A machine-gun-wielding high school girl-yakuza boss? Time-travelling samurai? Sexual awakening in the final devastating days of WWII Tokyo? The true story of “the Japanese Schindler”? A goldfish girl seducing a dying novelist? These can mean only one thing: the Toronto Japanese Film Festival is back.
Now in its fifth year, the TJFF has grown into the largest Japanese film festival in North America. This year’s festival will be held from June 9 to 23 and will feature 25 films including many international, North American and Canadian premieres—along with special guests, receptions, musical performances and speaker sessions. Here are some highlights.
Gakuryu Ishii’s playfully surrealistic and gorgeously photographed literary fantasy is based on poet and novelist Saisei Muro’s 1959 masterpiece. A dying novelist is visited by a manic pixie girl—actually a goldfish in human form—who vies for his romantic attention with the ghost of his past lover and a young war widow. This willfully opaque but nevertheless engaging and breathtakingly beautiful contemplation on sex, death and literature is like nothing you have ever seen.
Friday, June 17, 7 pm | International Premiere Starring Ren Osugi, Fumi Nikaido, Maki Yoko, Kengo Kora, Masatoshi Nagase
*Contains scenes of violence and/or sexuality.
Admittance restricted to 18+
Koto goes contemporary
The screening will be preceded by a short performance by musical group The Jessica Stuart Few. This internationally touring folk-jazz-pop trio offer an unprecedented take on the Japanese koto along with exceptional guitar work, innovative songwriting and a vocal sensibility reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.
Humankind is threatened with extinction by an alien invasion of cannibalistic parasites. When high school student Shinichi
is attacked, he is able to fight off the parasite before it takes over his brain but not before his right hand is inhabited. He and the parasite, nicknamed Migi (Righty), develop an unusual friendship and together try to save the human race. The new film from the director of The Eternal Zero is a big-budget sci-fi thriller with humour, an all-star cast and some mind-blowing special effects.
Saturday, June 18, 7 pm
Starring Shota Sometani, Eri Fukatsu, Sadao Abe, Ai Hashimoto, Kazuki Kitamura, Tadanobu Asano
On August 9, 1948, Nobuko, a midwife in Nagasaki, mourns the loss of her son from the atomic bomb that was dropped three years earlier. Returning home one day, she is stunned to find his ghost waiting for her. This ghostly visit helps Nobuko comes to terms with her loss. This film is Yoji Yamada’s heartbreakingly beautiful study of war, love and family.
Thursday, June 9, 7:30 pm
North American Premiere
Starring Sayuri Yoshinaga, Kazunari Ninomiya, Haru Kuroki, Tadanobu Asano
Opening night reception
Before the screening, enjoy some tasty Japanese food and light refreshments. A Japanese sake and beer bar will be set up for opening night ticket holders.
Nobuo Mizuta’s charming remake of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Korean box-office smash tells the story of Katsu, a cantankerous and sharp-tongued 73-year-old woman who feels she missed out on life because she had to raise her daughter alone. Entering a mysterious photo studio, she finds that in a flash (literally) she is reborn in the body of a 20-year-old girl. She decides to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a singer and to repair her relationship with her daughter. A heartfelt fantasy film full of comedy, drama, family and song.
Wednesday, June 22, 7 pm
Starring Mikako Tabe, Mitsuko Basho, Satomi Kobayashi, Jun Kaname, Takumi Kitamura
An all-star cast leads Yoshihiro Nakamura’s comedy about the penniless residents of a poor town who cook up a financial scheme to turn around their fortunes. They will sell everything, anonymously lend large amounts of money back to the samurai estates, then distribute the resulting interest to the villagers. But the plan is not without its risks: if they are discovered, they will lose their heads—literally.
Thursday, June 23, 7 pm | International Premiere Starring Sadao Abe, Eita, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yuko Takeuchi, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yuzuru Hanyu
Closing night reception
Ticket holders can partake in sushi and light refreshments, as well as a Japanese sake and beer bar, which will be offered after the screening.
All screenings will take place at the Kobayashi Hall at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct., Toronto). The JCCC also features an art gallery, the Moriyama Nikkei Heritage Centre and two state-of-the-art martial arts dojos, so there is lots to do and see between screenings. Sushi will be on sale before screenings with sake available on select evenings.
For tickets, call 416-441-2345 or visit www.torontojff.com.
• Regular $12
For the screening of Chibi Maruko-Chan—The boy from Italy, a special price of $5 applies for children under 16 years old.
• 5-Film Pass $45 (150 passes are available.)
Purchasers receive a Shiseido beauty package as a gift.
• Deluxe 10-Film $90 Pass (50 passes are available.) Purchasers receive a deluxe Shiseido beauty package as a gift.
All films are presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
Thur, June 9
• Opening Night Reception 6:30 pm
• Nagasaki—Memories of My Son 7:30 pm
Fri, June 10
• The Inerasable 7 pm
• Sailor Suit and Machine Gun–Graduation 9:15 pm *Admittance restricted to 18+
Sat, June 11
• Pearls of the Stone Man 1:30 pm • The Big Bee 4 pm
• The Emperor in August 7 pm
Sun, June 12
• No Longer Heroine 1:30pm
• Chibi Maruko-chan––The Boy from Italy 4 pm • Persona Non Grata 7 pm
*Director Cellin Gluck in attendance
Mon, June 13
• Sweet Bean 7 pm
Tues, June 14
Wed, June 15
• Flying Colors: How a Teen Girl Went from Academic Absurdity to an Elite University in One Amazing Year 7 pm
*Preceded by performance by RAW (Raging Asian Women) Taiko Ensemble
Thur, June 16
• Being Good 7 pm
Fri, June 17
• Bitter Honey 7 pm
*Preceded by performance by The Jessica Stuart Few
Sat, June 18
• Rurouni Kenshin—Kyoto Inferno 1 pm
• Rurouni Kenshin—The Legend Ends 4 pm
• Parasyte 7 pm
*Preceded by Parasyte sound-effect demo by Goro Koyama
Sun, June 19
• Hana’s Miso Soup 1 pm
• Finding Calico 3:30 pm
• Kainan 1890–125 Years Memory 7 pm
Mon, June 20
• Nobunaga Concerto 7 pm
Tues, June 21
• When I was Most Beautiful 7 pm
Wed, June 22
Thur, June 23
• The Magnificent Nine 7 pm
• Closing Night Reception
Thur, July 21
• Parasyte Part 2—Completion 7 pm
All photos: courtesy of TJFF unless otherwise noted