Happy New Year and all that.
That’s the obligatory New Year message out the way. It’s now 6 January and it seems there’s already a whole load of news that has come my way that I want to report here over the coming days. As it usually takes me hours to wrestle with WordPress to get my posts up in a satisfactory form, some of these might appear later than I hope, but I’ll kick off 2011 straight away with the first, my long overdue report on the inaugural Zipangu Fest, five days of Japanese cinema overkill as curated by yours truly.
It has taken a bit longer than expected, mainly because I was waiting for all the press reportage to come in, but also in no small part because as the festival’s director and head programmer, I felt like I was stuck in the eye of a storm for most of it. My feet barely touched the ground all week, as I was whisked, along with my fellow organisers Tun Shwe, Fei Phoon, Rob Buscher, Almudena Lopez and Julian Ross and festival guests (listed on the Zipangu website here) from event to event across the East End of London, from the Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club via Café 1001 to our final destination at the Genesis Cinema. It’s pretty difficult to be impartial about how the whole thing went, so instead I aim with this post to summarise the festival using other people’s accounts (as assembled meticulously by Fei), and for those that weren’t there, attempt to re-invoke it using other people’s text, sound and image.
First up, I should draw your attention to the above Zipangu Fest ident above, which was created by the talented Keiichi Matsuda, a visual artist who divides his time between London and Tokyo, and whose concerns stretch between film, architecture and design, exploring ideas pertaining to virtual and actual space. Keiichi also created a 3D version of the same ident that was screened just before Big Tits Zombie 3D at the Barbican on 29 October; if you’ve got the 3D glasses supplied with the Terracotta DVD release of this film you can enjoy it with the added third dimension too – in fact any pair of old school red-cyan spec: check it out on Youtube.
For a broad overview of the festival and the films that played at it, the best place is Electric Sheep’s coverage of the festival. Electric Sheep also interviewed Hisayasu Sato, and more recently made available on their website a podcast of my onstage discussion with Tetsuaki Matsue at SOAS on the first day of the festival.
There were also reviews of a number of the films that played the festival by David Parkinson on Empire Online, and an advance puff piece in the Guardian Guide. In the run up to the festival, I was interviewed by Christopher Upton for Zeitgeist Online magazine on 2 October, which gives some idea as to our battle plan, even if it was conducted before the programme was actually announced.
Jon Jung from the VCinema Show also sadly couldn’t be with us, although understandably given that he’s based in San Francisco, but through an amazing piece of technical wizardry, he was on hand at the other end of a Skype line to interview all our guests for a special Bonus Episode 6: Zipangu Fest 2010 Special Podcast during our Saturday night House Party – I’ll warn you in advance, I was pretty drunk by the time he got round to talking to me.
We also got a fair bit of coverage in the Japanese language, The presence of Matsue and the Live Tape crew of Kenta Maeno and Yuki Yoshida was largely down to the generous support of the Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy, who sent Risa Tanaka along to report on the festival for their website, with an interview with me, an interview with Matsue and day-by-day accounts for the Opening Night Party, then more here, here, here, here, here, and here. (I think I might have missed one…)
Alongside our own festival videographer, Tania Martin, who is currently putting together her video document in the editing room to be put up online sometime soon, we were really lucky to have those fine folks from the Coventry University East Asian Film Society (or CUEAFS) along for at least one night with cameras in hand, for the Live Tape ‘Live’ Night at the Café 1001. I’ve already written about my trip up to Coventry in October where I screened Tetsuaki Matsue’s Annyong Kimchee. For one night only, a team of avid CUEAFS returned the favour by coming down to London to see Matsue’s masterful Live Tape and watch its subject, Kenta Maeno, perform live, accompanied by Yuki Yoshida on the Chinese harp. You can read their report and browse through their photos on their website and also on the CUToday website: I assume the video they shot will make it onto the web sometime soon, so keep checking their Youtube account if you haven’t already, and while you’re doing so, check out their other interviews with various figures involved in the Asian film scene. Other pieces by CUEAFS members include this interview with me by Nadia Baird (BTW, the ‘Mind Feast’ referred to in this article was actually Masumura’s Blind Beast), a review from the Annyong Kimchee screening by Sabina Pasaniuc and coverage of our Halloween Japanese Schlockfest Big Tits Zombie / RoboGeisha night at the Barbican.
My favourite night of the whole festival was undoubtedly our partnership with Close-Up, the Nippon Year Zero: Japanese Experimental Film from the 1960s-1970s programme curated by Julian Ross, who was also on-hand throughout the fest to offer his invaluable interpreting skills. This was for two reasons – firstly, because I didn’t have to run around madly organising things, and secondly, the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club venue itself, was so cosy, and the combination of mulled wine, a packed house full of genuinely interested film fans, and the sheer joy of seeing these very rarely screened films shown in 16mm by a projectionist who actually knew what he was doing made for a winning formula. There’s an interesting review of the evening by Ryan Hewitt on the Flamingo Magazine site.
This seems as good a point as any other to mention that the Motoharu Jonouchi films from this programme are travelling to Newcastle, where they will screen at the Star and Shadow Cinema on 15 January, then Nottingham, at the Nottingham Contemporary on the 19 January, both times introduced by Julian.
And while we’re still on the subject of Julian, I’ll close with a final couple of reviews from the Children of the Beehive screening at the Breaking Boundaries conference in Leeds and Leeds Film Festival, prior to the London date. I’m not sure who wrote it, but you can read about it on The Case for Global Film website, while M. Dawson also gives the film a big thumbs up at Left Field Cinema.
I think that’s all the main coverage for Zipangu Fest, although there was a lot more buzz scattered in fragments around the internet. We’re also waiting upon a few more videos and podcasts, so once these are up, I’ll link to them.
I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions too that Zipangu Fest is intended to be a moveable feast, and following our most recent screenings at the Arnolfini in Bristol – as reviewed by Subtitled Online ( who were keen to praise the programme, but acknowledged the low attendances – the Bristol leg was frustratingly held over the weekend when most of us in the UK were completely snowed in), we’re currently in the process of setting up further screenings across the UK of some of the films. Any exhibitors, regional curators, film societies or university film clubs interested, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org…