A Celebration of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

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Japan House Los Angeles and Japan America Society of Southern California (JASSC) are proud to announce “Japan Cuts Hollywood,” a three-day festival celebrating contemporary Japanese cinema, Nov. 1 to 3.

The festival brings a program of films, talks, and special guests to the heart of Hollywood with events taking place at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and Japan House Los Angeles, both located at Hollywood and Highland.

On Friday, Nov. 1, the festival celebrates its opening night with a red-carpet event and screening of the comedy hit “Bento Harassment” in its West Coast premiere, followed by a Q&A with director Renpei Tsukamoto and star Ryoko Shinohara. The evening will be hosted by TV anchor David Ono and actor Aaron Takahashi, and features guests such as Consul General Akira Muto, film festival ambassador Shiho, Japan House Los Angeles President Yuko Kaifu, and JASSC Chairman/Japan Cuts Hollywood Executive Producer Douglas Montgomery.

The following two days will see the international premieres of “The Bucket List” (a remake of the heartwarming adventure from Rob Reiner with Academy Award winners Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), and “A Stranger in Shanghai,” followed by a Q&A with director Taku Kato and executive producer Natsuko Katsuta (presented by NHK-World Japan).

Additionally, the festival will host several U.S. premieres, including the father-son comedy “Brave Father Online,” Osamu Dazai’s “No Longer Human,” family crime drama “His Bad Blood,” and a love letter to the early days of Japanese cinema, “Talking the Pictures.”

The thrillers “It Comes” and “melancholic” will also make their West Coast premieres. “37 Seconds,” by award-winning writer, producer and director Hikari, will be screened on Saturday, Nov. 2.

Special guest events include the high-profile anthology film “Ten Years Japan,” which imagines the challenges Japanese society will face in the coming decades, to be followed by a panel discussion featuring three of its acclaimed female directors (Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura, and Chie Hayakawa).

Another film tackling urgent social issues is “Defending Japan,” a documentary about Japan’s Self-Defense Force, which will include a Q&A with military expert Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez.

On Saturday, two talks for industry professionals and aspiring talent alike will delve into the changing landscape of entertainment in both Japan and Hollywood: a panel featuring entrepreneur Patrick Lee (co-founder of Rotten Tomatoes), followed by “Celebrating Diversity: Japanese Talent in Hollywood,” a discussion with casting directors Debra Zane and Dylan Jury.

To round out the weekend, audiences can also discover emerging film creativity in two showcases that present an eclectic array of animation and shorts (“Short Film Collections” and “complex x COMPLEX”).

Through this festival, Japan House Los Angeles continues its initiative to showcase Japanese culture through the universal language of film. “We are proud to join efforts with Japan America Society of Southern California to introduce this dynamic event in Hollywood and showcase a great selection of Japanese films, which constitutes an important part of our culture,” says Kaifu.

Japan Cuts Hollywood is organized in cooperation with Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film, presented by Japan Society, New York.

Three-day movie passes and all-day passes for Saturday and Sunday (four movies each) are available. For full program details, go to: www.japancutshollywood.com

Screening Schedule

Friday, Nov. 1

“Bento Harassment” (West Coast premiere), 6:30 p.m. Special guests: Cast member Ryoko Shinohara and director Renpei Tsukamoto.

A true, universal tale about a single mother and her high school daughter. The girl, who used to call her “Mommy,” now totally ignores her. Exasperated, the mother seeks revenge by using bentos as her “weapon.” Regardless of what’s going on in her own life, she never fails to make her daughter a bento lunch that embarrasses her with its sugar-coated messages of love. After three long years, the final bento message is a thank-you letter from mother to daughter.

Also starring Kiyoko Yoshine, Rena Matsui, Kenta Sato, Ryuta Sato.

Saturday, Nov. 2

“Defending Japan,” 11 a.m. Q&A with Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez (retired).

The security threats are ominous and spread across a wide spectrum of potential battlefronts. Whether it is North Korea launching ballistic missiles, a showdown in the South China Sea against a Chinese armada, or dangerous incursions into Japan’s airspace by supersonic Russian bombers, the security of Japan is at a perpetual crossroads. These frightening scenarios are the focal point of this engaging and in-depth look the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

“Defending Japan” crews embed with Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. Forces Japan units to access the bilateral training, battle strategy and powerful weaponry the two allies must deploy against potential adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region. It’s a saga complicated by Japan’s geographic location along the Ring of Fire, which frequently spawns catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons, further endangering the population.

“37 Seconds” at 1 p.m.

The Japanese attitude toward the handicapped has always been to keep them hidden away. Yuma’s life-long affliction with debilitating cerebral palsy has kept her oppressively locked up under her overbearing mother’s care. Unable to even dress herself, Yuma is essentially house-bound but has found a niche ghost-writing comic books for her best friend Sayaka, who takes all the public credit and most of the money.

