Photo for film “Go For Broke: An Origin Story” is the closing film of the Hawaii International Film Festival.
“Go For Broke: An Origin Story” is the closing film of the Hawaii International Film Festival.

HIFF 37 Will Take Moviegoers to 45 Countries Through 150-Plus Films

Karleen C. Chinen

The following is a list of the Japanese- and Japanese American-related films in this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival, Presented by Halekulani. For your planning convenience, we have listed them in chronological order.

SECTION: OPENING NIGHT FILM, PLANET ANIME

“MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 103 min.

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

From Academy Award®-nominated director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (“When Marnie was There,” “The Secret World of Arrietty”) and Academy Award®-nominated producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “When Marnie was There”) comes a dazzling and beautifully animated new adventure for all ages. “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s book, “The Little Broomstick,” about a young girl named Mary who discovers a flower that grants magical powers, but only for one night.

This is Yonebayashi’s third feature film and his first since leaving Studio Ghibli. “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is a delightful children’s fantasy film that perfectly captures the charm and whimsy of a classic Studio Ghibli tale, but with an updated and more modern look. It combines the work of a small group of Studio Ghibli stalwarts with some of the best talents in Japan’s TV and film animation studios today in crafting a family-friendly story reminiscent of early Ghibli favorites with a dash of Harry Potter.

Screening: Nov. 2, 8 p.m.

Photo for “Mary and the Witch’s Flower.”
“Mary and the Witch’s Flower.”

SECTION: PLANET ANIME, SPOTLIGHT ON
JAPAN

“NAPPING PRINCESS” | Festival Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 111 min.

Director: Kenji Kamiyama

The year is 2020. The Tökyö Olympics is set to open in three days. Kokone Morikawa should be studying for her exams; instead, she is dozing off, stuck between reality and a dream world full of fantastic motorized contraptions. But after her father — a talented, but mysterious mechanic — is arrested for stealing technology from a powerful corporation, Kokone and her childhood friend Morio decide to save him. Together, they realize that Kokone’s dream world holds the answers to the mystery behind the stolen technology and they embark on a journey that traverses dreams and reality, city and country, and past and present. Their mission uncovers a trail of clues to her father’s disappearance and, ultimately, a surprising revelation about Kokone’s family.

From visionary director Kenji Kamiyama (“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex,” “Eden of the East”) comes a sci-fi fantasy that effortlessly weaves together the rapidly evolving technology of today’s world with the fantastic imagination of the next generation. With an ambitious mix of multilayered action, whimsical characters and inventive machines, “Napping Princess” is a genre- and universe-blending film that shows that following your dreams is sometimes the best way to discover your past.

Screenings: Nov. 3, 6:15 p.m. | Nov. 5, 2:30 p.m. | Nov. 18, 3:15 p.m., Waimea Theater (Kaua‘i)

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“BIRDS WITHOUT NAMES” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2016 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 123 min.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

In director Kazuya Shiraishi’s gripping tale of eros, deprivation and desire, an unstable young woman pines for an old boyfriend who nearly beat her to death.

This cinematic adaptation of Mahokaru Numata’s novel features a powerful performance by Japanese star Yu Aoi as Towako in the role of an unstable and depressed young woman. “Birds Without Names” is ultimately about the extremes unrequited love can push people to and is a unique work that defies genre definitions. Oscillating from thriller to melodrama, the film echoes Brian De Palma and Park Chan-wook with its vivid depiction of immoral actions and emotional turbulence.

Towako lives with Jinji (Sadawo Abe), a man 15 years her senior. She doesn’t love him, but lets him take care of her. Jinji is a simple blue-collar worker who supports Towako financially, cooks her food and even provides for her sexual pleasure. But Towako cannot forget her ex-boyfriend Kurosaki (Yutaka Takenouchi). The love, excitement and good times with him keep replaying in her mind and nothing and no one seems to be able to fill her emptiness — not even her steamy affair with Mizushima (Tori Matsuzaka). One day, a policeman arrives at her door with sinister news: Kurosaki has been missing for eight years — ever since the day he nearly beat her to death.

