Japanese films at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival

The 4th annual Terracotta Far East Film Festival will be held from 12th -15th April, hosted by the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Chinatown.

The festival programme includes films from South Korea, China, Burma, Taiwan and, of course, Japan. The Japanese films that will be showing are:

13th April
From Up On Poppy Hill [Goro Miyazaki, Japan 2011, UK premiere]
A group of Yokohama teens look to save their school’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball in preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Anime directed by the son of Hayao Miyazaki.

13th April: Terror Cotta Horror Movie Marathon Night in association with Fright Fest
Gyo [Takayuki Hirao, Japan 2012, International premiere]
The Grudge [Takashi Shimizu, Japan 2002]

14th April
The Woodsman and the Rain [Shuichi Okita, Japan 2011, European premiere]
An inspiring and often comical portrait of two men’s unusual collaboration when a film crew arrives to shoot a zombie movie in a small village in the mountains

14th April
Monsters Club [Toshiaki Toyoda, Japan 2011, UK premiere]
A man abandons modern civilization and lives in a secluded cabin on a snowy mountain, sending mail bombs to corporate CEOs.
Special event: Q&A and Masterclass with Director Toshiaki Toyoda

15th April
Himizu (closing film) [Sion Sono, Japan 2011, UK premiere]
The powerful story of two teenagers’ struggle to live in a dystopian future Japan destroyed by natural disasters
Special Event: Q&A with actor DenDen, who is well-known in the UK for his performance in Cold Fish

Of all of the films showing, I’m most excited about the UK premiere of the new Studio Ghibli offering, From Up On Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から). Goro Miyazaki‘s Tales From Earthsea (ゲド戦記) didn’t quite live up to the Ghibli name, but I’m hoping From Up On Poppy Hill will be better. I picked up a flyer for it a year ago at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, and have been waiting for it to be released in the UK ever since!

Find out more about the screening of From Up On Poppy Hill at the Terracotta Film Festival here.

(Image source)

And here’s a short trailer:

The other film I would certainly recommend seeing is Himizu (ヒミズ), which will be another UK premiere (the official UK release date is 1st June).

(Image source)

I had the opportunity to watch the whole film the other day, and I have to say it was one of the best Japanese dramas I’ve ever seen. I sometimes find it hard to really get into films when I’m reading the subtitles, but had no problems with Himizu. It was the kind of film that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and won’t let you go. Even after the film, I had to wander about a bit to try to shake it off.

(Image source)

Himizu, starring Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido, tells the story of two teenage school kids in post-tsunami Japan. Based on a manga of the same name by Minoru Furuya, director and screenwriter Sion Sono had already written the full script for Himizu when the disaster struck last March. Sono put the project on hold in order to help with the volunteer effort in Fukushima. When he returned to his work, he decided to change the setting of the film to the devastated Tohoku region, and began filming in Ibaraki Prefecture (in Kanto, near Tohoku) on a special set.

The opening scenes of the film show the destruction and devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami, and we see the young Sumida watching news reports about radiation in Fukushima. The rubble and debris left by the tsunami, as well as the copious rain and mud, provide a very depressing, gritty backdrop for what is a rather desperate story.

Imagine, at fifteen, being told by your parents that they would be better off if you had never existed. That’s what both Sumida and his schoolmate Keiko have to face. Sumida is determined to simply live an ordinary life, running his family’s boat-renal business, but with a violent, drunken father and a mother who runs off with her lover, there’s no chance of his life ever being normal.

In Japan, after the March 11th disaster, the phrase on everyone’s lips was 「がんばれ」(ganbare) – “Don’t give up” – and it is this phrase which Himizu has latched on to. Despite everything that happens to Sumida, he is cheered on by a motley crew of homeless friends, and the slightly wacky Keiko. Right to the end, he is told, “Don’t give up!”. Despite everything, “Don’t give up!”. It seems to be a message to the whole country – Japan, despite everything you’ve been through, don’t give up!

Here’s the trailer, courtesy of Third Window Films:

Find out more about the screening of Himizu at the Terracotta Film Festival here.

For more information about the Terracotta Far East Film Festival, please visit the festival’s website at: www.terracottafestival.com.

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