Ireland’s national film festival, the Japanese Film Festival expands Japanese culture across the island through the Asian country’s best cinema.
In April 2023,the Embassy of Japan in Ireland and access>CINEMA are presenting the Japanese Film Festival for its 14th edition. The festival includes screenings of powerful drama A Man, which recently won eight awards – including Best Film – at the Japan Academy Film Prize ceremony in Tokyo, the acclaimed superhero reboot Shin Ultraman, and exciting new anime titles such as Blue Thermal and The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes. The Japanese Film Festival 2023 comes to Dublin via the Light House Cinema from April 20th – 27th.
Drama, comedy, documentary, classics, anime and “kaiju” ensures that JFF aims to have something for everyone. X features across the week will showcase the best of Japanese cinema at the Smithfield cinema.
Check out the full programme at the Light House for JFF below:
After years of hard work, Hitomi is finally living her dream – directing her first anime TV series. However, it emerges that the show is going to premiere against tough competition. Hitomi’s idol – anime megastar Chiharu – is about to make his long-awaited return with his own brand new series. As they and their teams frantically work to complete episodes, the two directors find themselves in a fierce battle for audiences and ‘anime supremacy’. But can they make hit shows without compromising their artistic integrity? Based on a hit novel, Anime Supremacy! takes audiences behind the scenes of the anime industry via a lively and entertaining tale of artistic rivalry. Boasting some lovingly crafted glimpses at the two fictional anime shows at the heart of the drama, Anime Supremacy! is above all a celebration of the teamwork, creativity and ingenuity necessary to get anime onto our screens.
Director: Kōhei Yoshino
Apr 22. 3.15pm
University freshman Tamaki Tsuru is looking for a fresh start; after a romantic disaster she plans to leave behind her enthusiasm for volleyball to find a new pursuit. While tennis seems like the perfect club pastime to throw herself into, a freak accident leads her into an entirely new direction: the fascinating and thrilling world of gliders. Despite her initial reluctance, Tamaki is about to see the world from an entirely different perspective.
Director: Masaki Tachibana
Apr 22, 1pm
One summer morning before school, Kaoru hears an unsettling rumour: there’s a mysterious tunnel that can grant any wish to those who enter it, but ages them dramatically in exchange. At first, he writes it off as nothing more than an urban legend, but that very night he happens upon the passage: the Urashima Tunnel. As he stands before its gaping maw, a thought occurs to him: if this tunnel truly does have the power to grant any wish, could he use it to bring his younger sister back from her untimely death five years earlier? But when he returns to explore the tunnel the next day, he finds he’s been followed by the new girl in class, the enigmatic Anzu. She takes an interest in Kaoru, and they agree to work together to investigate the time-twisting tunnel and uncover its mysteries. Together they might achieve their deepest desires, but are they prepared for what it may cost them?
Director: Tomohisa Taguchi
Apr 22, 6pm
For decades, the self-taught ramen master Masamoto Ueda and his wife Kazuko have run Bizentei – a tiny Tokyo ramen joint. On the weekends, they venture out into the countryside where they harvest natural ingredients for their ramen and homely side dishes. After forty years in business, Bizentei has its own little community of regulars, and many of them have funny or moving stories to share about their personal connections with Masamoto’s ramen. Ramen fans won’t want to miss this delectable documentary about the effort that goes into every bowl of Masamoto’s delicious shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. It’s a tribute to the craft involved in creating the perfect ramen, but also a celebration of how the humblest of dishes can bring people together.