The gripping storytelling in “Birds Without Names” matches the beautiful, yet grim mise en scène. A tale of eros, deprivation and desire told with desperate intensity, Kazuya Shiraishi’s latest film takes the audience inside a dark labyrinth of criminal passions. — Toronto International Film Festival

Screenings: Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m. | Nov 9, 5:30 p.m.

SECTION: FANTASTIC ASIA, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“BEFORE WE VANISH” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 129 min.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Narumi’s husband isn’t the man he used to be. After going missing for several days, Shinji (Ryuhei Matsuda, “The Great Passage,” “The Mohican Comes Home,” “The Scythian Lamb”) can’t seem to recall anything about his life or how to be human. While Narumi sets about trying to get him back to normal, everyone else they encounter starts getting stranger and bizarrely forgetful.

Unbeknownst to them, Shinji is one of three alien scouts who have been sent to earth to steal their “concepts” in preparation for a mass invasion. Snatching up the concepts of good, evil, family, property and even self from those they encounter, the alien visitors leave their hosts dazed and confused along the way.

When it comes time to signal the motherland to begin the invasion, will the three follow through on their mission? Or will their discoveries about humanity change their heartless plans? Legendary genre filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Cure,” “Pulse,” “Tokyo Sonata,” “Journey to the Shore”) returns with a unique spin on the sci-fi genre, reinventing the alien movie as a unique and profoundly human tale of love and mystery — with a serious dose of comic relief along the way.

Screenings: Nov. 3, 8:45 p.m. | Nov. 6, 8:30 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“A BEAUTIFUL STAR” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 127 min.

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Weatherman Juichiro (Lily Franky, “Our Little Sister,” “After the Storm”) seems to have it all: a great family, a job and even a little love on the side. But after a strange encounter on the road one night, he suddenly becomes convinced that he is an alien from Mars who has been sent to Earth to rescue humanity. Things get a bit weirder when his son (Kazuya Kamenashi, “Vancouver Asahi”) and daughter (Ai Hashimoto, “Confessions, the World of Kanako”) start claiming their own celestial heritage, too. Will this alien family join forces to save the planet after all, or are they just the butt of a great cosmic joke?

Director Daihachi Yoshida (“Scythian Lamb,” also in the 2017 Festival, “Funuke Show Some Love You Losers!”), master of the black comedy, presents this hilarious genre-bending adaptation of a Yukio Mishima novel that will keep you guessing until the end.

Photo for “A Beautiful Star.” (Photos courtesy Hawaii International Film Festival)
“A Beautiful Star.” (Photos courtesy Hawaii International Film Festival)

Screenings: Nov. 3, 9 p.m. | Nov. 4, 3:45 p.m.

SECTION: PLANET ANIME, SPOTLIGHT ON
JAPAN

“LU OVER THE WALL” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 112 min.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

From visionary anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa comes a hallucinogenic yet family-friendly take on the classic fairy tale of the little mermaid who falls in love with humankind and then comes ashore to join a dysfunctional middle school rock band, propelling them to fame.

New kid Kai is talented, but adrift, spending his days sulking and isolated in a small fishing village after his family moves from Tökyö. When he demonstrates his proficiency at making music on his synthesizer, his classmates invite him to join their nascent garage band, but their practice sessions soon bring an unexpected guest: Lu, a young mermaid whose fins turn to feet when she hears the beats and whose singing causes humans to dance compulsively, whether they want to or not.

Winner of the grand prize at Annecy, “Lu Over the Wall” is a toe-tapping, feel-good demonstration of Yuasa’s genre-mixing mastery that will leave you humming long after you leave the theater.

Screenings: Nov. 4, 3 p.m. | Nov. 12, 5:15 p.m.

SECTION: ALPHABET SOUP SHORTS

“DAD’S WEDDING” | North American Premiere | Japan | 2016 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 30 min.

Director: Momoko Fukuda

Seiko goes home to celebrate her father’s second marriage. Much to Seiko’s surprise, however, the bride she meets is not a woman but rather her father wearing makeup. Seiko cannot accept that. What she does understand, however, is her father’s love for his family.

Screening: Nov. 4, 8:30 p.m.

SECTION: FANTASTIC ASIA, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“ICHI THE KILLER” | Return Engagement | Japan | 2001 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 128 min.

