Japanese Film Festival Nippon Connection Goes Online from June 1-6

Fine entertainment, food for thought, five world premieres and at least a touch of Japanese wackiness and warmth – this is what awaits the audience with around 80 current Japanese short and feature-length films of the 21st Nippon Connection Film Festival. After weeks of hoping and worrying, it is now certain that unfortunately the pandemic will not allow in-theater screenings in 2021 either. The largest festival for Japanese cinema worldwide will once again be held exclusively online from June 1 to 6, 2021.

All films are available online for six days throughout Germany and in some cases outside of Germany. Face-to-face talks with the filmmakers are moving into the digital realm to spark a direct exchange. For everyone whose yearning for Japan is stronger than ever, there is also Nippon Culture: the digital supporting program with over 40 interactive workshops, talks, extraordinary performances and concerts. For the first time, the Nippon Click & Collect Kiosk at the usual festival center in the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt am Main offers festival atmosphere to go. You can order Japanese snacks, drinks, movie posters, festival goodies and more on NipponConnectionShop.de and then come pick them up throughout the festival at the Mousonturm.

The complete program as well as tickets for all films and events are available from May 22 on the website NipponConnection.com. The films can be accessed from June 1 to 6, 2021 on Watch.NipponConnection.com. One film costs 6€ and can be viewed within 24 hours of it being started.

Premieres and big names

The majority of films at the 21st Nippon Connection Film Festival will have their German, European, international or world premiere. Ranging from family dramas and musical comedies to socially critical documentaries and independent animated films, the program is a diverse panorama of contemporary Japanese cinema.

Under the Open Sky

Big names are represented this year in the Nippon Cinema section. Miwa Nishikawa, one of Japan’s most important contemporary female directors, presents the drama Under the Open Sky, starring Nippon Honor Award winner Koji Yakusho. The Promised Land by Takahisa Zeze is a cleverly told mystery drama about the escalating web of relationships in a village. A nurse gets caught up in a media hunt in the thriller A Girl Missing by the internationally awarded Koji Fukada.

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy by SABU is a bloody romantic thriller about a young love in danger. Shinichiro Ueda, director of the cult hit One Cut of the Dead, is represented with his twisty comedy Special Actors.

The Japanese family in focus

The thematic focus Family Matters – The Japanese Family between Tradition and Modernity, sponsored by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain, deals with old and new concepts of family. The romantic drama his by Rikiya Imaizumi plays with gender norms and contrary ideas of parenthood. Masahide Ichii’s tragicomedy The Stormy Family ruthlessly discards the family as an institution. In Kazuya Shiraishi’s skillfully constructed drama One Night, a mother murders her violent husband and, after imprisonment and going into hiding, returns to her family fifteen years later. Hajime Tsuda weaves a kaleidoscope of memories around two girl friends and a baby in his debut feature Daughters.

Nosari: Impermanent Eternity

Tatsuya Yamamoto’s Nosari: Impermanent Eternity is a thoughtful drama about a petty criminal who unexpectedly finds a surrogate family during an attempted fraud. yes, yes, yes by Akihiko Yano is a dense chamber play about death and the power of living on. Complementing the diverse film program, film scholars Chantal Bertalanffy and Claudia Bertolé explore family images in Japanese cinema in their online lectures.

Ten years after the triple disaster of March 11, 2011

Ten years after the devastating disaster in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the effects on Japanese society are still clearly noticeable. Kaizo Hayashi’s film Bolt tells the story of man’s futile attempt to prevent the radioactive catastrophe from inside the monstrous nuclear power plant – and how things continue afterwards in the evacuation zone and in the souls of the people.

Voices in the Wind

In the road movie Voices in the Wind by Nobuhiro Suwa, a girl who lost her parents in the tsunami regains her courage to face life through a series of unexpected encounters. A panel discussion moderated by Prof. Dr. Steffi Richter (University of Leipzig) will debate the current situation in the disaster region from various perspectives.

Films about filmmaking

Tumultuous film shootings within films and a self-critical look at the film and media profession run like a thread through this year’s program. Star director Sion Sono’s ensemble comedy Red Post on Escher Street is a rollercoaster ride through the absurdities of the film business.

To the Ends of the Earth

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s poetic exploration To the Ends of the Earth accompanies a young TV reporter on her trip to Uzbekistan. The documentary Sayonara TV by Koji Hijikata provides an unvarnished look behind the scenes of the Japanese media landscape and plays with the audience’s expectations.

Kamata Prelude

In the episodic film Kamata Prelude, directors Ryutaro Nakagawa, Mayu Akiyama, Yuka Yasukawa and Hirobumi Watanabe provide a multi-layered commentary on being a young actress in Japan. The feel-good comedy It’s a Summer Film! by Soshi Matsumoto plays its charms through a great protagonist who, as a director of a high-school film club, despairs when shooting her first samurai epic.

