SAN FRANCISCO — The 2016 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (JFFSF), the first and only fully dedicated Japanese film celebration for the Bay Area, has announced a diverse roster of films that are set to screen as part of this year’s program.
This year’s JFFSF presents a broad collection of current and acclaimed Japanese cinema across a variety of genres such as action, sci-fi, documentary, anime, shorts, live music, kabuki theatre, crime mystery, and family drama. All films will be presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
The festival opens Saturday, July 23, and runs through Sunday, July 31, at New People Cinema, located inside New People in Japantown at 1746 Post St., San Francisco (www.newpeoplecinema.com). Tickets to individual screenings are $15 each, unless otherwise noted. All ticket prices include the service fee with no further extra charge.
For the true film aficionado, the JFFSF also offers special JFFSF Festival Passports. Available for $150 each, a passport grants the holder priority access and seating at all screenings. A complete listing of film summaries, trailers, screening times and advance tickets as well as festival passports are available at http://JFFSF.org.
Guests of honor include director Shinsuke Sato (“Gantz,” “The Princess Blade”), who appears in person for the U.S. premiere of “Library Wars: The Last Mission”; director Shunji Iwai (“Love Letter,” “All About Lily Chou-Chou,” “Hana and Alice”), who will appear for the California premiere of “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle”; and director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who will appear for the screening of “Happy Hour.”
“We are honored to welcome three prominent directors from Japan as our guests of honor this year,” says Manami Iiboshi, executive director of the JFFSF. “It is exciting to share with our beloved audience this rare opportunity to hear about the creative vision behind their films in person. I hope everyone enjoys exploring diversity of Japanese cinema through this year’s program.”
This year’s JFFSF also complements an extensive roster of entertainment set to take place for J-Pop Summit 2016 the weekend of July 23 and 24 at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. For more information, visit www.j-pop.com.
• “Library Wars: The Last Mission” on Saturday, July 23, at 12 p.m., featuring a special appearance by director Shinsuke Sato. In this new sequel to the first “Library Wars” film, the story is set in a near future where the expression of thought is censored and the media is controlled. Under instructor Atsushi Dojo, whom she admires, Iku Kasahara is now a full-fledged member of the Library Defense Task Force. They are ordered to guard a public exhibition featuring “The Handbook of Library Law,” known as the symbol of freedom, with no clue what fate awaits ahead.
• “IA First Live Concert in Japan: Party a Go-Go,” on July 23 at 3 p.m. Presented by J-Pop Summit 2016, Vocaloid sensation IA’s first solo concert film will have its San Francisco premiere at Japan Film Festival of S.F. IA is a virtual artist brought to life as part of the Vocaloid 3 with its synthesizing technology, and IA-related videos have collectively garnered more than 100 million views online.
• Tokyo Short Shorts 2016 on July 23 at 4:15 p.m. JFFSF’s popular collaboration with Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia teams up to exclusively premiere a collection of special short films directed by a new generation of filmmakers from Japan, including Hatsuki Yokoo’s “Plan B,” Yusako Okamoto’s “Hana,” Seiki Watanabe’s “Piece of the Future,” Yuta Sukegawa’s “Drifting Cloud,” and Tsukasa Kishimoto’s “Kerama Blue.”
• “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” on July 23 at 6 p.m., July 24 at 6:30 p.m., July 25 at 8 p.m., July 26 at 9 p.m. “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” and “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” are both sequels to 2012’s first “Rurouni Kenshin” live-action theatrical film. The movies were filmed back-to-back and cover the Kyoto Arc of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s original historical action manga. Kenshin Himura is a legendary swordsman in the wars accompanying the turbulent fall of Japan’s shogunate in the 19th century. Once feared as Battosai the Killer, he became a wanderer living peacefully with his companions with the arrival of the “new age” in Japanese history. But now he learns that Makoto Shishio, his crazed successor, is about to overthrow the new government. Can Kenshin stop him without breaking his vow to kill no more and save Japan from destruction?
• “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” on Sunday, July 24, at 12 p.m., featuring a special appearance by director Shunji Iwai. This deceptively beautiful film is about a struggling teacher obsessed with a new social-media site, where she meets people that lead her life to an unexpected place. With the wedding with a boyfriend she met online approaching, and with no relatives except for her divorced parents, she makes a questionable decision encouraged by Amuro, a jack-of-all-trades whom she also met online.