Director: Miike Takashi

HIFF is honored to present a special restoration of Takashi Miike’s shocking cult classic, “Ichi the Killer.” Bursting onto the scene in 2001, “Ichi the Killer” was a landmark film for Japanese genre film and cemented Takashi Miike as one of the boldest and most outrageous filmmakers of his generation. Fresh off of his run with the shock-horror “Audition,” Miike crafted a brilliant, ultra-violent tale that brought together classic yakuza gangster tropes with those of the violent serial killer thriller. It caused quite a stir when it was released in 2001. Its graphic scenes of violence and sadism led to cuts and outright bans in many countries.

For the un-initiated . . . sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano in one of his most infamous roles) is on the prowl, searching for his missing boss. When he comes across a rival psychotic killer named Ichi, he must prepare for an ultra-violent showdown.

While Miike is one of the most prolific Japanese directors working today (leading an average of five to seven films per year for almost a decade, with 102 directing credits to his name), “Ichi the Killer” continues to stand out as one of his greatest works. Beautifully restored from its original Beta to 35mm version, this is a rare opportunity to see this incredible film on the big screen. — Anna Page

Screening: Nov. 4, 8:45 p.m.

SECTION: PLANET ANIME, SPOTLIGHT ON
JAPAN

“JUNK HEAD” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 115 min.

Director: Takahide Hori

It has been centuries since human beings abandoned mortality and natural reproduction, and centuries since they delegated danger and drudgery to clones, only to see their subjugated creations revolt and exile themselves in the vast subterranean underworld. Now the humans up above have begun exploring this lost world, embarking on exploratory missions as fraught and uncertain as any in the history of the species. Once docile, fabricated servants, the creatures have become a vast array of absurd and terrifying monstrosities. But humans, too, have changed, altered almost unrecognizably — and the changes aren’t over yet.

A painter, sculptor, doll-obsessed model-maker and interior designer, Japan’s Takahide Hori is president and director of the studio Yamiken. Hori is also a rising talent in the field of stop-motion animation. “Junk Head” confirms Hori’s lurid imagination and maniacal dedication to detail in the execution of his craft. The sci-fi, cyber-horror concoction, “Junk Head,” first saw light as a short film, released in 2013 and snatching up prizes at the Yubari and Clermont-Ferrand festivals. Hori took the hint and settled into expanding his ideas into a full feature film, a biomechanical nightmare tempered with unexpected twists and deft wit — imagine “Fraggle Rock” through the eyes of H.R. Giger and Hieronymus Bosch. Almost a decade in the making, Hori’s “Junk Head” is this year’s unheralded delight. — Fantasia Film Festival

Screening: Nov. 4, 9 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN, SOUND X VISION

“TALES OF CHIGASAKI — MY LITTLE
HOMETOWN”
| International Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 93 min.

Director: Izuru Kumasaka

Chigasaki is no ordinary seaside town in Japan. It has produced many cultural and musical figures, including popular singer Keisuke Kuwata of the band Southern All-Stars. This unique docudrama asks: Why is Chigasaki so special, especially in churning out such talented artists? Besides Kuwata, other major figures include famed director Yasujiro Ozu, kabuki actor Danjuro Ichikawa and music pioneer Yuzo Kayama.

Ostensibly, the documentary begins to explore Kuwata’s life via interviews with his childhood friend, Junichi Miyaji, who is not only Japan’s top record collector, but a leading music promoter, as well.

The film then takes a strange turn as it employs the help of anthropologist Shinichi Nakazawa, who explores the history and many mysteries of Chigasaki that are deeply entwined with many music and cultural talents, such as Kuwata.

These two tracks converge with a dramatization of Kuwata’s origin story as a musician, the key moment in time when he became a full-fledged musician at a high school fair.

“Tales of Chigasaki” isn’t a documentary about Kuwata or Southern All-Stars. Rather, it is a spiritual examination of the residents’ connection to the land and sea, to childhood memories, and the rich history of Chigasaki itself, and how it all fits in the grand scheme of things. Admittedly, it gets pretty cosmic, but in the end, the film’s many ideas culminate to a crescendo, building up to the perfect harmony, capturing the mind and spirit of not only the town, but of the Japanese people. — Anderson Le

Screenings: Nov. 5, Noon

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“WHAT A WONDERFUL FAMILY! 2” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 113 min.

