I’ve been champing at the bit over the past few weeks waiting to announce the titles being screened at this year’s Raindance, but now I’m just about to do it, it seems the programme announcement might be overshadowed by another piece of Raindance-related news, namely the banning of this year’s festival trailer. Don’t want to dwell too much on this, as the powers that be have given their reasons in a letter that can be read here. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think this represents something of a sense-of-humour failure from the guys who once had us all singing along “Baba, baba, baba ba, bababa” before the screenings started, and fails to view the trailer in the spirit intended. Anyway, I’ve written already in my Grotesque post of August 19th about the futility of censorship in the internet age, so to prove my point, I’ll redirect any potentially interested parties to it here. I’d be interested if anyone has any opinions on this matter.
Anyway, the full schedule has yet to go online, but for now I just want spill the beans about the films I’ve been involved in selecting (this is my website, after all…) Most of these are in the Japanese section, though I also brought a couple of other titles to the attention of the festival. In the run up to the main event, I hope to give you a bit more information on at least some of these. There’s some brilliant stuff playing this year, so hope to see as many of you there as possible.
Japanese Women Filmmakers at Raindance
Since 2002, Raindance Film Festival has continued in its strong support for Japanese filmmaking, with its Way Out East section the largest annual showcase for new Japanese cinema in the United Kingdom, screening at least ten recent features and documentaries annually. The 17th Raindance Festival, held between 30 September – 11 October 2009, this year turns its spotlight on the rising tide of women filmmakers in Japan, with a special selection of five features and one shorts program from some of the country’s most exciting talent.
Director Momoko Ando will be in attendance to introduce the World Premiere of her debut feature, A PIECE OF OUR LIFE – KAKERA -. The film, scored by Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, is a touching portrait of a romantic relationship between Haru, a college student whose relationship with her self-centred boyfriend is going nowhere, and Riko, a bisexual medical artist who makes prosthetic body parts. Born in 1982, Ando is the daughter of the acclaimed actor-director Eiji Okuda and the sister of rising starlet Sakura Ando, who features in two other films in the Way out East section, LOVE EXPOSURE and AIN’T NO TOMORROWS. A former student of the Slade School of Fine Art, her return to London to present her new film and serve as one of the festival’s Jury Members promises to be an unforgettable experience.
Also in attendance will be Sachi Hamano, the most prolific female director in Japan with over 400 films to her name, mainly in the genre of the erotic pink film. She will be here to present her 2001 non-pink title LILY FESTIVAL, a comedy drama in which the inhabitants of a residential home for women, aged between 69 and 91, find their passions rekindled when the first male resident moves in amongst them, a 75-year-old lothario with a charming manner and a colourful past. Hamano will be accompanied by LILY FESTIVAL’s screenwriter Kuninori Yamazaki.
Yuki Tanada’s debut feature MOON AND CHERRY played to great aplomb at Raindance in 2006. Her most recent film, AIN’T NO TOMORROWS, is a multi-threaded drama portraying the tangled emotional dynamics of a group of six highschoolers as they reach the age of sexual awareness.
The critically-garlanded Naomi Kawase emerged as the vanguard for the new wave of women filmmakers in Japan after becoming the youngest winner of Caméra d’Or award for best new director at Cannes Film Festival in 1997 for her film SUZAKU. Her feature THE MOURNING FOREST received the Grand Prix at the same festival in 2007, while this year she received the Golden Coach Award for life achievement. Raindance will be screening the new 2009 edit of her rarely seen 2001 film HOTARU, a naturalistically-shot romantic drama between a stripper and traditional craftsman played out against the four seasons in the scenic Nara region where Kawase lives.
Yukiko Sode’s MIME-MIME (2008) was one of the discoveries of last year’s Pia Film Festival, launched in 1977 to promote new talent in the world of independent filmmaking. An eccentric portrait of a fractious young woman, Makoto, who lives alone, has a relationship with her mother and sister that borders on downright hostility and plays dangerous sexual games with her married former high-school teacher, it is a distinctive and promising debut.
Raindance will also present a program of three short films from the PEACHES FESTIVAL, an annual event now in its third year organised by Atsuko Ohno (the producer of Raindance Best Feature winner in 2004, MAREBITO: THE STRANGER FROM AFAR, directed by Takashi Shimizu) in conjunction with the Film School of Tokyo to promote first-time women directors. The films are EMERGER, BUNNY IN A HOVEL and CSIKSPOST.
Alongside this year’s special focus on Women Directors, Raindance will feature UK premiers of five other recent Japanese titles, including the epic LOVE EXPOSURE, an unpredictable and near indescribable tour-de-force from maverick director Sion Sono (SUICIDE CIRCLE, EXTE), which won the FIPRESCI Prize and Caligari Film Award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and the audience award at the New York Asian Film Festival.
Following on from the successful screenings last year of Miki Satoshi’s ADRIFT IN TOKYO and TURTLES ARE SURPRISINGLY FAST SWIMMERS, comes the director’s latest comic romp INSTANT SWAMP. With a script by Tetsuya Nakashima (KAMIKAZE GIRLS, MEMORIES OF MATSUKO), Masayuki Miyano’s LALAPIPO offers an uproarious and vibrant comic portrait of those at the heart of Japan’s outlandish sex industry.
In Hajime Kadoi’s startling drama VACATION, a middle-aged prison guard on death row volunteers to act as a “supporter” during the execution of a condemned prisoner, in order to receive a week’s break from work to go on honeymoon with a bride he barely knows, while in Yasunobu Takahashi’s LOCKED OUT, a six-year-old boy crosses paths with a man on the run and besieged by violent visions.
Tokachi Tsuchiya’s eye-popping documentary A NORMAL LIFE PLEASE blows the lid on the Japanese government’s gradual easing of labour regulations as an overworked truck driver and his family are menaced by a yakuza gang hired by his own employers after he joins his workers union, while the insightful US-Japanese co-production of BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO looks at Japan’s relationship to the insect world.
Outside of the Way Out East section, the Homegrown UK strand will showcase great British filmmaking talent, including the European Premiere of DOWN TERRACE “Ken Loach meets The Sopranos”- attended by Director Ben Wheatley and cast Julia Deakin (HOT FUZZ, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, SPACED) and David Schaal (CLUBBED, KIDULTHOOD, THE OFFICE). The Documentary Strand includes contentious films such as PLAYING COLUMBINE by Danny Ledonne, which raises moral questions surrounding the shoot to kill video games inspired by the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US provides a fascinating look at the violence and scandal that rocked the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the early 90s. Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto will make a rare appearance to DJ at the post-screening party.
Sitting on this year’s stellar jury is: Riz Ahmed (Shifty, The Road To Guantanamo), writer/director Armando Iannucci (The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, In The Loop), Peter Bradshaw, film critic (The Guardian); actress Kerry Fox (Bright Star, Shallow Grave); director Momoko Ando (Kakera); Billy Childish: artist, musician, poet, writer, filmmaker; Christine Langan, Creative Director, BBC Films; writer and documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare At Goats, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes); Jamie Graham – Assistant Editor, Total Film; Julia Brown – Commercial Director, Apollo Cinemas; Producer Andy Williams and legendary musician/actor Tom Waits.
The festival will be held at the Apollo Cinema, Regent Street, London, between 30 Sept – 11 October 2009.
Tickets, festival passes and more details are all on the Raindance website.