performance, The Actor is a reflexive comedy that pays tribute to the quotidian characters of the film industry with an unpredictable postmodern twist. Director Yokohama will appear at the post-screening Q&A.
The Feature Slate offers an exciting and thought-provoking lineup that represents the rich diversity of contemporary Japanese cinema, from independents to blockbusters, introducing emerging new talents alongside the latest by revered directors and festival favourites. Among the Feature Slate’s many in-person highlights is influential auteur Sion Sono, who was a guest at the very first edition of JAPAN CUTS, and will return to premiere his long-gestating passion project Love & Peace as well as the black-and-white sci-fi The Whispering Star, starring Megumi Kagurazaka, who will also be in attendance. Mipo O, will also make a rare appearance to introduce the New York Premiere of her latest heart-rending drama Being Good.
Playwright and filmmaker Shiro Maeda is back with his second feature, the North American Premiere of Kako: My Sullen Past, a tale of radical politics and teen angst starring Kyoko Koizumi and Fumi Nikaido. Also a previous guest of the festival, Hitoshi Yazaki returns with the North American Premiere of A Cappella, a dark romance set amidst the countercultural movements of 1969, and the legendary Masao Adachi will introduce the North American Premiere of The Artist of Fasting via video from Japan. (Forbidden to leave the country by authorities, this is the radical filmmaker’s first film in nearly a decade). For anime and manga fans, director Hitoshi One will join to present the North American Premiere of his innovative Bakuman, the story of two aspiring manga-ka (comic book artists) that is sure to set the new standard for live-action manga adaptations.
Fresh off a big win for his recent film Harmonium, receiving the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, Koji Fukada’s Sayonara makes its North American debut at JAPAN CUTS, the first film to feature an android performing in the lead cast, in a haunting story of post-nuclear disaster in a near-future. Yoji Yamada also joins the lineup with the U.S. Premiere of postwar melodrama Nagasaki: Memories of My Son, scored by the immensely influential musician, producer and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who will introduce the screening. Also included in this year’s record-breaking guest lineup is director Eiji Uchida, who will be joined by stars Denden and Kanji Furutachi for the North American Premiere of Lowlife Love, a comically cringe-worthy satire of the lecherous underbelly of Japan’s film industry.
Classics: Flash-back / Flash-forward re-works the festival’s restoration showcase in celebration of JAPAN CUTS’ 10th anniversary, presenting filmmakers’ influential works from the past (all on 35mm!) alongside their contemporary creations. The festival will reintroduce Gakuryu (Sogo) Ishii’s visionary Burst City, which borrowed from the original Mad Max to become a harbinger of Japan’s cyberpunk movement, as well the New York Premiere of Ishii’s latest, Bitter Honey, an emasculating inversion of a male writer’s fantasy love affair with a goldfish (played by Fumi Nikaido). One of the biggest discoveries this year is the North American Premiere of Junji Sakamoto and Naomi Fujiyama’s The Projects. Audiences will be able to flash-back to their original collaboration, Face, a wildly transgressive take on the “fallen woman” genre epitomized by Mizoguchi. Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s groundbreaking dramedy Hush!, about a gay couple asked to father a child by an offbeat stranger, will be paired with the New York Premiere of the filmmaker’s Three Stories of Love, winner of the 2015 Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Japanese Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best New Actor.
The Documentary Focus section is also significantly expanded for this year’s 10th edition, with four outstanding portraits of artists whose work ripples out to the larger context of contemporary life in Japan. Titles include a special sneak preview of acclaimed director Tatsuya Mori’s FAKE, about the media scandal behind composer Mamoru Samuragochi, Japan’s “digital-age Beethoven,” and Arata Oshima’s (Nagisa Oshima’s son) North American Premiere of The Sion Sono, about the titular filmmaker. (Filmmaker Mori will be in attendance for a Q&A moderated by the esteemed documentarian Kazuhiro Soda). Two rigorous self-portraits from Japanese punk legend Michiro Endo, Mother, I’ve Pretty Much Forgotten Your Face, and artist Yuko Nakamura, A Room of Her Own: Rei Naito and Light, round out the program—Endo’s film will be introduced by poet Mizuki Misumi.
With Experimental Spotlight: Anime Vanguard, the festival continues its commitment to independent artistic visions in cinema by offering a program of vibrant short-form animations. Award-winning filmmaker Onohana will present a number of her playfully poetic works alongside other short pieces by Mirai Mizue, Masanobu Hiraoka, Sawako Kabuki, Atsushi Wada, Yoko Yuki, and Ryo Hirano.
Continuing this year’s theme of exploring the present, past, and future of Japanese cinema, the festival introduces a free Panel Discussion, “Japanese Film Culture In & Out of Japan,” featuring film industry professionals sharing their thoughts on the current state of Japanese cinema. Distinguished panelists include Pia Film Festival director Keiko Araki, award-winning filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda, and Harvard University professor and former Nippon Connection program director Alexander Zahlten.
Between screenings in the auditorium in Japan Society’s landmark Manhattan building, audiences are invited to drop into the Microcinema installed in the Murase Room on the first floor, where a decade-spanning selection of shorts by up-and-coming filmmakers will be screening on loop.
In their curatorial statement, festival programmers Aiko Masubuchi, Kazu Watanabe, and Joel Neville Anderson note: “Since its founding in 2007, the festival has offered a unique window on contemporary Japanese cinema and a direct line to Japanese film culture through its invited filmmakers and stars, many of whom have gone on to earn fans amongst festival audiences all over the world. With this landmark 10th edition, JAPAN CUTS celebrates a decade of the best new Japanese cinema and bolsters its commitment to exploring Japan’s dynamic film culture and entertaining New York audiences now and for years to come as the premier venue for Japanese film in North America.
JAPAN CUTS screening times and ticket information can be found at the Japan Society website.