Director: Yoji Yamada

Several years have passed since Shuzo Hirata (Isao Hashizume) and his wife Tomiko (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) came very close to getting divorced. Shuzo enjoys getting out of the house and going for drives, but after his car starts to collect a lot of dents, his eldest son Konosuke (Masahiko Nishimura) and daughter-in-law Fumie (Yui Natsukawa) begin to worry about his safety as a driver and decide to ask him to relinquish his license.

As expected, Shuzo refuses to give up his license. While driving one day, he crosses paths with his former high school classmate, Ginpei Maruta, who he hasn’t spoken to in 40 years. Shuzo and Ginpei enjoy a night of drinking. When Shuzo lets Ginpei stay at his home for the night, his visit causes a string of events that shake up the Hirata family once again.

“What a Wonderful Family! 2” is an enjoyable sequel to the 2016 hit, “What a Wonderful Family!” by veteran director Yoji Yamada (“The Twilight Samurai,” “Tokyo Family”) and captures the Hirata family with honesty and hilarity and with laughs and touching moments throughout. — Ariel Ushijima

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

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“GUKOROKU: TRACES OF SIN” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2016 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 120 min.

Director: Kei Ishikawa

Young investigative reporter Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki, “Waterboys,” “Tokyo Family,” “Rage”) tries to keep busy by immersing himself in the shocking, unsolved murder case of an entire family killed in their home. At the same time, Tanaka has some trouble in his own life — his sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima, “Love Exposure,” “Sawako Decides,” “Kakekomi”) has recently been arrested for child neglect. As he tries to piece together what caused demure Mitsuko to do such a thing, he begins to interview those close to the murdered family.

As he sinks deeper into the investigation, he begins to realize that they may not have been the perfect family they appeared to be and that pieces from their past may cut a little too close to home. A clever, taut thriller with twists and turns until the end, “Gukoroku: Traces of Sin” marks a dark turn for stars Satoshi Tsumabuki and Hikari Mitsushima, showing dramatic range for both actors. This feature-length debut for director Kei Ishikawa proves he is one to watch in the coming years. — Anna Page

Screenings: Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m. | Nov. 8, 8:15 p.m.

SECTION: MADE IN HAWAI‘I,
DOCUMENTARIES

“PROOF OF LOYALTY: KAZUO YAMANE AND THE NISEI SOLDIERS OF HAWAII” | Hawai‘i Premiere | United States | 2017 | English | 55 min.

Directors: Don Sellers, Lucy Ostrander

Kazuo Yamane’s father, Uichi, immigrated to Hawai‘i from Japan in the late 19th century with nothing, and went on to build a business empire. His eldest son, Kazuo, first educated in Hawai‘i’s discriminatory school system, eventually graduated from Waseda University, the Harvard of Japan, and returned to Hawai‘i just before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Drafted just before the war, Kazuo Yamane became part of what would become the War Department’s most successful social experiment: taking Nisei troops from Hawai‘i and forming the 100th Infantry Battalion, a unit made up of American-born men whose ancestral roots were in Japan. Their success was spectacular.

Yamane was one of the original members of the 100th Battalion, but was one of 60 men who were subsequently transferred to the Military Intelligence Service so that their knowledge of Japanese language and culture could be employed in the war against Japan. Yamane singlehandedly discovered a priceless Japanese document and then was sent to Europe to prepare for a secret raid into Berlin. He eventually was assigned to the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Section, where he found the complete Japanese army ordnance inventory amid captured documents. Two of Yamane’s brothers also served in the MIS. Another served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After the war, Yamane returned to the Islands and, along with his brothers, continued the family business.

Producers Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers spent months researching and interviewing authorities such as historians Ted Tsukiyama and Tom Coffman for this documentary. A trailer of the film can be viewed at http://proofofloyalty.com. “Proof of Loyalty” won the Audience Choice Award (documentary) at the Asian American International Film Festival in New York in August.

Screenings: Nov. 7, 6 p.m. | Nov. 10, 1:30 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“THE SCYTHIAN LAMB” | North American Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 126 min.

