HIFF – Spotlight on Japan

HIFF – Spotlight on Japan

Photo of “My Korean Teacher” screens on Nov. 8 and 11.

“OVER THE FENCE” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 112 min.

Written by Yasushi Sato and Ryo Takada. Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita.

From Yamashita (“Linda Linda Linda,” “La La La at Rock Bottom”) comes a funny and quirky romance story starring Yu Aoi (“Hula Girls,” “Hana and Alice,” “Honokaa Boy”) and Joe Odagiri (“I Wish,” “The Great Passage”).

Shiraiwa (Odagiri), a divorced loner, is unemployed and living in a small apartment, learning carpentry at a local vocational school. One day while out at a hostess bar with a friend from school, he meets the beautiful, but strange Satoshi (Aoi). Unbeknownst to him, his quiet life is about to be seriously interrupted. Shiraiwa and Satoshi begin playing a back-and-forth game of courtship that challenges him in unforseen ways.

Screenings:  Nov. 3, 8 p.m. | Nov. 11, 5:30 p.m.

“DESPERATE SUNFLOWERS” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 105 min.

Written by Nozomi Katsura and Masafumi Nishida. Directed by Kuroki Hitomi.

“Desperate Sunflowers” is based on Nozomi Katsura’s 2010 best-selling novel, “Iyana Onna,” with veteran actress Hitomi Kuroki making her directorial debut in a film about feuding female cousins who are as different as night and day.

Tetsuko is a no-nonsense, career-driven attorney, while her free-spirited cousin, Natsuko, is a schemer. Natsuko tells Tetsuko she wants to hire her to sue her former fiancé for breaking off their engagement. While investigating Natsuko’s claim, Tetsuko learns that Natsuko intended to cheat her former fiancé, which Natsuko denies. She walks out on Tetsuko without paying for legal services.

Life then begins to implode for Tetsuko, personally and professionally, even as she tries to be optimistic. Just then, Natsuko returns with another suspect legal problem.

In time, Tetsuko learns some life lessons from her free-spirited cousin and, surprise, so does her swindler cousin.

Screenings:  Nov. 4, 5:30 p.m.

“AFTER THE STORM” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 117 min.

Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda.

A powerful tale of family ties broken and reconnected by the award-winning director of “Our Little Sister” and “Like Father Like Son.” Hiroshi Abe (“Thermae Romae,” “Cape Nostalgia”) is Ryota, a struggling novelist who works as a private detective by day. Early in his career, Ryota was a prize-winning author; now he wastes his money on gambling and barely writes.

After his father dies, Ryota tries to reconnect with his aging mother (Kirin Kiki, “An”), his 11-year-old son Shingo and his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki, “Like Father Like Son”). Amidst these fumbling and unsuccessful attempts, a summer typhoon brings the whole family together on a fateful night that might be their opportunity to bond once again.

Kore-eda again shows his skillful mastery of the family drama.

Screenings:  Nov. 4, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 12, 6 p.m.

Photo of “Harmo–nium” screens on Nov. 5 and 11.

“Harmo–nium” screens on Nov. 5 and 11.

  “HARMONIUM” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 118 min.

Directed by Koji Fukada.

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Koji Fukada (“Hospitalite”) returns with an intimate and disturbing portrayal of a family undone. Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and his wife Fumie (Mariko Tsutsui) live a quiet life with their young daughter, with Toshio running a small metalworking shop from their home.

One day, an old friend, Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), just released from prison, appears at Toshio’s door, seeking a job. Toshio feels he can’t turn Yasaka away and takes him into the family home. Everything seems fine at first, with Toshio’s wife and daughter quickly warming up to the stranger. But as the truth about Yasaka’s and Toshio’s past begins to reveal itself, Yasaka’s true intentions come into question.

An intense and heartbreaking story, “Harmonium” is Fukada’s best film to date, with exceptional performances by Furutachi and Tsutsui. “Harmonium” premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim.

Screenings:  Nov. 5, 6 p.m. | Nov. 11, 8 p.m.

“A BRIDE FOR RIP VAN WINKLE” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 178 min.

Written and directed by Shunji Iwai.

Iwai’s (“All About Lily Chou-Chou,” “Hana and Alice”) latest film is an ethereal tale of life, love and loneliness in modern Japan. Twenty-something Nanami (Haru Kuroki, “The Little House,” “The Case of Hana and Alice”) is floating through life when she meets and marries Tetsuya. With hardly any family, she turns to an online contact, Amuro (Go Ayano, “Twisted Justice” – HIFF 2016), to help her “fill seats” at her wedding. Things soon begin falling apart. Her husband becomes suspicious of her, and she suspects he may be cheating on her. Nanami again seeks Amuro’s help as the situation goes from bad to worse.

As things come to a head, Amuro finds a job as a housekeeper at an old mansion with an elusive girl named Mashiro (singer Cocco). Although the circumstances seem strange, Nanami and Mashiro become fast friends. However, Nanami soon realizes that Amuro, Mashiro and the mansion are not what they seem.

Screenings:  Nov. 5, 8 p.m. | Nov. 7, 7:45 p.m.

“CINEMA ANGEL” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 93 min.

Written and directed by Hideyuki Tokigawa.