• Cinema Kabuki: “Nezumi Kozo: Noda Version” on July 24 at 4 p.m. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to experience the authentic and unique beauty of contemporary kabuki performed by some of Japan’s greatest kabuki actors and presented in vivid HD on the big screen. “Nezumi Kozo” is based on the story of a real-life bandit from the Edo period. After his execution, a legend grew that he had been a kind of Robin Hood, sharing his ill-gotten gains with the poor. Written and directed by Hideki Noda and starring Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII.
• Dou Kyu Sei — Classmates” on Monday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. Based on a popular yaoi (boys’ love) manga by Asumiko Nakamura, the film portrays the tantalizingly pure romance between two male high school students, Hikaru Kusakabe, a popular student in a band, and Lichit Sajo, an honor student. These boys would have never crossed paths until they begin to talk through preparing for an upcoming chorus festival together. A sensitive yet refined romantic masterpiece is brought to life.
• “The Anthem of the Heart” on Tuesday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m. Creators behind the popular “Anohana Movie” return with an original anime feature film, an all-new ode to youth set in the beautiful city of Chichibu, located in Saitama Prefecture. The story unfolds around Jun Naruse, a girl who is unable to speak from trauma in the past. Through happening to join a musical act with an unexpected mix of students, Jun gradually starts to regain her lost voice.
• “Solomon’s Perjury (Part 1: Suspicion; Part 2: Judgment)” on Wednesday, July 27, at 6:30 p.m. A special double-feature presentation. Court commenced with the death of a 14 year-old, and concluded with perjury. On a Christmas morning, the body of a student is discovered on the snow-covered schoolyard below a high rooftop. His death stirred up the latent malice that existed within the school, leading to accusations by an anonymous source claiming to be an eyewitness. A scheme for a new murder, sensational coverage by the mass media, then another victim and yet another… When the teachers have forsaken the students, concerned only with protecting themselves, one female student takes a stand to expose the hidden truth by holding a court trial within the school. Several collaborators come forward who are not intimidated by the pressure exerted by the teachers. Then, a defense counselor from another school comes forward to offer support. And finally, the five-day trial begins.
• “The Boy and the Beast” on Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. The latest feature film from award-winning director Mamoru Hosoda (“Summer Wars,” “Wolf Children”). When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice. Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son.
• “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” on July 28 at 9 p.m., July 29 at 9 p.m., July 30, at 3 p.m., July 31 at 6:30 p.m. Don’t miss the exciting finale in the action-packed “Rurouni Kenshin” live-action saga.
• “Being Good” on Friday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m. Awarded NETPAC Jury Prize at the 37th Moscow International Film Festival, this film is a heart-wrenching portrayal of isolated people caught in downward spirals that also shows how simple acts of kindness can make a difference. Tasuku is a schoolteacher struggling to deal with his homeroom and his students’ over-protective parents. When he discovers that one of his students is being abused by their parents, he decides to stand up to make a difference.
• “Dashi & Shoyu: Essence of Japan” on Saturday, July 30, at 12 p.m. This visually striking food documentary is focused on two crucial essences of Japanese cuisine: the delicate soup stock, dashi, and the golden soy sauce, shoyu. Dashi is the bedrock of Japanese cuisine and a distillation of the natural resources of Japan. Shoyu is a pillar of Japanese cuisine, which is made of soy that is transformed by a type of mold that exists only in Japan. History and secrets of umami will be revealed. Screening will feature a special dashi stock tasting.
• “Three Stories of Love” on July 30 at 6:30 p.m. (Northern California premiere). Director Ryosuke Hashiguchi makes a huge comeback with this masterpiece, critically acclaimed as the best film of the year in Japan. The film centers around three interwoven tales of individuals learning to cope when love slips away. The three lead characters, a bereaved bridge repairman, an unhappy housewife and a gay elite lawyer, are all played by amateurs who were coached in acting by the director himself. The result is a triumph.
• “Happy Hour” on Sunday, July 31, at 12 p.m., featuring a special appearance by up-and-coming director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose award-winning epic returns to the Bay Area. This 5-hour, 17-minute film about the unstable lives of four girlfriends in their thirties, played by real women with no acting experience in the past, should be surprisingly gratifying for any movie lover.