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Suffering from population decline, the small seaside town of Uobuka decides to welcome six strangers into the community. A malevolent fishing boat operator (Kazuki Kitamura, “Thermae Romae,” “Neko Samurai”), a sexy caregiver, a frightening launderer, a timid barber, a methodical cleaning woman (Mikako Ichikawa, “Memories of Matsuko,” “Rent-a-Cat”) and a simple-minded deliveryman (Ryuhei Matsuda, “Before We Vanish,” “The Great Passage”) are brought together by this mysterious government-sponsored program. Even Tsukisue, the young city official put in charge of the program, has no idea why the six have been brought to town.

But when the truth comes out about the six strangers’ mysterious pasts and a body is discovered in the harbor, Tsukisue begins to suspect the motley crew of foul play. Part-black comedy and part-murder mystery thriller, this latest work from Daihachi Yoshida (also director of “A Beautiful Star” in the Festival this year, as well as HIFF favorite “Funuke,” “Show Some Love You Losers!”) blends humor and suspense perfectly. Don’t let the title fool you: With a star-studded ensemble cast, “The Scythian Lamb” is one of HIFF 2017’s most enjoyable films. — Anna Page

Screenings: Nov. 7, 8 p.m. | Nov. 11, 12:30 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“DEAR ETRANGER” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 127 min.

Director: Yukiko Mishima

Forty-something Makoto Tanaka (Tadanobu Asano) has three daughters — one from his previous marriage and two stepdaughters that he is raising with his second wife. While life can be a bit complicating, Makoto seems to manage juggling all of his responsibilities. But when his wife announces she is pregnant with another child, it throws their delicate balance into disarray, creating chaos within both families. A touching meditation on love and marriage and what it truly means to be “family.”

Screenings: Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 12, 2:30 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“OH LUCY!” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan, U.S. | 2017 | English, Japanese w/ English subtitles | 95 min.

Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi

Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima, also in this year’s “Dear Etranger”) is a lonely, middle-aged, chain-smoking office lady who doesn’t have much of a social life. But when her niece convinces her to take an English class, she discovers a new identity as her American alter-ego “Lucy,” befriending her “classmate” (Koji Yakusho) and maybe falling for her hunky instructor, John (Josh Hartnett). But when John and her niece suddenly disappear, Setsuko and her straight-laced sister take off across the globe to sunny California to find them. Unfortunately, things may be more complicated than they appeared.

A mix of black comedy, romance and family drama, “Oh Lucy!” is a hilarious, touching and heartbreaking road movie about love, loneliness and connection. Director Atsuko Hirayanagi proves she is someone to watch in her feature debut, and actress Shinobu Terajima shines in one of the best roles of her career. Straight from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, “Oh Lucy!” is a must-see at HIFF 2017! — Anna Page

Screenings: Nov. 8, 6 p.m. | Nov. 10, 3:15 p.m.

SECTION: EAT. DRINK. FILM.

“JIMAMI TOFU” | World Premiere | Japan, Singapore | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 121 min.

Directors: Jason Chan and Christian Lee

Ryan (Jason Chan) is an ambitious Singaporean chef working in Tökyö. When his food critic wife Yuki suddenly disappears, he is left reeling. In an effort to find her, Ryan sets off for her hometown in Okinawa, searching for clues. While Yuki is nowhere in sight, he discovers flavors beyond his imagination at her father’s restaurant.

With the help of Yuki’s childhood friend Nami, Ryan decides he must convince Yuki’s father to teach him his secret recipes. Reluctant at first, her father finally relents to teaching him, although Ryan’s Tökyö-style cooking will not fly in this kitchen. When Yuki’s father suddenly falls ill, will Ryan have what it takes to take over the family business? And will he win back Yuki along the way?

Written and directed by the Singapore duo of Jason Chan and Christian Lee, this international film proves that home is truly in our taste buds. A beautiful and delicious meditation on love, food and our deep connection to place, “Jimami Tofu” is a mouth-watering delight that will have you craving Okinawan home-cooking for days! — Anna Page

Screenings: Nov. 9, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 11, 5:30 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“SEKIGAHARA” | International Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 149 min.

