Monday, March 2, 2009


Japanese Cinema at SFIAAFF 2009

Another focus at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) is Japanese cinema. The festival's Spotlight pays tributes to Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (黒沢 清) and Artist in Focus features experimental media artist Takahiko Limura (飯村隆彦).

Seven(!) of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films will be screened at the festival, including his newest "Tokyo Sonata" and his J-Horror flick "Pulse" (回路). It's a great opportunity to watch these films in theaters, especially with Kiyoshi Kurosawa in person at some of the screenings for Q&A.

Perhaps I should add San Francisco Public Library as an extra venues for the festival, because the library has more Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films that are not showing during the festival.

Other must see Japanese films at this year's festival include Ryosuke Hashiguchi's "All Around Us." To be able to see films like "All Around Us" is part of the reason why I love SFIAAFF dearly.

  • All Around Us (ぐるりのこと。 | Japan 2008 | in Japanese | 140 min.)

    I am quite confident that "All Around Us" will easily become my top ten films of 2009. This is Japanese director Ryosuke Hashiguchi's (橋口亮輔) first film after a seven-year hiatus. The film is funny, touching, and observant.

    The film's protagonist is Kanao, a soft mannered shoe repair man turning into a court room sketch artist, who deals with his own marriage with humor, gentleness, and love. Through the eyes of Kanao, the film quietly observes the major events in Japanese society over the span of a decade. Japanese bestselling novelist Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー) gives a great performance as Kanao.

    Lily Franky as Kanao in All Around Us

  • Tokyo Sonata (Japan 2008 | in Japanese | 119 min.)

    Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest film "Tokyo Sonata" looks deeply inside an ordinary Japanese family. It tells a heartfelt story about their struggle to survive, to communicate, and to realize their places in the fast moving modern society.

    Renowned Japanese actor Teruyuki Kagawa (香川照之) plays a middle aged salaryman who is recently laid off (does that sound familiar for folks in the US?), but he doesn't have the courage to tell his family. Everyone in the family wish that it would be wonderful if their whole lives are a dream, and when they wake up, they are somewhere completely different.


    The festival goers can also catch Teruyuki Kagawa's other performances in "Tokyo!" and "Serpent's Path" (蛇の道) at the festival.

  • License to Live (ニンゲン合格 | Japan 1998 | 109 min.)

    In Ryosuke Hashiguchi's "License to Live", 24-year-old Yutaka wakes up from a 10-year-old coma and finds out that his family and the world around him are no longer the same. His efforts to bring the family back together and to validate his own existence are both poignant and intriguing.

    Hidetoshi Nishijima as Yutaka in License to Live


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