JAPAN CUTS, North America’s premiere showcase for new Japanese cinema, returns for its 11th installment July 13-23 to serve up a slice of the best and boldest films from Japan never before seen in NYC with special guest filmmakers and stars, post-screening Q&As, parties and more. Boasting a thrilling slate of epic blockbusters, shoestring independents, radical documentaries, mind-bending avant-garde, newly-restored classics and breathtaking animation, Japan Society’s renowned summer film festival promises a bounty of cinematic discoveries for film fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike.
For its eleventh edition, JAPAN CUTS 2017 presents its most far-reaching and iconoclastic lineup to date, including 28 feature films (3 International Premieres, 10 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 6 East Coast Premieres, 3 New York Premieres) and 6 short films, brought to life by rare, in-person access to creators of the work through Q&As and signature parties that allow connections beyond the screen.
Festivities start off with a bang on Thursday, July 13th, ushered in by special guest director and JAPAN CUTS veteran Yoshihiro Nakamura (Fish Story), who introduces the Opening Night Film MUMON: The Land of the Stealth, making its U.S. Premiere. Known for his masterful genre blenders, MUMON is Nakamura’s modern take on the traditional jidaigeki (period drama), full of fantastical ninja moves that uphold genre standards, yet imbued with a unique sense of eccentricity and playfulness. Director Nakamura appears in a post-screening Q&A, followed by a rollicking Opening Night Party held in Japan Society’s historic theater and waterfall atrium.
As previously announced, JAPAN CUTS is proud to present this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film to Joe Odagiri, the remarkably talented box office golden boy and matinee idol of Japan. Odagiri receives the award before the Centerpiece Presentation screening: the East Coast Premiere of Nobuhiro Yamashita’s critically acclaimed drama Over the Fence. A baseball themed Home Run Party follows the screening in celebration of the film and the performance that anchors it. Demonstrating the breadth of his talent and penchant for taking on difficult roles, Odagiri also participates in a Q&A following the U.S. Premiere screening of Kohei Oguri’s FOUJITA, about the life of the complex titular painter.
The festival’s Closing Film offers a poignant and indelible deviation from traditional Japanese war dramas: Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World, winner of the Japan Academy prize for Animation of the Year. A deeply moving coming-of-age story about a persevering young woman, In This Corner of the World captures civilian life under the catastrophic tide of World War II with a tone that is at once mournful, optimistic, and enchantingly heart-swelling. The film’s prolific producer (having previously worked on Patlabor, Satoshi Kon’s masterpieces, and many other titles) Taro Maki attends for the post-screening Q&A.
For ten years, JAPAN CUTS’ richly diverse slates have offered audiences a window into the breadth and depth of contemporary Japanese cinema. This eleventh installment of JAPAN CUTS presents a wide-ranging selection of films across each programming section that reveal the multiplicity of identities and layers of culture that shape Japanese film today—including international co-productions and adaptations, new LGBTQ cinema, female directors, and deeply relevant histories of WWII and nuclear trauma.
This year’s Feature Slate, which includes the tentpole Opening, Closing, and Centerpiece titles, spotlights revered auteurs and emerging new talents alike. International arthouse directors and masters of their craft, Sion Sono and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, return this year with new films. While Kurosawa extends boundaries by traveling outside of his home country to make Daguerrotype, a French language international co-production, Sono’s latest, ANTI-PORNO, revisits and subverts a staple of Japanese genre filmmaking: Nikkatsu Roman Porno. Daisuke Miyazaki’s bold second feature Yamato (California) about an aspiring young rapper grappling with her own emerging identity and Japan’s complicated relationship with the U.S., makes its U.S. Premiere with Miyazaki and star Hanae Kan (Nobody Knows) for a post-screening Q&A. In addition, Kan also appear to present the North American Premiere of Takuro Nakamura’s outstanding slow-burning LGBTQ melodrama West North West with fellow star Sahel Rosa.
Another festival highlight is the North American Premiere of Love and Goodbye and Hawaii by up-and-coming filmmaker Shingo Matsumura, recipient of the JAPAN CUTS Award during the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival, selected and presented by the JAPAN CUTS programming team. Matsumura reverses the standard romantic comedy plot line to tell a superbly executed story of self-discovery about an ex-couple that decides to continue living together. Rising talent Matsumura introduces Love and Goodbye and Hawaii and participate in a post-screening Q&A.
Classics: Rediscoveries & Restorations returns with a selection of rarely-screened titles that have been recently restored and remastered. The Ondekoza is a visually striking and sumptuously colorful documentary by master director Tai Kato, who has yet to be discovered in the U.S. Following its World Premiere at Venice Film Festival in the Cannes Section, The Ondekoza features a stunning 4K restoration of Kato’s last work making its U.S. Premiere. Also slated is Once Upon a Dream by experimental filmmaker Kei Shichiri, who last appeared at JAPAN CUTS with his film DUBHOUSE in 2015. Presented with an all-new sound and image remastering, this hidden gem of avant-garde cinema makes its International Premiere at JAPAN CUTS. Venerated auteur Seijun Suzuki, who recently passed away at the age of 93, closes the Classics showcase with a digital remaster of his forgotten gem Zigeunerweisen—a landmark film in the late director’s career and the first film in his Taisho Trilogy—making its North American Premiere.
The Documentary Focus emphasizes JAPAN CUTS’ commitment to non-fiction cinema, premiering three documentaries that tap into various aspects of race, gender, and globalization in Japan and the U.S. Resistance at Tule Lake by NYC-based filmmaker Konrad Aderer shines a light on the untold history of Japanese-American dissidents in internment camps during WWII, elucidated by Aderer in a Q&A following the East Coast Premiere. Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki introduces and participates in a Q&A for the North American Premiere of A Whale of a Tale, which tackles the hotly debated subject of dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan eight years after the release of The Cove. Kyoko Miyake’s Sundance hit Tokyo Idols, dives into the pervasive and problematic subject of idol culture in Japan, making its East Coast Premiere with a video introduction by the director.
Two vibrant feature films in Experimental Spotlight demonstrate the wild possibilities of the cinematic form with visual playfulness and avant-garde flair, from the fantastical musical environment of Sora Hokimoto’s feature debut Haruneko, to the dream-like Okinawan quest Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) by pioneering veteran Go Takamine. The Shorts Showcase presents daring narrative short films by up-and-coming and well-established filmmakers from Japan, offering surrealistic love triangles, metafilmic inspiration, laundry anxiety with an assassin, and breathless lovers. Additionally, two animated shorts play before select feature films: Summer’s Puke is Winter’s Delight by Sawako Kabuki prior to ANTI-PORNO, and Spread by Yoko Kuno before Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow.
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.
See trailers below:
Check out the full schedule and pick up your tickets HERE!