From April 27 to May 1, 2011, Nippon Connection in Frankfurt am Main will show exciting and creative cinema from Japan for the eleventh time. The preparations for the festival are already in full swing. Once more, Nippon Connection will present a broad range of avantgarde, anime, blockbusters and documentaries with more than 100 of the latest Japanese short and feature films, many of them screened as German, European or international premieres and accompanied by the presence of film-makers and actors.
Aside from the film program Nippon Connection will also give you the chance to experience various aspects of Japanese culture – from “pop art” to high culture. Prepare to be amazed!
Highlights this year include a comprehensive Sion Sono retrospective.
Posted at 15:02 on 27 April 2011 Filed under events.
It seems I managed to skip posting anything here in February. Oh well, it was a busy month, not least due to the East Winds: Third Window Festival (see previous post) in Coventry and the related duties of interviewing Confessions of a Dog director Gen Takahashi onstage for his mid-month ICA screening in preparation for Third Window Film’s upcoming DVD release, which is currently going damn cheap on Amazon UK (especially if you buy it alongside the DVD of the same company’s Confessions, currently on theatrical release and doing great biz thanks to Claudia Winkelman naming it the must-see release of its week on BBC’s Film 2011).
Hand Soap by Kei Oyama, one of the visionary animators represented by the CALF label
For now however, I just wanted to return to CALF, the independent animation specialist DVD label in Japan whose various creative agents we showcased at Zipangu Fest last November. Well, first up is some good news for those in the Northeast of England – this programme is heading up to Newcastle’s Star and Shadow Cinema on Thursday 7 April, with me in tow to introduce it. It’s the first of a series of four slots from last year’s Zipangu Fest, which ends on Sunday 17 April with Tomoya Maeno’s charming coming-of-age comedy Footed Tadpoles. The other films that will play over the following weeks are Go Shibata’s NN-891102 (described by subtitledonline.com as “edgy, gracefully apocalyptic… approached the realms of the visionary)” and on 14 April, the various films in the Ero Guro Anime Night, including Naoyuki Niiya’s wonderfully macabre Maneater Mountain and Hiroshi Harada’s infamous Midori: The Girl in the Freakshow. You can find out more about these films on the Zipangu Fest and Star and Shadow websites.
Hiroshi Harada's notorious Midori: The Girl in the Freakshow
The next bit of CALF-related news is that Viennese filmmaker Stefan Nutz is is currently putting together a documentary about Japanese indie, art and experimental animation, which sounds right up my street. The film, which features interviews with among others CALF’s Nobuaki Doi, Mirai Mizue, TOCHKA, Atsushi Wada and Kei Oyama as well as the two directors of the films in the aforementioned Ero Guro programme, doesn’t seem to have a title yet, and it may be a while before it is completed, but you can check its progress and show your support by checking out its website.
I’ve already shown my appreciation for the work of Mirai Mizue in an earlier post, but I just thought I’d flag up a few more bits of related news about this maestro of abstract animation. Firstly, Mizue is one of the featured animators at this year’s Flatpack Festival held in Birmingham later this month, 23-27 March. Secondly, his 2007 work Lost Utopia is one of the titles nominated on the website for the International Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart 2011 – so if you like his film, then you can show your support by voting for it online. What do you mean you’ve not seen it? It’s here on Youtube!
And finally, Mizue has his own Vimeo channel, which features slimmed down versions of his more epic films, and a lot of his works that aren’t included on the CALF DVD, including the Timbre series, of 26 short films running from Timbre A to Timbre Z, uploaded at a rate of one a day earlier this year. Also recently posted on Youtube is the summation of this series, A Long Day of Timbre. A busy man!
Oh, and I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but he has his own website too.
Timbre Z, the last instalment of Mirai Mizue's hypnotic Timbre series, all available to watch on Vimeo
The CALF crew are all going to be in Frankfurt this April for the eleventh Nippon Connection, including Mizue’s label-mates TOCHKA, who I will end by saying a little more about. Few of the artists on the CALF label stretch definitions of animation quite as far as this duo, consisting of Takeshi Nagata and Kazue Monno, whose works are realised using a technique they call PiKA PiKA, which is a combination of long exposure and stop motion animation techniques. There’s an interactive element to all of this too, which makes their appearance at Nippon Connection all the more exciting, as audience will have the opportunity to participate in a workshop, waving their glow-sticks to create their own animation. The TOCHKA DVD is available on the CALF website along with the other animators, and yes, they’ve also got their own website.