Needing more from life, Yuma answers a want ad to create erotic manga but is told by the sympathetic editor to come back once she has some actual sexual experience. Yuma’s first encounter with a male prostitute at a “love hotel” ends in disaster, but it is there that she meets Mai, a sex worker specializing in care for the handicapped. From visiting sex shops to drag bars to binge drinking, Mai, along with her driver Toshiya, takes Yuma under her wing and shows her how exciting Tokyo nightlife can be. Yuma is delighted with her new life and begins to feel like a normal girl, but catches her mother’s wrath when the truth of her sexual exploration comes out.

Director/screenwriter: Hikari. Cast: Mei Kayama, Misuzu Kanno, Shunsuke Daito, Akiko Watanabe.

“Talking the Pictures” (U.S. premiere) at 2 p.m.

A century ago in the period of silent motion pictures, the katsubenshi, also known as katsuben, aroused audiences by providing live narration to films. A young man, dreaming to become a pro katsuben, works as an assistant in a theater. He soon blossoms his talent for narration, and this helps him reunite with the girl of his first love, but she also seems to have her own problem.

Directed by Masayuki Suo (“Shall We Dance?”). Cast: Ryo Narita, Yuina Kuroshima, Mao Inoue, Takuma Otoo, Naoto Takenaka, Eri Watanabe, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yutaka Takenouchi.

“Ten Years Japan” at 4 p.m. Q&A with Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura,​ Chie Hayakawa.

“Plan 75,” directed by Chie Hayakawa. In order to deal with Japan’s rapidly aging population, the government launches “Plan 75.” Unprecedented in the world, the plan offers the option of euthanasia to citizens over the age of 75. A government worker enthusiastically promoting the plan to needy seniors is finally confronted by issues of life and death in his own family.

“Mischievous Alliance,” directed by Yusuke Kinoshita. At a rural elementary school located in a government-designated IT development zone, children wear special headgear that teaches them uniform morals and efficiently molds them into future members of society. When the school’s aging horse is recommended for slaughter by the system, the class troublemaker and two of his schoolmates hatch a plan to free it.

“Data,” directed by Megumi Tsuno. In the Japan of the future, deceased people’s online legacies are managed and packaged by the government. 17 year-old Maika, who lost her mother soon after being born, gets a hold of the file her father had hidden. While she’s overjoyed at feeling closer to her mother’s life through the data, she begins to suspect she was having an affair.

“The Air We Can’t See,” directed by Akiyo Fujimura. Due to severe air pollution, Japanese citizens have been forced to live underground. 10-year-old Mizuki has never known, or wondered about, what lies above. After her friend Kaede suddenly disappears from the community, Mizuki finds some of her belongings and begins to dream of the outside world.

“For Our Beautiful Country,” directed by Kei Ishikawa. In 2018, Japan reinstates the military draft. A young advertising company hotshot is sent to inform a veteran artist her poster design for the government’s military conscription campaign has been rejected. It proves to be more difficult than expected, but he learns an important lesson.

Executive producer: Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”).

“A Stranger in Shanghai” (international premiere) at 5 p.m. Free screening presented by NHK World-Japan. Q&A with director Taku Kato and executive director Natsuko Katsuta.

Almost a century ago, Shanghai was a city in the midst of major turmoil. Under the foreign concessions, its citizens suffered extreme poverty and exploitation at the hands of the domineering Western European countries and Japan.

During his career, Ryunosuke Akutagawa traveled to Shanghai as a newspaper correspondent and became acquainted with the men who were living the revolution and the women of the brothels who were living through the revolution. Akutagawa, now a synonym for Japanese literature, is known for his masterpiece “Rashomon,” which was later made into a classic film by Akira Kurosawa.

This drama, largely based on Akutagawa’s “Shanghai Yuki” (a report on the journey of Shanghai), delicately interlaces the realities of China at the time with the writer’s literary universe.

Cast: Ryuhei Matsuda, Takashi Okabe, Kim Scar.

“No Longer Human” (U.S. premiere, Japan Cuts Hollywood Audience Award winner) at 7:30 p.m.

Genius writer Osamu Dazai has a pregnant wife, Michiko, and two children, but there are continuous rumors of affairs and suicide attempts. He has become a star of by releasing best-sellers even though he has gotten on the wrong side of the establishment because of his eccentric way of life.

Dazai falls in love with Shizuko, an aspiring writer, through her literary talent. At the same time, he seeks salvation through Tomie, a widow. Dazai’s life goes crazy when his two mistresses wants a child, but he is spurred on by Michiko, who still believes in her husband’s talent, and he finally starts writing the story of “a man disqualified as human” that can only be written by him alone.

Director: Mika Ninagawa. Cast: Shun Oguri, Rie Miyazawa, Erika Sawajiri, Fumi Nikaido, Ryo Narita, Yuta Chiba.

“It Comes” (West Coast premiere) at 8 p.m.

