Asian World Film Festival Includes Features from Japan

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The fifth annual Asian World Film Festival (Nov. 6-14) has selected over 25 films that have qualified for Best International Feature Film competition at one or both of Hollywood’s major award events, the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.

In addition to the closing-night film “Weathering With You,” Japan’s official submission, many other films with Academy Award entry status in the International Feature Film category will be shown, including a widely acclaimed film from South Korea, “Parasite.”

Additional films include “Life of Music” from Cambodia, “M for Malaysia” from Malaysia, “Murine” from Lebanon, “Shindisi” from Georgia, “Ne Zhu” from China, “Gully Boy” from India, “Furie” from Vietnam, “Commitment” from Turkey, “Finding Farideh” from Iran, “Laal Kabootar” from Pakistan, “Memories of My Body” from Indonesia, “Aurora” from Kyrgyzstan, “Lengthy Night” from Armenia, and “The Golden Throne” from Kazakhstan.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) submitted films include “Meido” from China, “The Bull” from Russia, “Hot Bread” from Uzbekistan (also for Academy Award consideration), “The Secret of a Leader” from Kazakhstan and “Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light” from Kazakhstan.

The festival also announced the presentation of the Snow Leopard Rising Star Award to actress Tiffany Chu on opening night (Nov. 6). Fluent in both English and Mandarin, she was crowned the 2015 Miss Taiwanese American Pageant 1st Princess. Chu plays Sophie in “Artificial” (Twitch’s first ever original and interactive show) and also starred as the lead in “Ms. Purple,” directed by Justin Chon, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Chu stated, “I am so honored to receive this award. Thankful for my parents’ continued encouragement to pursue my dreams as an actor, and so grateful for the support of the Asian World Film Festival.”

The AWFF 2019 Snow Leopard Outstanding Cinematic Achievement Award was presented to Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, MBE, whose credits include “The Last Samurai” (2003), “Rush Hour 3” (2007), “The Wolverine” (2013), the TV series “Westworld” (2018), “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), and the forthcoming “Mortal Kombat.”

“Just Mercy” (USA) was shown as this year’s AWFF opening night film at the Culver City Arclight Cinema following a ceremony hosted by Dominique DiPrima, host of the early-morning Los Angeles talk radio show “The Front Page” on KJLH (102.3 FM).

Tickets to all films and industry panels are available at http://asianworldfilmfest.org.

AWFF, founded by Kyrgyz public figure Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, brings the best of a broad selection of Asian world cinema to Los Angeles to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers and strengthen ties between the Asian and Hollywood film industries. Uniting through cross-cultural collaboration, the festival champions films from over 50 countries across Asia, spanning from Turkey to Japan and from Russia to India and the Middle East.

AWFF is partnered with The Snow Leopard Trust to raise awareness for the endangered snow leopard and its ecosystem in the high mountains of Asia. The festival’s main cinematic award is named after the snow leopard.

Films from Japan

Screenings are at the Arclight Culver City, 9500 Culver Blvd., Culver City.

“Hannari: Geisha Modern” (2006, 94 minutes), directed by Miyuki Sohara. Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. with Q&A. A selection of the International Film Festival at the United Nations.

This documentary seeks to capture the geisha and their culture for what they are truly meant to be. Geisha are artists and entertainers who devote their lives to the traditional arts and a traditional way of life. Respected and admired as purveyors of Japanese culture, they are truly an embodiment of dedication, discipline and a relentless drive for perfection.

The film brings the audience up close and personal with these magnificent artists and entertainers, who are themselves living works of art. Appearances by various characters in and around the geisha community provide a glimpse into this functioning and independent community that is truly unique to Japan. For the very first time, the geisha are captured in a manner that allows the audience to see, hear and feel for themselves the true beauty of the geisha.

“The Old Capital” (2016, 117 minutes), directed by Yuki Saito. Sunday, Nov. 10, at 5 p.m.

When they are 20, two woman, twins born among the fragrant cedar-filled mountains of Kyoto and separated at birth, meet by chance at a summer festival in the old capital. One lives in the mountains working the trees, the other adopted by a couple running a traditional kimono shop. The city girl frets whether to continue the business. They meet, then part, the city girl giving her sister a silk kimono sash.

They never meet again. Twenty-three years later, their daughters, age 20, face the future with the bewilderment of selecting an established path or one of their own. The mountains twin pursues her artistic dreams in Paris, while her sister chooses between the family shop and finding her own calling. Mothers guide daughters, but the choices must be their own, tangled with fate.

”The Grapes of Joy (Shiawase)” (93 minutes), directed by Akio Yoshida. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 3 p.m.

Haruna Soma (Riko Fukumoto) comes from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido to Okayama, in western Japan, on a school trip. Her ailing grandmother has asked Haruna to buy her some of the region’s famous “Muscat of Alexandria” grapes as a souvenir gift, but Haruna loses her wallet, and the small amount of change she has left is only enough to buy two “Riku no Hoju,” a confectionary made from the alexandria grapes.

Her grandmother expresses delight with the gift, and Haruna is moved to return to Okayama and apply for work at Minamoto Kitchoan, the company that makes them. Her winning smile convinces the company president to hire her, but her trainee assignments to shop sales, production, and product development do not go well, and she is sent out to assist at one of the vineyards that supply Alexandria grapes.

The farmer, Shinsuke Akiyoshi (Naoto Takenaka), does not want her help and tells her to leave, but she persists. Meeting another grower, Tatsuya Yashiki (Masataka Nakagauchi), she learns about grape-growing. Shinsuke, it turns out, lost his only son Taro ten years before, and is determined that his vineyard will end with him. Vines his son grafted just before he died are about to reach the end of their productive life, and Shinsuke plans to have them and their greenhouse destroyed.

Haruna tries and fails to convince him to regraft these vines and thus keep Taro’s memory alive. Haruna was a national-level high-school curler until injury ended her career; her sister, still a curler, visits and suggests that Haruna return to Hokkaido, and she is about to do so when the area is hit with massive floods that leave Taro’s former greenhouse buried in a sea of mud. Haruna goes out to the vineyard and sets to work digging…

“Weathering with You” (2019, 111 minutes). Thursday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.

GKIDS proudly presents the highly anticipated new film from director Makoto Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura, the creative team behind the critically acclaimed, global smash hit “Your Name.”

The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine.

Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky…

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