Director Masato Harada will be in attendance at the festival.

In October 1600, the battle of Sekigahara changed the fate of Japan forever, ending the Sengoku Period and ushering in a new era. In this stunning epic film from director Masato Harada (“Emperor in August,” “Kakekomi”), Koji Yakusho is cast in the lead role of Ieyasu Tokugawa. This fateful battle is brought to life in blazing glory for the first time ever on the big screen.

Honing in on those close to Tokugawa and his rival Mitsunari (Junichi Okada), Harada frames the deeply complex story expertly around straight-arrow loyalist Mitsunari, whose fatal flaw as a general is a stubborn reluctance to adapt to unpleasant new circumstances, and Ieyasu, the canny strategist ready, willing and able to finagle his way to success. A tale of betrayal, intrigue, espionage, war and love, “Sekigahara” is a must-see at HIFF 2017. — Anna Page

Screenings: Nov. 9, 8:15 p.m. | Nov. 12, 7:45 p.m.

SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“CLOSE-KNIT” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 127 min.

Director Naoko Ogigami will attend a special post-screening Q&A

Eleven-year-old Tomo has been taking care of herself since her irresponsible single mother is incapable of doing so. After her mother abandons her, Tomo turns to her Uncle Makio to look after her. Arriving at his house, Tomo meets Makio’s kind and genuine girlfriend Rinko, who is “a little different.” The three bond and Rinko becomes the mother Tomo never had, making her bentö and comforting her when she is down. But the situation is not without complications.

Naoko Ogigami’s (“Kamome Diner,” “Rent-A-Cat”) “Close-Knit” represents a big step for Japan, where LGBTQ issues are brought to light in a country that encourages everyone “to blend in.” Ogigami portrays these characters as regular people who don’t want to seem different from everyone else. She offers a fresh and easy to understand perspective on the LGBTQ community in Japan that is otherwise unseen. Boy idol Toma Ikuta shines in the lead as Rinko, making “Close-Knit” one of the must-see films of 2017. — Ariel Ushijima

Screenings: Nov. 9, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 10, 1:45 p.m.

SECTION: PLANET ANIME, SPOTLIGHT ON
JAPAN

“MUTAFUKAZ” | Hawai‘i Premiere | France, Japan | 2017 | French w/ English subtitles | 90 min.

Director: Guillaume Renard, Shoujirou Nishimi

The iconic comic book series created in 2008 by Run (aka Guillaume Renard) and the Sundance 2003-nominated animated short are the antecedents to this triply, mind-blowing animated feature film.

After a scooter accident provoked by a mysterious woman’s vision, Angelino, a deadbeat like thousands of others in Dark Meat City, starts getting violent migraines that are accompanied by strange hallucinations. Along with his good buddy Vinz, he tries to figure out what’s happening to him while threatening “men in black” seem determined to catch him.

After a painstaking creative process that took over seven years of back-and-forth between Tökyö, Los Angeles and Northern France, the sleazy urban style of “Mutafukaz” has finally hit the big screen. Co-directors Shojiro Nishimi (“Batman: Gotham Knight,” “Mind Game”) and Guillaume Renard rose to the challenge of transposing the unusual style of Renard’s comic books to the screen. The result is sure to attract old fans and convert new fans into this French/U.S./Japanese/Reggaeton amalgam of a film.

Screenings: Nov. 9, 8:45 p.m. | Nov. 11, 6:45 p.m.

SECTION: GREEN SCREEN DOCUMENTARIES

“ZAN” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 73 min.

Director: Yu Kisami

“Zan” is both a contemplative, spiritual documentary as well as a call-to-action about the last of the Okinawan dugong and the people who strive to protect them. With beautiful imagery capturing the outstandingly beautiful and bio-diverse Henoko in northern Okinawa’s Oura Bay, the dugong is facing its last stand. Its feeding grounds are being threatened by the construction of a U.S. Marine base, where locals dispute the military’s assessment that their construction will not impact the population (numbering less than 10 dugongs in the region). The film also chronicles Okinawan residents, mostly elderly, who have never been political, taking action to protest this construction.