Hideaki is looking forward to a happy future with the love of his life, Kana. One day, a mysterious person visits Hideaki’s office. He feels perplexed when the colleague who had met this visitor informs him that the visitor wanted to talk to Hideaki about “Chisa.” Chisa is the name he and his pregnant wife had chosen for their unborn daughter, which only the two of them should know about.

The visitor’s identity remains a mystery when the colleague who talked to “it” meets a mysterious demise. Two years later, disturbing incidents start occurring around Hideaki, who dotes on Chisa. Hideaki, who fears that somebody is out to get him, goes through an acquaintance to meet a freelance writer, Nozaki, and his psychic girlfriend, Makoto. They come to learn that what they are dealing with is beyond their imagination.

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima. Cast: Junichi Okada, Haru Kuroki, Nana Komatsu, Takako Matsu.

Sunday, Nov. 3

“The Bucket List” (international premiere) at 11 a.m.

A remake of the 2007 comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, changing the lead roles from male to female, played by two star actresses representing Japan. Sachie (Sayuri Yoshinaga) is a housewife who has dedicated most of her life to taking care of her family. Mako (Yuki Amami) is a head of huge hotel chain company who has dedicated most of her life to her career. The two meet in a hospital where both of them have been told they don’t have much time left.

Realizing the emptiness of life for the first time, they accidentally find a “bucket list” written by a terminally ill 12-year-old girl patient. To live life to its fullest, Sachie and Mako decide to go on a journey to accomplish her list on her behalf.

Director: Isshin Inudo. Also starring Tsuyoshi Muro, Hikari Mitsushima, Kento Kaku, Rio Suzuki.

“Short Film Collections” at 11 a.m.

“Akashi” by Mayumi Yoshida, “Motherhood” by Tatsuro Manno, “Obento” by Kazuma Yano, “The Way of My Life” by Keiya Ando, “O-bento” by Motoyuki Itabashi,
“The Walking Fish” by Thessa Meijer.

“complex x COMPLEX” (U.S. premiere) plus two long short films at 1:30 p.m.

Yui Kitani, an 8th-grader, has a complex that cannot be revealed to others… she has a thing for boys’ armpit hair. She just can’t take her eyes off of Masato, whose armpit hair is the thickest. On the other hand, Masato has his own complex. He doesn’t like having his armpits so hairy. By pure chance, their relationship gets closer and they start to talk more often. Is it love?

Director/screenwriter/animator: Miyuki Fukuda. Producer/editor: Shinichiro Ueda (“One Cut of the Dead”).

With “VR Workplace” by Yuki Takashima and “Not Alone” by Minoru Kanegae.

“Brave Father Online: Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV” (U.S. premiere) at 2 and 5 p.m.

Akio wishes he had a better relationship with his reserved father, Akira. One day Akira suddenly quits his job and retires without giving out any explanation to the family. Thinking it could be a good tool to be close to his father, Akio gives him the online game “Final Fantasy XIV.” By teaching his father how to play the game and secretly interacting with him as an anonymous online avatar, Akio hopes to know his father better through the adventures with other players in the game. Little does the young man know what Akira is going through…

Directors: Teruo Noguchi, Kiyoshi Yamamoto. Starring: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotaro Yoshida.

“His Bad Blood” (U.S. premiere) at 4:30 p.m. Special appearance by director/screenwriter Koichiro Oyama, cast member Yu Toyama, producer/cast member Sakura Enomoto. All proceeds will be provided to the 2019 Typhoon Hagibis Relief Fund administered by Japan America Society’s sister organization in New York. All tax-deductible contributions will support relief and recovery work in places in Japan affected by the flooding.

A man steals his family’s money and runs away from a small village on the day of his first son’s birth. Thirty years later, this memory from decades back still haunts the villagers, so when series of burglaries occur in the village, they do not miss a chance to kick Shinichi — the criminal’s son, who leads a lazy life — out of the community as its prime suspect.

In order to learn independence and prove his innocence, Shinichi takes shelter in a church remote from his homeland, but its minister welcomes another lost sheep — the man who ran away from Shinichi’s life 30 years ago. The father and son start their life together not knowing the tie they already have.

Cast: Ikkei Watanabe (“Suspect X”), Yu Toyama (“Pacchigi! Love & Peace”), Akio Kaneda (“Pandemic”).

“melancholic” (West Coast premiere, Japan Cuts Hollywood Audience Award winner) at 7:30 p.m.

Kazuhiko, a graduate of a prestigious university, isn’t enjoying his life until he take a job at a bathhouse. Then he discovers that the baths are used as a space for killing people after closing hours.

Director/screenwriter/editor: Seiji Tanaka. Cast: Yoji Minagawa, Yoshitomo Isozaki, Mebuki Yoshida, Makoto Hada, Masanobu Yada, Yasuyuki Hamaya, Stefanie Arianne, Yuta Ohkubo, Keiji Yamashita, Hiroko Shinkai.

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