SAN FRANCISCO — The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, set for Aug. 7 to 16, will screen a variety of recent films from Japan at New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. in San Francisco Japantown.
The lineup is as follows. (Note: The films of actor Tadanobu Asano and director Koji Morimoto are covered in a previously posted article.)
“Kakekomi” (2015), 146 minutes, directed by Masato Harada, on Saturday, Aug. 8, at 12 p.m. Divorce in the samurai age? During the Edo period, women seeking divorce or fleeing abusive husbands ran to the Tokei-ji Temple in Kamakura. Nobujiro, a young doctor and author, and his aunt Genbei, mistress of the official inn of the temple, try to help the various suffering “kakekomi” women. Based on the novel by Hisashi Inoue, “Kakekomi” delivers an extraordinary story of recovering women’s rights with a witty script.
“The Vancouver Asahi” (2013), 132 minutes, directed by Yuya Ishii, on Saturday, Aug. 8, at 3 p.m. Based on a true story, the film is set in the 1930s in Vancouver, where a group of Canadian-born second-generation Japanese kids formed a baseball team called the Asahi in a small Japantown. Struggling with racism and prejudice as their country heads into World War II, the Asahi members join forces to make a difference through their passion for baseball.
“Space Brothers #0” (2014), 90 minutes, directed by Ayumu Watanabe, on Sunday, Aug. 9, at 12 p.m. A great introduction to the TV anime series “Space Brothers,” based on the popular manga by Chuya Koyama. The film looks back on the origin of the Namba brothers’ dream of traveling to outer space, which was inspired by the world-renowned astronaut brothers Brian and Eddie Jay, another duo of “space brothers” who dreamed of setting foot on the moon well before the Namba brothers, Mutta and Hibito.
“Pale Moon” (2014), 126 minutes, directed by Daihachi Yoshida, on Sunday, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m. Based on the bestselling novel “Kami no Tsuki” (Paper Moon) by Mitsuyo Kakuta, this critically acclaimed crime drama unfolds around an obedient housewife working part-time as a bank teller, who becomes a reckless embezzler to live it up with a young lover. Leading actress Rie Miyazawa takes on outrageous behavior in a subtle performance and gracefully displays her aging beauty.
“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” (2013), 118 minutes, directed by Mami Sunada, on Monday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. Granted near-unrestricted access to the notoriously isolated Studio Ghibli, director Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli – the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, the producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential “other director” Isao Takahata – over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” and Takahata’s
“The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.”
“Harajuku Denier” (2015), 89 minutes, directed by Hideta Takahata, on Monday, Aug. 10, at 9:20 p.m. The story unfolds in Harajuku, the melting pot of Tokyo and the forefront of popular subcultures transmitted everywhere. The lives of many young and dream-filled eccentrics intersect. Teenyboppers, narcissists, tourists, and workers from various countries – cutting-edge filmmaker Shuta Tanaka humorously captures the amalgamation of cultures found in today’s Harajuku in an ensemble cast comedy. Don’t miss the fun credit roll at the end.
“Little Forest — Summer & Autumn” (2014), 112 minutes, directed by Junichi Mori, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. Here comes the farm-to-table film for foodies, a beautiful adaptation of the popular comic by Daisuke Igarashi about a young woman’s self-discovery through farming, cooking, and eating to live through the changing seasons. Ichiko moves back from the city to the tiny village in northeastern Japan where she grew up and starts living the sustainable lifestyle that she learned from her mother.
“The Wind Rises” (2013), 126 minutes, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 9:15 p.m. Miyazaki pays tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori in his creation of the fictional character Jiro — the center of an epic tale of love, perseverance, and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world. Inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni, Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes and grows to become one of the world’s most accomplished airplane designers.
“Uzumasa Limelight” (2014), 103 minutes, directed by Ken Ochiai, on Wednesday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. A nostalgic portrait of kirare-yaku – an actor whose forte is being “cut to death” with a sword in samurai films, this film goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre. A professional extra named Kamiyama (played by real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life to his craft. When the studio decides to discontinue its productions, he finds himself at a loss. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?
“When Marnie Was There” (2014), 103 minutes, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, on Wednesday, Aug. 12, at 9 p.m. The newest feature from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli is a sweeping story of friendship, mystery and discovery that delivers breathtaking animation that only Ghibli can provide. When shy and artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and a mysterious young girl named Marnie. The two girls instantly form a unique connection that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.
