Preview – JAPAN CUTS 2017: Festival of New Japanese Film, July 13-23


JAPAN CUTS, North America’s premiere showcase for new Japanese cinema, returns for its 11th installment July 13-23 to serve up a slice of the best and boldest films from Japan never before seen in NYC with special guest filmmakers and stars, post-screening Q&As, parties and more. Boasting a thrilling slate of epic blockbusters, shoestring independents, radical documentaries, mind-bending avant-garde, newly-restored classics and breathtaking animation, Japan Society’s renowned summer film festival promises a bounty of cinematic discoveries for film fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike.  For ten years, JAPAN CUTS’ richly diverse slates have offered audiences a window into the breadth and depth of contemporary Japanese cinema.

For its eleventh edition, JAPAN CUTS presents its most far-reaching and iconoclastic lineup to date, including 28 feature films (3 International Premieres, 10 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 6 East Coast Premieres, 3 New York Premieres) and 6 short films, brought to life by rare, in-person access to creators of the work through Q&As and signature parties that allow connections beyond the screen.

Festivities start off with a bang on Thursday, July 13th, ushered in by special guest director and JAPAN CUTS veteran Yoshihiro Nakamura, who introduces the Opening Night Film MUMON: The Land of the Stealth, making its U.S. Premiere. Known for his masterful genre blenders, MUMON is Nakamura’s modern take on the traditional jidaigeki (period drama), full of fantastical ninja moves that uphold genre standards, yet imbued with a unique sense of eccentricity and playfulness. Nakamura appears in a post-screening Q&A, followed by a rollicking Opening Night Party held in Japan Society’s historic theater and waterfall atrium.


JAPAN CUTS is proud to present this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film to Joe Odagiri, the remarkably talented box office golden boy and matinee idol of Japan. Odagiri receives the award before the Centerpiece Presentation screening: the East Coast Premiere of Nobuhiro Yamashita’s critically acclaimed drama Over the Fence. A baseball themed Home Run Party follows the screening in celebration of the film and the performance that anchors it. Demonstrating the breadth of his talent and penchant for taking on difficult roles, Odagiri also participates in a Q&A following the U.S. Premiere screening of Kohei Oguri’s FOUJITA, about the life of the complex titular painter. The festival’s Closing Film offers a poignant and indelible deviation from traditional Japanese war dramas: Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World, winner of the Japan Academy prize for Animation of the Year. A deeply moving coming-of-age story about a persevering young woman, In This Corner of the World captures civilian life under the catastrophic tide of World War II with a tone that is at once mournful, optimistic, and enchantingly heart-swelling.

This year’s Feature Slate spotlights revered auteurs and emerging new talents alike. International art-house directors and masters of their craft, Sion Sono and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, return this year with new films. While Kurosawa extends boundaries by traveling outside of his home country to make Daguerrotype, a French language international co-production, Sono’s latest, ANTI-PORNO, revisits and subverts a staple of Japanese genre filmmaking: Nikkatsu Roman Porno. Daisuke Miyazaki’s bold second feature Yamato (California) about an aspiring young rapper grappling with her own emerging identity and Japan’s complicated relationship with the U.S., makes its U.S. Premiere with Miyazaki and star Hanae Kan for a post-screening Q&A. In addition, Kan also appear to present the North American Premiere of Takuro Nakamura’s outstanding slow-burning LGBTQ melodrama West North West with fellow star Sahel Rosa.

Classics: Rediscoveries & Restorations returns with a selection of rarely screened titles that have been recently restored and re-mastered. The Ondekoza is a visually striking and sumptuously colorful documentary by master director Tai Kato, who has yet to be discovered in the U.S. Also slated is Once Upon a Dream by experimental filmmaker Kei Shichiri. Venerated auteur Seijun Suzuki, who recently passed away at the age of 93, closes the showcase with Zigeunerweisen, a landmark film in the late director’s career and the first film in his Taisho Trilogy.


The Documentary Focus emphasizes JAPAN CUTS’ commitment to non-fiction cinema, premiering three documentaries that tap into various aspects of race, gender, and globalization in Japan and the U.S. Resistance at Tule Lake by NYC-based filmmaker Konrad Aderer shines a light on the untold history of Japanese-American dissidents in internment camps during WWII. Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki introduces and participates in a Q&A for the North American Premiere of A Whale of a Tale, which tackles the hotly debated subject of dolphin hunting in Taiji. Kyoko Miyake’s Sundance hit Tokyo Idols, dives into the pervasive and problematic subject of idol culture in Japan.

Two vibrant feature films in Experimental Spotlight demonstrate the wild possibilities of the cinematic form with visual playfulness and avant-garde flair, from the fantastical musical environment of Sora Hokimoto’s feature debut Haruneko, to the dream-like Okinawan quest Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) by pioneering veteran Go Takamine. The Shorts Showcase presents daring narrative short films by up-and-coming and well-established filmmakers from Japan, offering surrealistic love triangles, meta-filmic inspiration, and breathless lovers.

In their curatorial statement, festival programmers Aiko Masubuchi, Kazu Watanabe, and Joel Neville Anderson note: “Cinema emerging from a specific region is tied to its traditions of cultural identity, artistic creation and modes of production, yet moving images are fluid and circumvent borders, revealing a tension between insurgent film culture and a fixed idea of national cinema during precarious moments of change. This eleventh edition of JAPAN CUTS reveals a cinema contending with crisis and breaking boundaries of form and content, complicating traditional gender roles and sexuality, addressing traumas of war and racism, uncovering buried histories and revealing the potential for social resistance. Highlighting artistic achievement as well as featuring works that catch the zeitgeist of the global cultural moment and the state of cinema in and around Japan, JAPAN CUTS offers a dynamic venue to discuss art and culture, inviting festival participants to come away inspired to create what’s next.”

Tickets and full schedule are available at the Japan Society website.