Documentary films, harsh realities and unusual perspectives

This year’s Nippon Docs section will include the world premiere of a new, controversial documentary film, still kept under tight wraps, by Thomas Ash. The director, who has been living in Japan for many years, already received numerous awards for his films. Another world premiere will be Ainu Neno An Ainu by artists’ collective Lunch Bee House about the indigenous Ainu population in northern Japan. I Quit, Being “Friends” centers around the friendship of deaf filmmaker Ayako Imamura and Ma-chan, who has Asperger Syndrome, exploring the question of how people can communicate with each other in the first place.

Koshien: Japan’s Field of Dreams

In the year of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, no less than three documentary films at Nippon Connection delve into the world of sports. Koshien: Japan’s Field of Dreams by Ema Ryan Yamazaki is about a high-school baseball tournament that stirs up emotions every year in Japan. Eiji Sakata catches a rare glimpse of the hard training and the everyday life of sumo wrestlers for his film Sumodo – The Successors of Samurai. In his gripping documentary essay The Witches of the Orient, filmmaker Julien Faraut meets members of the legendary female volleyball team that won the world championship and Olympic gold in the mid-1960s.

The Nippon Visions section provides a space for new talents and experimentation. In addition to short films by young filmmakers, bizarre cinematic creations are also included: The world premiere of Extraneous Matter-Complete Edition by Kenichi Ugana presents a laconic sci-fi-genre-mix gem about stimulating octopus-like aliens, shot in stylized black-and-white.

Along the Sea

The precarious situation of migrant workers, as well as racism and sexism in Japanese society, is also reflected in the Nippon Visions section. Akio Fujimoto depicts the harsh reality, characterized by exploitation and powerlessness, of three young women from Vietnam in Along the Sea. The distressing satire Project Tanuki by Yu Hsin Chiueh is about a drug that finally makes people appear like “true Japanese”, helping them cope with everyday life. Company Retreat by Atsushi Funahashi complements the current debate on sexual harassment, the abuse of power and the role of the media by adding a multi-layered Japanese perspective.

Nippon Animation

Japanese animation films are popular around the world and are a must at every Nippon Connection Festival. This year’s selection presents a varied stylistic and thematic spectrum of the art of animation. Takashi Yamazaki’s 3D CGI adventure Lupin III: The First adds a high-polish update to the popular Lupin series.

On-Gaku: Our Sound

In contrast, the internationally acclaimed independent film On-Gaku: Our Sound was created almost single-handedly by film newcomer Kenji Iwaisawa using rotoscoping technique. Seven Days War by Yuta Murano tells a strong story of youth and friendship in classic, colorful visuals. Additionally, two animation short film programs show the world through the eyes of young artists.

Yearning for Japan? Here comes Nippon Culture!

With more than 40 workshops, lectures, concerts and performances, Nippon Connection is more than just a film festival. The events in the Nippon Culture section hold many highlights and are available online worldwide. They will take place via Zoom and live stream. Information and registration links will be available from May 22 on the festival website.


With little more than light, shadows and bodies, Kakashiza, the Japanese hand shadow theater from Yokohama, creates dazzling and humorous tales. Everyone who cannot sit still in their seats after the performance of the internationally renowned theater troupe is invited to the shadow play workshop, where the pros will teach you your first shadow figures. Two concerts bring innovative and moving sounds from Japan: After their huge success at the 2020 festival edition, the duo jujumo is back, live with guitar and vocals from a sunset beach on Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa. The ensemble Hogaku 2.0 combines the sound of the traditional Japanese instruments shakuhachi, tsugaru shamisen and koto with the jazzy tones of an acoustic guitar.

Interactive Japanese courses, as well as lectures on Japanese etiquette and on intercultural communication, allow participants to explore Japan’s language and communication culture. In two manga drawing classes, several cooking classes, a sake tasting as well as exquisite Gin and spirits tastings, it’s all about joining in and trying out.

The Nippon Online Market on the festival website invites its visitors to a virtual tour of scrolling and discovering. Selected exhibitors present Japanese delicacies, a special selection of music and books, as well as fashion, handmade souvenirs and more.

Nippon Kids for young fans of Japan

Bye-bye, lockdown boredom! Online manga drawing classes, an elementary language class and a workshop for the Japanese paper theater kamishibai offer plenty of fun for the children.

Sumikkogurashi: Good To Be In The Corner

Young film fans can enjoy Sumikkogurashi: Good to Be in the Corner by Mankyu. In this animation film, a cute family of animals, dust particles and food leftovers falls into a fairy-tale book, tumbling from one adventure to the next.

Tickets and information will be available from May 22 on the festival website.