This picture shows last year's festival at the Rotterdam-based Lantaren Venster venue. Even if you don't intend to go see films, it's always worth a visit due to the stalls, exhibitions, food, books... in a previous year the festival had re-created a Tokyo manga cafe, complete with maids, in other years you could wrestle or even get a massage, or learn origami...
For our recommendations for this year, click the sides of this image to flick though the gallery, as there is bound to be something for everyone.
Okita Shuichi's The Mohican Comes Home is the opening film of the festival this year. It's a drama about a slacker metal artist who is about to become a father, while he's trying to reconcile with his own dying father.
Heavy stuff, it would seem, but director Okita has shown in previous films like The Woodsman and the Rain that he can easily juggle humor with serious topics (or the other way round), and he has assembled a killer cast here with Matsuda Ryuhei, Maeda Atsuko and Emoto Akira.
Last year, the festival showed Assassination Classroom, and it was for me the most fun film I saw there. It tells a totally bizarre story about an indestructible alien who will blow up Earth inj a year, unless someone manages to kill him first. And to even the odds a bit, he teaches a class of rejected children how to kill him. Will they manage to do that though? Or do they end up liking their teacher too much?
With such a daft plot, the film surprisingly managed to be exciting, funny and (dare I say it?) somewhat moving!
It only told the first half of the story though, so I'm glad to see the concluding sequel Assassination Classroom: Graduation is here this year!
They don't have one every year, but whenever they do, I make sure to be there: a Sake-tasting event!
The world of Sake is a surprisingly diverse one, and like with European wine, many sorts exist: red, white, some need to be drunk cold, some at room temperature, some warm... be prepared to become well inebriated during the evening though, as the alcohol percentage is not to be sneezed at.
This year, the tasting has a particularly strong start: a screening of the award-winning documentary Kampai! For the Love of Sake.
Few people in the world can do horror as well as Kiyoshi Kurosawa does, so the fact that his newest film Creepy is, well, creepy as hell, should not come as a surprise.
What does come as a surprise is that Kiyoshi Kurosawa has himself "a bit of nasty fun" here, as stated in Teresa Nieman's review.
Remember that announcement from studio Nikkatsu, in which they said they were going to make Roman Porno films again? Or seen their trailer?
Well, Shiota Akihito's Wet Woman in the Wind is one of the films in the Roman Porno Reboot Project, a soft-core comedy in which a woman plots sexual revenge on the man who rejected her.
Speaking of Roman Porno, one of the best reviewed films in that genre is Kumashiro Tatsumi's soft-core romantic drama Lovers are Wet from 1976 (pictured here), and it's being shown at the festival as well.
Speaking of films from the past: writer Tom Mes is an expert on Japanese cinema, and will be hosting an evening where strange old videotapes will be shown. Rest assured there will be copious amounts of bad, bizarre and exploitative clips!
Quoting from the program, these are some of the things you'll see a lot of:
Exploding helicopters! Fighting hunks in red bandanas! Bikini girls with machine guns!
A bored actor falls in love with a waitress and suddenly feels life has more to offer him. This plotline would be a disaster scenario in most films, but director Yokohama Satoko has made it an intelligent comedy with some great flights of fancy.
Check this interview (link) The Lady Miz Diva had with her earlier this year.
In Doi Nobuhiro's Flying Colors, a dumb blonde teenager is (again) expelled from her school, and given a last chance to cram for her exams. One teacher suspects a hidden academic potential and after some pushing by him, to everyone's surprise, she starts gunning for the impossible: enlistment at Keio University, one of Japan’s top universities.
It's allegedly based on a true story and Flying Colors became one of Japan's biggest hits of last year. Dustin Chang mentioned in his mini-review that the film, while a big cliché, wins you over with sheer charm and great performances.
I mentioned the sake-tasting session, but the festival's market always has several stalls selling Japanese foodstuffs and beverages. And that's not all: every year I end up buying more stuff than I anticipate, be it wasabi-flavored cheetos, rare DVDs, sake, books, posters, cooking knives, or clothes...
And DEFINITELY green tea-flavored Kit-Kats! They're a must.
The central theme of this year's festival is comedy. This is not only reflected in the film programming, but there will also be performances by stand-up comedians, a workshop on traditional Japanese comical storytelling (called Rakugo), and an exposition of comical woodblock prints, like the one seen here.
As always, there is a sampling of cinematic anime at camera Japan this year, and one of the things to look forward to is Hara Keiichi's Miss Hokusai, which tells the story of the daughter of a famous painter, who ended up having painted several of his most famous works.
Kurt Halfyard caught the film earlier this year, and in his review he calls it "a rounded work of beauty and intellect".
In Nakamura Yoshihiro's The Magnificent Nine, a poor village gets unfairly taxed highly, upon which the residents concoct a dangerous scheme to swindle their landlord out of a lot of money.
In his review, Andrew Mack calls the film magnificent, and loads of fun.
When it starts raining panties and the world is in peril, only one pervert actually has enough decency in his soul (and indecency in his brain) to save us all! Yes, Hentai Kamen is back for more in HK2: The Abnormal Crisis. Watch this trailer, and that's all you need to know.