The 10th annual JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film has announced the first of many highlights, including the Centerpiece Presentation film, select titles, and this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film.
Emphasizing the diversity and vitality of one of the most exciting world cinemas, JAPAN CUTS presents the best new movies made in and around Japan and the filmmakers and performers who made them, with new titles never before seen in New York and many screening for the first time outside Japan or in North America.
Slated for July 14-24, the 10th anniversary edition looks forward to the bold new talents who will influence future generations while looking back to the game-changing pioneers who helped shape the contemporary cinematic landscape. With the full 2016 line-up to be announced in June, major confirmed highlights include:
The Shell Collector - Centerpiece Presentation - North American Premiere
The second feature by director Yoshifumi Tsubota adapted from a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector stars revered Japanese actor, essayist and illustrator Lily Franky, who will join the screening to receive the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film. The Japan Times calls it, "Gorgeous… As the blind professor, Franky impresses with his almost preternatural sensitivity."
Three Stories of Love - New York Premiere
Named the best Japanese movie of 2015 in influential film magazine Kinema Junpo’s annual top 10 list, this immensely rich and expertly crafted original drama by award-winning auteur Ryosuke Hashiguchi (his first since 2008’s All Around Us) centers on the lives of three heartsick characters struggling to deal with the confrontation between their desires and a bleak reality. The film also won Kinema Junpo awards for Best Director, Best Screenwriter, and Best New Actor (Atsushi Shinohara).
Love & Peace - NYC Premiere
A passion project decades in the making, Love & Peace returns to the most persistent of director Sion Sono's wild assortment of themes: purity, passion, and cult power. A chilling, candy-colored fantasy of the nuclear age, this story of a pervy coward turned Bowie-esque rock god is a frantic meditation on artistic integrity and political responsibility, coming at a time when Sono's own career is mutating beyond the Japanese stadium. "Wonderfully daffy" (Variety), “Sono’s latest surreal offering feels like a genre-warping mash-up of Godzilla, Toy Story and Miracle on 34th Street" (The Hollywood Reporter).
A Road - North American Premiere
This Pia Film Festival Grand Prize-winning debut feature by 23-year-old Daichi Sugimoto is a refreshingly honest, inspired riff on a contemporary coming-of-age story that seamlessly blends narrative fiction and documentary with the young director playing the lead role. “Sugimoto paints an authentic portrait of a generation on its way to adulthood. [A Road] is a sensitive film about taking leave of childhood while preserving what it means to be a child.” – Berlin International Film Festival program notes.
"These first highlights exemplify this year's theme of looking back/looking forward to mark the 10th anniversary, particularly with regards to Japanese independent cinema, the importance of original voices, and the festivals’ ongoing mission to highlight the full range of cinematic output from Japan," says Aiko Masubuchi, head of film programming at Japan Society and one of three curators for the 2016 festival along with Kazu Watanabe and Joel Neville Anderson.
Two of the titles feature significant and established Japanese directors, Sion Sono and Ryosuke Hashiguchi, whose early work burst open doors for independent filmmakers and reinvigorated the film landscape in Japan. Newcomer Daichi Sugimoto uses cinema as self-reflection and exploration in the same spirit of the early films of Sono or Hashiguchi. Masubuchi notes, "With these storied filmmakers there was a fiercely independent attitude and approach mixed with an earnest desire to portray something honest about themselves and the world they live in. Sugimoto reminds us that that kind of cinema is still alive and well in Japan."
Similarly, The Shell Collector director Yoshifumi Tsubota follows the pursuit of personal expression and an original cinematic vision. His internationally-produced new film is an erotically-charged fantasy in which the world crashes in on a blind man attempting to pursue his passion of exploring ocean life shut away from society. Shot in Okinawa, The Shell Collector is local in its sense of place and global in its larger thematic meditations on nature and modernity.
In addition to screening some 30 feature length films, the 10th anniversary festival will include a handful of repertory screenings, dozens of narrative and avant-garde shorts, a filmmaking workshop, and will introduce a panel event consisting of filmmakers, producers, programmers, critics, and academics discussing the recent past and near future of Japanese cinema as well as the challenges of screening titles abroad in festivals and beyond.
Leading up to the festival, the Society will honor the festival’s ten-year benchmark with a ‘JAPAN CUTS Classic’ screening of Sion Sono’s Love Exposure on June 3, 2016, an audience favorite by one of contemporary Japanese cinema’s most influential filmmakers.
Lily Franky, this year's recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film, is a Japanese actor, illustrator, essayist, and author of the best-selling autobiographical novel Tokyo Tower: Me and Mom, and Sometimes Dad, which was adapted into a film in 2007. He is known to international film audiences for his performance in director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son, for which he won multiple awards including the Kinema Junpo and Japanese Academy awards for Best Supporting Actor. Other notable performances include Our Little Sister (directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda), Nobi (directed Shinya Tsukamoto), and The Devil’s Path (directed by Kazuya Shiraishi). The Shell Collector is Franky’s first starring role since 2008’s All Around Us by Ryosuke Hashiguchi.
Masubuchi says, “Over the last few years Lily Franky has quickly become one of the most sought after actors in Japanese cinema, working with major directors like Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike and gaining an increasingly international presence. For even the most casual fan of contemporary Japanese cinema he is an instantly recognizable figure, often stealing whatever scene he is in with his natural charisma and mysterious edge even when playing a supporting character."
Founded in 2007, JAPAN CUTS gives cinephiles their first (and sometimes only) chance to discover the next waves of film from Japan today. The festival traditionally presents a range of titles from the biggest of Japanese blockbusters, raucous genre flicks, peerless independents, arthouse gems, radical documentaries and avant-garde forms, along with unique collaborative programs put together with the cooperation of other international organizations. Special guest actors and filmmakers join the festivities for Q&As, award ceremonies, and the wild themed parties and receptions audiences have come to expect, with live music, food and drink.
Japan Society has actively introduced Japanese cinema to New York’s international audiences since the 1970s, presenting works by the era’s new giants such as Shohei Imamura, Seijun Suzuki, and Hiroshi Teshigahara upon their first release, and groundbreaking retrospectives on now canonical figures such as Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu. Special guests such as Akira Kurosawa, Machiko Kyo, Toshiro Mifune, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, and Hideko Takamine had already been part of Japan Society’s events before JAPAN CUTS’ inception in 2007.
Since then the festival has attracted nearly 45,000 filmgoers and over 250 feature films, many never-before seen in the U.S. The first annual JAPAN CUTS was one of the most successful single events in the Society's 2007-08 centennial celebration. Noted for its "rich and varied selection of recent Japanese films" (The New York Times), JAPAN CUTS has premiered several films that have gone on to garner international acclaim, including: 0.5mm, 100 Yen Love, About Her Brother, Buy a Suit, Confessions, Death Note, Fish Story, Kamome Diner, Love Exposure, Milocrorze: A Love Story, The Mourning Forest, Ninja Kids!!!, Sawako Decides, Sukiyaki Western Django, Sway, Sketches of Kaitan City, The Tale of Iya, and United Red Army.
The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions, including retrospectives, thematic repertory film series, and U.S. premiere screenings. Its aim is to entertain, educate, and support activities in the Society's arts and culture programs.
Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.
Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit www.japansociety.org.