Director: John Daschbach
Apr 20, 8.30pm
Just Remembering is a relationship drama told in reverse order. Yo is a taxi driver who gets brief glimpses into her passengers’ lives as she shuttles them around Tokyo. Her ex-boyfriend Teruo is a theater worker whose dreams of becoming a professional dancer were dashed by a bad injury. Over the course of the film, writer/director Daigo Matsui shows us the same day of the year in the couple’s lives – Teruo’s birthday – but jumps back one year every time. Their relationship deteriorates over the course of several years, but we also see what brought these two people together in the first place.Matsui was openly inspired by Jim Jarmusch’s classic taxi-based anthology film Night on Earth, but here he uses an episodic structure to create a tender study of young love and the challenges of keeping that spark alive. It’s a film that starts with a bittersweet ending, but works backwards to show that not every formative relationship ends with ‘happy ever after’.
Director: Daigo Matsui
Apr 21, 6.45pm
Rie and Daisuke are two lonely kindred spirits who meet and fall in love. Years later, they are happily married and caring for their own child and Rie’s son from a previous marriage. Everything changes when Daisuke is killed in a tragic workplace accident. A heartbroken Rie works to wrap up Daisuke’s affairs, but a visit from her late husband’s estranged brother leads to a shocking revelation: her Daisuke wasn’t who he claimed to be. Rie asks a Yokohama lawyer named Akira to look into her late husband’s mysterious past.A Man takes what could have been a straightforward melodramatic setup and turns it into a meditative drama that thoughtfully explores deep-rooted societal prejudice. Handling tricky themes with real care, Kei Ishikawa’s film is a patiently-directed and masterfully-acted film that won eight prizes – including Best Film – at this year’s Japan Academy film awards.
Director: Kei Ishikawa
Apr 21, 9.15pm
The arrival of giant ‘kaiju’ (alien monsters) on Earth prompts the Japanese government to set up the S-Class Species Suppression Protocol enforcement unit to coordinate the world’s response to the alien threat. The crew of planners and scientists works together to defeat the new enemy. However, they find they have an unexpected ally when a mysterious silver giant arrives from space. They give the extra-terrestrial hero a nickname – Ultraman!The creative team behind the acclaimed Shin Godzilla and the Evangelion series triumphantly revisits another beloved Japanese ’tokusatsu’ series with the superhero epic Shin Ultraman. It’s a film that brings the iconic character into the modern cinematic age, while still memorably capturing the pulpy, over-the-top energy that made Ultraman so popular in the first place.
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Apr 22, 8.15pm
Miyabi’s life and marriage collapsed following the death of her young daughter in a tragic accident. Years later, she is living with a new boyfriend and has taken a job as a sex worker. One day, she enters the eerie apartment of a mysterious client named Oka. Oka only wants one thing: to take a picture of Miyabi’s spine. After fulfilling that strange request, Miyabi discovers she unexpectedly has a new sensory connection to her deceased daughter. She returns to Oka, and every photograph taken brings her a step closer to her daughter. But at the same time, Miyabi’s grip on the world around her starts to slip.Keishi Kondo’s eerie debut feature is a fresh type of J-horror filmmaking. Artfully upending the usual expectations of the horror genre, the atmospheric and experimental New Religion marks the welcome arrival of a significant new voice in Japanese independent cinema.
Director: Keishi Kondo
Apr 22, 10.45pm
Filmmaker Yoshishige Yoshida – also known as Kijū Yoshida – was one of the leading figures of the Japanese ‘New Wave’. Like fellow countercultural filmmaker Nagisa Oshima, he began making waves at the major studio Shochiku in the early 60s. However, he and other filmmakers soon embraced the creative freedom offered by the Art Theatre Guild, the hugely influential independent production company. That freedom allowed Yoshida to make the remarkable loose-knit trilogy of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’État. All three feature the legendary actress Mariko Okada, Yoshida’s wife and frequent artistic collaborator.Yoshida passed away in December 2022 at the age of 89. As part of this year’s festival, JFF presents the director’s cut of his 1969 masterpiece Eros + Massacre. The film is a complex, unconventional and vivid biopic of the early 20th century Japanese anarchist Ōsugi Sakae and boasts some of the most extraordinary visual ideas in all of cinema.
Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Apr 23, 12pm
Japan, 1965. 15-year-old Norio returns to his family’s countryside home to prepare for his upcoming high school entrance exams. Lonely and frustrated, he finds himself clashing with his strict father. One day, he encounters fellow teenager Hana, who’s part of a local family of nomads known as ‘Sanka’. Norio is taken under the wing of the family and quickly adapts to their lifestyle. But he soon learns difficult lessons about the everyday discrimination the Sanka experience. Sanka: Nomads of the Mountain is a sharply realised drama – an elegiac reflection on a culture that has faded away, as well as a coming-of-age story with a unique perspective and context.
Director: Ryohei Sasatani
Apr 23, 4.15pm
Your Lovely Smile stars real-life Japanese indie filmmaker Hirobumi Watanabe (Poolsideman, JFF 17) as a fictionalised version of himself. In the midst of the pandemic, Hirobumi struggles to get new projects off the ground. When he’s invited to Okinawa to make a feature, he jumps at the opportunity. Things go disastrously wrong, though, so before long he sets off on an impromptu road trip across Japan. Hirobumi stops at independent cinemas across the country, trying to convince the owners to show his films. He encounters setbacks, celebrities and eccentric characters, as well as a mysterious and captivating woman who he seemingly keeps bumping into.Kah Wai Lim’s film is above an affectionate, funny and surprisingly bittersweet celebration of independent cinemas and indie filmmaking. Watanabe makes for an affable companion on this particular cinematic road trip.
Apr 23, 6pm
Katsu and Sumiko’s lives were shattered after their daughter was murdered by a classmate. The trauma of the murder and subsequent trial ultimately led to their divorce. Seven years later, they find themselves revisiting the past when their daughter’s murderer Kana secures a retrial that could potentially lead to her release. Spending time together again in challenging circumstances, Katsu and Sumiko must revisit the trauma of their daughter’s death. As the retrial progresses, they also find themselves confronting difficult questions around justice and forgiveness.With December, Japan-based Indian filmmaker Anshul Chauhan has crafted a probing courtroom drama. It confronts challenging themes with care and nuance, successfully negotiating the moral and emotional conundrums many other courtroom dramas push to the side. Mononymous stars Megumi and Shogen are both excellent here, as is Ryô Matsuura as the troubled yet ruminative Kana.
Director: Anshul Chauhan
Apr 23, 8.15pm
When Kenichi’s wife Tomoko died, in the third year of their marriage, he decided to bring up their daughter Miki on his own. Kenichi worries about whether he ought to remarry for his daughter’s sake, but he can’t bring himself to take that step when he thinks about how his parents-in-law would feel. He devotes his life to his daughter, but time passes and he eventually meets someone else… Step is a moving story that depicts the struggles of a single father over the course of ten years.
Director: Ken Iizuka
Apr 24, 6pm
Kyutaro was once a formidable samurai. However, after losing his position, he ran out of money and is now living alone. Kyutaro doesn’t know how to make money without using his sword. One day, Kyutaro gets a strange job offer – kill a cat. He decides to do it for the money. But when Kyutaro finds his target, he sees a lovely white cat…
Director: Takeshi Watanabe
Director: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi
Apr 25, 6pm
In a snow-covered part of Japan, a fisherman makes his way to the local market. His 6-year-old son is awoken by his departure and finds it impossible to fall back to sleep. On his way to school, the young boy strays off the path and wanders into the snow… The Night I Swam is a beautifully-crafted look at the world through the eyes of a child.
Director: Kohei Igarashi
Director: Damien Manivel
Apr 26, 6pm
When Akiko marries mystery author Masakazu and moves to Kamakura, she discovers an amazing new world. A simple stroll through the streets brings her into contact with supernatural creatures such as spirits and goblins. One morning, Masakazu awakes to find that Akiko has disappeared – and it seems she has departed for the netherworld. To bring Akiko back to life, he decides to journey to the netherworld himself.
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Apr 27, 6pm