Frozen in time, a still from one of TOCHKA's PiKA PiKA "lightning doodle" projects, coming to Nippon Connection this April
Rather than me reproduce their press release in full myself, you can read all about the forthcoming Nippon Connection on the website of Jason Gray. As well as the CALF focus, highlights include an exhaustive retrospective of current darling of Japanese cinema, Sion Sono, the Love Exposure director whom I’ve written about many times on this website, and whose Cold Fish is going to be the next title up for release in the UK from Third Window, which brings us sort of full circle I guess….
Posted at 17:43 on 02 March 2011 Filed under news.
Never let it be said that we don’t get to see a lot of Japanese films on this small isle. We personally did (and indeed are continuing to do) our bit to spread the love with Zipangu Fest, and as mentioned in a previous post, throughout February and March a selection of seven of the best Japanese films of the past two decades never to receive UK distribution will be doing the rounds across London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Bristol and Sheffield as part of the Back to the Future: Japanese Cinema Since the Mid-90s Japan Foundation Tour.
And now comes the news the even Coventry is about to get its own dedicated Asian film festival in the form of East Winds: A Third Window Film Festival. As if the title wasn’t enough to give things away, this event at the Warwick Arts Centre is the initiative of Adam Torel, head honcho and Lupin-lookalikey behind the UK distributor Third Window Films, while the venue is a dead give-away as to the involvement of Spencer Murphy and the folks at the Coventry University East Asian Film Society, or CUEAFS.
Confessions, the latest from Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko director Tetsuya Nakashima, up for release from Third Window Films very soon
As Adam writes on his website “Our goal is to raise awareness of Asian cinema to a university crowd who might normally not have much chance to catch Asian cinema on the big screen.” Its a great line-up too. That old favourite from the Third Window back catalogue, Memories of Matsuko, soon to be released on Blu-Ray, paves the way for one of the company’s latest acquisitions, Confessions, the most recent offering from director Tetsuya Nakashima – this film is out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK on 25 April. I’ll be up on stage too, to conduct a Q&A with the composer of both films, Gabriele Roberto, and with Gen Takahashi, following the screening of his Confessions of a Dog, one of my faves of last year following its screenings at Toronto’s Shinsedai and my own Zipangu Fest, even though it was originally made some five years before – Third Window are putting out the DVD on 11 March, but before then, if you can’t make it to Coventry, then pop down to the ICA on 16 February and I’ll be conducting the onstage Q&A with Takahashi-san then too.
Cold Fish - Nobody does it like Sion Sono
The other exciting film Japanese film on the programme is the widely-praised Cold Fish, the serial killer epic from Love Exposure director Sion Sono. I have to confess I’ve not seen this yet, but Third Window Films have just announced this is coming up for a wider UK release later this year, though I’m not sure of the exact dates. There’s a Korean film too, in the form of Kick the Moon, another from Adam’s back catalogue (get the DVD here), while Spencer’s presence manifests itself in the inclusion of one Chinese film, and the only actual UK premiere, Kuo-fu Chen & Qunshu Gao’s 2009 wartime drama The Message. Gao is coming over for the festival, and participating in a Q&A after the screening. I don’t know much about this film, but it looks pretty beautiful from the stills, and Chinese cinema is always an intriguing prospect.
The beautiful-looking wartime drama from China, The Message
Ticket prices are very reasonable: £6.60 for normal people; students £4.30; Warwick Students and CUEAFS members £3.00, while a festival ticket at £20 for 4 films (inc booking fees) is also available – worth travelling some distance for, I’d say. The Warwick Arts Centre is on the campus of the University of Warwick, so have a look at the website for further instructions on how to get there.
Whilst we’re praising Adam’s fine release roster, I’ll end with the news that Third Window Films have also just picked up Yuya Ishii’s Sawako Decides, the most recent of the films included as part of the upcoming Japan Foundation tour and one I’d have chosen for Zipangu Fest, had Tony Rayns not grabbed it for London Film Festival first.
Hikari Mitsushima, Third Window favourite and star of Love Exposure and Kakera as you've never seen her before, in a scene from Yuya Ishii's Sawako Decides
Here’s a link to an interview with Mr Torel that the Twitch website has just put up recently.
Posted at 17:47 on 25 January 2011 Filed under news.