Okay, technically, it’s Philippine-Japan Friendship Month, which Japan Foundation Manila holds every month of July. And one of the things I look forward to every time this month-long festival celebrating Japanese culture comes around is Eiga Sai!
The Japanese Film Festival started last night at the Shang Cineplex in Shangri-La Plaza Mall with another interesting collection of Japanese movies that normally just wouldn’t get screened in the country. But from July 3 to July 14 they will be shown in Shang, from July 19 to 28 at Abreeza Ayala and FDCP Cinematique in Davao City, from August 7 to 11 in Ayala Center Cebu (yes, the Japan ‘month’ extends outside Metro Manila), and its last stop will be on August 19 to 25 at UP Film Institute in Diliman, Quezon City.
The minute I got a list and schedule of the movies, I immediately asked my favorite Japanese and Asian film blogger Genki Jason on which movies are worth lining up for (and the lines for Eiga Sai can get pretty long since admission is free). He mentioned that it’s a great looking list of films, but since I can’t spend the next few days in the mall for every screening, I plan to catch the following films:
Mai Mai Miracle. Set in rural Japan, this animated feature revolves around the friendship between a young local girl with a rich imagination and a girl new in town. According to Genki Jason, if you like Studio Ghibli movies, then you’ll like this. No, it’s not a Ghibli movie–it’s actually produced by Madhouse, the same folks behind Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time–but it looks like one and as Jason writes, “the animation was intoxicating in its detail.” (See his complete review here).
Screening dates: July 6, 1:30 pm; July 9, 1:30 pm; July 13, 1:30 pm (Shang Cineplex)
Always – Sunset on Third Street 1, 2 and 3. This trilogy is supposedly really popular in Japan. Jason writes that “it’s a feel-good mix of drama and nostalgia that usually wins over the most cynical of people… One of the easiest films to watch.” It’s based on a comic book series and follows the stories of the residents living in a working class neighborhood in Tokyo while the Tokyo Tower was being built back in 1958. One of the stories it follows is that of Mutsuko, the auto-repair shop apprentice, and I only mention her because it’s played by actress Maki Horikita of Nobuta wo Produce and Hana-Kimi fame. (Yes, I watch J-dramas). For a more detailed summary and review, check this one from Japan Times.
Screening dates: Always – Sunset on Third Street, 1 July 4, 1:30 pm; July 9, 4:30 pm, July 14, 1:30 pm | Always 2, July 5, 1:30 pm; July 10, 7:30 pm, July 13, 4:30 pm | Always 3, July 6, 4:30 pm; July 11, 1:30 pm; July 14, 7:30 pm (Shang Cineplex)
Rinco’s Restaurant: What do I love more about Japanese movies? Japanese movies with lots of cooking and food! After a devastating heart break, Rinco (played by Kou Shibasaki from Battle Royale) reluctantly moves in with her whimsical mother (Kimiko Yo from Departures). She tries to find a way to provide for herself and decides to convert the guest house into a restaurant, where she serves only one pair of guests a day with carefully cooked meals. Soon word spreads that “dining there will bring you happiness.” I hope this movie brings me happiness or at the very least, mouthwatering plates of food.
Screening dates: July 5, 4:30 pm; July 7, 7:30 pm; July 11, 4:30 pm; July 14, 4:30 pm (Shang Cineplex)
Confessions: From the nostalgic and whimsical, the film festival also offers a dose of dark dramas. According to Jason, Confessions is a highly regarded psychological thriller and that “even mainstream critics in the UK were singing its praises.” No surprise then that it was was selected as Japan’s entry for the 83rd Academy Awards’ Foreign Language Film two years ago. It’s about a teacher searching for her daughter’s killer, whom she believes is one of her students. So what does she do? She announces to the class her intentions to avenge her daughter’s death.
Screening dates: July 4, 7:30 pm; July 8, 4:30 pm (Shang Cineplex)
Parade: This coming-of-age ensemble piece won the Jury Prize in the Berlin International Film Festival. It depicts how repeated incidents of violent assault cast a shadow on the superficial relationship among a group of five young men and women. Jason cites his fellow UK blogger Sadako’s Movie Shack review here. It’s a drama that starts off light and ends up dark with great performances from the cast. And look, one of the leads is the guy from Battle Royale!
Screening dates: July 5, 7:30 pm; July 12, 4:30 pm (Shang Cineplex)
For a complete list and schedule, visit www.jfmo.org.ph or call (632) 8116155 to 58. Admission is free for all PJFM activities.