Director Yu Kisami takes us on a journey of discovery, chronicling the activists, historians and citizens who are working tirelessly to protect this beautiful part of the world, with the dugong as more than an animal on the brink of extinction. The dugong is also a marine deity that is entwined in Okinawan history and folklore and is an integral part of Okinawan culture that is also being erased by Japanese assimilation.

“Zan” is a time capsule of Okinawa today, as past, present and future battle to preserve the indigenous Okinawan culture. The film also highlights a common plight being shared among other First Peoples of the Pacific Rim in which geo-politics, unchecked, can eradicate not only an entire species, but a way of life, as well. — Anderson Le

Screenings: Nov. 10, 6 p.m. | Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater

SECTION: ADULTING SHORTS

“WASABI” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 29 min.

Director: Bunji Sotoyama

Aoi, a high school student, lives with her father, Kazuo, a sushi restaurant owner who suffers from depression. As a result, Kazuo is unable to operate it. Aoi has no choice but to take over for her father in order to save the restaurant, even though being a sushi chef is not what she wants to be. No one seems to be able to help her, not even her own mother, Fusako, who is living with her new husband. One night, Aoi bumps into Mr. Umeda, the ex-coach of her former little league baseball team. She asks him to practice batting because his pitch has power. Aoi makes up her mind and tells her father that she will take over the restaurant.

Screenings: Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

SECTION: FANTASTIC ASIA, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN

“SURVIVAL FAMILY” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 118 min.

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi

A master of Japanese black comedy bites again. A typical middle-class, middle-aged salaryman (Fumiyo Kohinata) and his stay-at-home wife (Eri Fukatsu) live a typical life in a typical Tökyö flat with their high school-aged daughter (Wakana Aoi) and their son (Yuki Izumisawa), a university student who shields his emotions behind his technological gadgets. Safe and somewhat spoiled in their comfort zones, they are unprepared for what comes next.

One morning, they wake up to a complete blackout. They rush to work and school, doggedly determined to maintain business as usual. As the outage continues and supplies run low, they go on an epic road trip, cycling from Tökyö, across Japan to their grandfather’s farm in Kagoshima, following a children’s map of Japan. A post-apocalyptic comedy full of laughs and harsh lessons, “Survival Family” will lead you to question everything you take for granted. — NYAFF

Screenings: Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 12, 5 p.m.

SECTION: CLOSING NIGHT FILM, MADE IN HAWAI‘I

“GO FOR BROKE: AN ORIGIN STORY” | World Premiere | United States (Hawai‘i) | 2017 | English | 90 min.

Director: Alexander Bocchieri

Set in the tumultuous year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this true story follows a group of University of Hawai‘i ROTC students as they fight discrimination by forming the Varsity Victory Volunteers. The brave actions of these young Japanese Americans (including a young Daniel Inouye), along with the perseverance of the original 100th Infantry Battalion draftees from Hawai‘i, led to the formation of the Japanese American fighting unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Besides the 1951 Hollywood movie, “Go for Broke,” starring Van Johnson, there have been numerous documentaries, TV episodes and other works chronicling the bravery of the 442nd. The aforementioned MGM film, which was nominated for Best Screenplay during that season’s Academy Awards, barely scratched the surface on the backstory behind the plight of Japanese Americans to prove their patriotism at a time when xenophobia was rampant.

Producer Stacey Hayashi’s initial curiosity about the story of Nisei soldiers s in Hawai‘i led to an almost-two-decade journey to put their definitive stories into pop entertainment — from short films to a graphic comic book and, finally, to “Go for Broke: An Origin Story,” which is the intended first chapter of what she hopes will be several more films on these young Japanese Americans.

With deft direction from Alex Bocchieri and impressive lensing from cinematographers Anthony Vallejo-Sanderson and Jeremy Snell, “Go for Broke: An Origin Story” is a testament to Hawai‘i’s local film community coming together to make an important document on screen for future generations and to present this film to the last surviving veterans.

HIFF is honored to present the world premiere of “Go for Broke: An Origin Story.”

Screenings: Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m., Hawaii Theater | Nov. 16, 7 p.m., Waimea Theater (Kaua‘i) | Nov. 19, 7:15 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater (Hawai‘i island)

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Photo from “Jimami Tofu.”
“Jimami Tofu.”

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