Japan Cuts, Japan Society's annual festival of contemporary Japanese cinema, turns 10 this year.
What the value of a film festival is may seem easy to talk about in terms of age and program focus. It can also be hard to determine said value from these factors. Quality is often equated with fests that have been around for a few decades. This equates prestige. Most media may turn the other cheek to niche offerings, leaving genre fests in their respected ghettos, however brightly lit and populated with passionate devotees. Festivals that offer all kinds of films from a particular place on the map seem the most curious. But that's just it, this criteria shouldn't matter. We shouldn't even be having this discussion.
Japan Cuts proves something that is supremely simple: No matter its size, the town it takes place in, or how long it has been around, a good film festival dares to divide and unite by programming an entertaining, eclectic, and if at all possible challenging slate of films; one that will ultimately expand a viewer's cinematic pallet and educate in the most thrilling way we can use the term "media literacy"... and this time these kinds of offerings just so happen to come from one very fascinating island nation.
From cyberpunks to just plain punks, lonely actors and romantic manga artists, ScreenAnarchy featured critics Dustin Chang and Christopher Bourne preview just exactly what one can expect from this year's festival, happening July 14 - 24 at Japan Society in New York City.
MOTHER, I'VE PRETTY MUCH FORGOTTEN YOUR FACE
Michiro Endo, once the frontman of Japanese punk group Stalin, turned 60 in 2011. He decided to travel all around Japan and make a movie. Turning 60 in Japan, which is called called kanreki, has a special meaning. They consider the birthday as the day of your rebirth. That you are a newborn into the world again.
While touring and performing solo and with a group, Fukushima happens. Being a Fukushima native and that hasn't visited his mother regularly, Endo journeys back to his hometown with a Geiger counter. With other musicians, Endo creates Project Fukushima! and launches the festival on August 15, 2011. 'Japan suffered 2 atomic bombs (on August 15), and one nuclear meltdown- the latter one was our own fault' Endo explains, 'that maybe the way we lead our country after the war wasn't really right.' The festival was not to make Fukushima another place with a forever negative connotation.
Mother is a documentary of not only a poignant personal journey but a hopeful reflection of Japan after such national disaster. Endo cites small radio stations popping up amidst disasters, connecting people, young and old, people getting together and influencing each other. He's still kicking ass on stage though. His guttural, expletive filled screams against imperialists, parents and capitalism still resonate. -- Dustin Chang