The Daikokuza cinema in Hiroshima was the oldest movie theater in Japan, screening films for 122 years, until 2014, when the cinema was forced to close its doors. “Cinema Angel,” a fictional film about the Daikokuza staff, its longtime patrons and a strange apparition that haunts its halls, takes place during the final days of the theater.

Asuka works at the Daikokuza, although she hasn’t been there for very long. When the cinema’s longtime staff, manager and patrons are devastated by the impending closure of the theater, she doesn’t understand why . . . until she begins having strange dreams and comes across a mysterious elderly man in the theater. She then discovers why the theater is so precious and the power of cinema to change lives. “Cinema Angel” is a love letter to the Daikokuza cinema and independent theaters around the globe. The entire film was shot in the real-life Daikokuza before it closed.

Screenings:  Nov. 6, noon | Nov. 7, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 12, 3 p.m. (Regal Kapolei) | Nov. 19, 3:30 p.m. (Palace Theater – Hilo) | Nov. 20, 3 p.m. (Waimea Theater – Kaua‘i)

“RASHOMON” | Special Presentation | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 88 min.

Photo of “Rashomon” screens on Nov. 6. (Photos courtesy HIFF)

“Rashomon” screens on Nov. 6. (Photos courtesy HIFF)

Written by Shinobu Hashimoto and Akira Kurosawa. Directed by Akira Kurosawa.

In 12th century Japan, a samurai and his wife are attacked by the notorious bandit Tajomaru, leaving the samurai dead. Tajomaru, masterfully played by Toshiro Mifune, is captured a short time later and is put on trial. But his story and that of the wife are so completely different that a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered samurai to give his own testimony. He tells yet another completely different story. Finally, a woodcutter who found the body reveals that he saw the entire incident. But his version, too, is completely different from that of everyone else.

Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” is likely the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as the four witnesses recount different versions of the same crime.

HIFF is honored to screen this digital restoration of the Japanese classic film, which is being shown as a companion piece to Steven Okazaki’s documentary, “Mifune: The Last Samurai,” which has been nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Screening:  Nov. 6, 2 p.m.

“WHAT A WONDERFUL FAMILY!” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 108 min.

Written by Emiko Hiramatsu and Yoji Yamada. Directed by Yoji Yamada.

“What a Wonderful Family!” is a joyful and comedic tale of family life in modern Japan. Retired curmudgeon Shuzo lives a life of relative peace with his doting wife Tomiko, their two sons, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. But when Tomiko’s birthday arrives — and Shuzo has, again, forgotten about it — she asks for a very special birthday present: a divorce. Shuzo thinks she’s joking. When it’s clear that Tomiko is serious, one-by-one, the family members get involved.

Everyone has an opinion and a solution, from a private detective to an intervener. While they don’t always get along, the family must come together in order to keep their family intact. Will they be able to keep their parents from splitting up?

A hilarious, touching and often insightful look at family, love and marriage and an overall feel-good film for audiences of all ages.

Screenings:  Nov. 6, 5 p.m. | Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m.

“MY KOREAN TEACHER” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 98 min.

Written by Yuzo Asahara, Kevin DC Chang and Tomoko Fushimi. Directed by Yuzo Asahara.

Yesung of “Super Junior” makes his film debut in an Okinawan romantic comedy with a Korean twist. While on a business trip to Okinawa, Young Ung learns he has been let go from his job. To make matters worse, he discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him. Ung begins wandering the streets. When he is overheard speaking Korean by a local schoolmaster, he is recruited as a Korean language teacher. Ung is in over his head until he meets Sakura, a young mother who is desperate to learn Korean.

Screenings:  Nov. 8, 6:15 p.m. | Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m.

“THE BOOK PEDDLER (UMI SUZUME)” | International Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 108 min.

Directed by Kenichi Omori. Cinematography by Tetsuro Imai.

Uwajima, in southern Japan, is a picturesque city with a rich history that is 400 years old. “The Book Peddler” is based on a true and touching story about community and culture in provincial Japan.

Suzume and other book peddlers provide one of the city’s most unique services — bicycle delivery of library books. They spend their days riding throughout the island, picking up and delivering books to grateful patrons. When a book needed for the town’s 400th anniversary celebration is discovered missing, the library is thrown into chaos, as it contains the design for a special kimono needed for the celebration parade. Meanwhile, the library is suffering from budget cuts and the survival of the book delivery service is thrown into question. The book delivery team must save both the celebration and their jobs! An uplifting film for audiences of all ages.

Screenings:  Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 12, 11:30 a.m. | Nov. 13, 12:30 p.m. (Regal Kapolei)

“TWISTED JUSTICE” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/English subtitles | 134 min.

Written by Junya Ikegami. Directed by Kazuya Shiraishi.

Shiraishi (“The Devil’s Path”) presents this sweeping crime thriller about the blurred lines of justice in snowy Hokkaidö. “Twisted Justice” is based on the true story of the biggest police scandal in Japanese history, spanning three decades. It is the story of investigator Moroboshi (Go Ayano), a young recruit who struggles with the pressure to increase his quota of arrests and begins to take matters into his own hands.

Screenings:  Nov. 10, 8:45 p.m. | Nov. 12, 8:15 p.m.

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