“The Case of Hana and Alice” (2015), 110 minutes, directed by Shunji Iwai, on Thursday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. This animated film follows Tetsuko Arisugawa (a.k.a. Alice), a transfer student at Ishinomori Middle School. She hears a strange rumor about a murder case in school. Meanwhile, Alice’s classmate Hana is said to know something about the case… Was Judas really murdered? Hana and Alice embark on an adventure to solve the mystery of the “smallest murder in the world.”
“Have a Song on Your Lips” (2015), 132 minutes, directed by Takahiro Miki, on Thursday, Aug. 13, at 9 p.m. This touching school drama unfolds around Yuri Kashiwagi, a former piano prodigy, who returns to her hometown to work as a temporary music teacher and supervise the chorus members at the local middle school. While practicing for the regional contest, chorus members get an assignment from Yuri to write a letter to themselves in 15 years. Facing their personal issues, Yuri and her students begin to find their own voices.
“Our Family” (2014), 117 minutes, directed by Yuya Ishii, on Friday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m. From the award-winning director of “The Great Passage,” this honest adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel about a family that pulls together to fight a terminal illness will resonate close to the heart. Reiko’s daydreams and forgetfulness were not concerning to her broken family until a trip to the doctor reveals that she has brain cancer. With Reiko given only one week left to live, how will this dysfunctional family keep from falling apart?
“Kabukicho Love Hotel” (2014), 135 minutes, directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, on Friday, Aug. 14, at 9:20 p.m. Hiroki is known as one of Japan’s leading directors in the erotic fantasy genre known as pinku (pink films). This is an erotically charged drama that traces the intersecting stories of a group of employees and visitors at a notorious “love hotel,” a type of short-stay hotel primarily for sexual activities, in Tokyo’s red-light district — from a sexless young couple with broken dreams to a middle-aged couple on the run.
“100-Yen Love” (2014), 113 minutes, directed by Masaharu Take, on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 12 p.m. 32-year-old slacker Ichiko lives with her parents until a fight with her disapproving sister escalates, prompting her to move out and start working at a local 100-yen shop. One day she meets boxer Yuji, whom she has seen passing by on his way home, and becomes attracted to him. After her life takes more unexpected and unwanted turns, she takes up boxing herself and attempts to change her ways.
“Tokyo Short Shorts 2015,” 80 minutes, on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 2 p.m. By popular demand, JFFSF teams up with Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia again to exclusively premiere five outstanding short films directed by up-and-coming filmmakers from Japan. Enjoy a colorful mix of comedy and drama that reflect life in Japan with a delicate and witty touch. Special guest: Atsuko Hirayanagi, director of “Oh Lucy!” Also featured: “Shabu-Shabu Spirit,” directed by Yuki Saito; “half & half,” directed by Saito Takumi; “Let’s meet again, goodbye,” directed by Hiroki Kataoka; and “Verge of Explosion,” directed by Yusuke Fujii.
“The Birth of Sake” (2015), 92 minutes, on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 16, at 12 p.m. Special guest: Director Erik Shirai. This documentary reveals the story of passionate sake-makers and what it takes to make world-class sake at Yoshida Brewery, a 144-year-old, family-owned small brewery in northern Japan. Shirai, and producer Masako Tsumura were allowed full access to film at the brewery, and captured the intense and relatively unknown process (even within in Japan) of traditional sake-making.
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (2015), 137 minutes, directed by Isao Takahata, on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m. An Academy Award nominee, this film is legendary Studio Ghibli co-founder Takahata’s (“Grave of the Fireflies,” “Pom Poko”) rendition of Japan’s most famous folktale, that has been decades in the making. Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter, a tiny baby girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.
“Initiation Love” (2015), 110 minutes, directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 2:30 p.m. Co-starring ex-AKB star Atsuko Maeda and Shota Matsuda, this romantic mystery is based on the bestselling novel by Kurumi Inui. In the late 1980s, a college student in Shizuoka Prefecture named Suzuki begins a romance with a dental hygienist named Mayu. However, when Suzuki moves to Tokyo for his job and the two are forced into a long-distance relationship, their relationship starts to fall apart as Suzuki begins spending time with another woman named Miyako.
“0.5MM” (2014), 198 minutes, directed by Momoko Ando, on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 5 p.m. Co-presented by Legacy Film Festival on Aging. Director Ando takes on the big subjects of Japan’s historical, social and emotional psyche with her second feature epic. Based on her own novel and starring her sister Sakura Ando as the main character, Sawa, an oddly determined caregiver for the elderly, the film is a lengthy yet magnetic road movie that brilliantly captures Sawa’s unexpected encounters and unique relationships with older people.
For reservations and more information, visit http://jffsf.org.