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Film Festivals

NYAFF Capsule Review: Twisted Justice

Jun 30 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220637:42978:0[/embed] Twisted Justice (日本で一番悪い奴ら)Director: Kazuya ShiraishiRating: NRCountry: Japan 
Twisted Justice Review photo
Missing chapters
It's fascinating to watch a film about the police searching for criminal guns while living in a country where the ubiquity of guns is a constant national conversation. It's something I think about a lot while watching foreign...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Seoul Station

Jun 29 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220639:42977:0[/embed] Seoul Station (서울역)Director: Yeon Sang-hoRating: NRCountry: South Korea 
Seoul Station photo
Hardcore animation is hard
At NYAFF 2012, I saw a movie called The King of Pigs. I wanted to like it, but I couldn't get over the atrociously bad translation. It ruined what should have been a very serious dramatic animated film. Seoul Station is ...

NYAFF 2016 photo
NYAFF 2016

The 2016 New York Asian Film Festival Is Almost Here


June 22 through July 9th
Jun 14
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Is it really that time again already? Wow. Apparently it is. NYAFF time. For the past five years, we have been covering the latest and greatest Asian films as brought to us by the swell folks at Subway Cinema, and this year i...
New Directors/New Films photo
New Directors/New Films

NYC: New Directors/New Films starts next week (March 16-27)


A showcase for emerging filmmakers
Mar 08
// Hubert Vigilla
The 45th edition of New Directors/New Films starts next week in New York City. New Directors/New Films showcases emerging filmmakers from around the world, and screens some of the most talked about films on the festival circu...

DOC NYC 2015 photo
DOC NYC 2015

DOC NYC starts this week, runs November 12-19


The largest documentary fest in the US
Nov 09
// Hubert Vigilla
DOC NYC is one of my favorite film festivals in New York City. Each year, DOC NYC showcases some of the best non-fiction filmmaking from all over the world, including a number of Oscar winners and Oscar contenders. DOC NYC st...

Review: Shrew's Nest

Nov 04 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220097:42685:0[/embed] Shrew's Nest (Musarañas)Directors: Juan Fernando Andrés and Esteban Roel Rating: NRCountry: Spain  The term "slow burn" gets thrown around a lot. I know I've used it more than once. Sometimes it's a useful term to describe how a film functions; other times it's a way to say something is boring without having to use that language. Sometimes people think things are a slow burn when they're really not. Shrew's Nest isn't a slow burn, though I know of others who say it is. Those people are either accidentally ignorant or willfully ignorant, but either way they're wrong. They're wrong, because the sequence of events that ultimately lead to the narrative boiling over aren't slow at all. They're very deliberate, placed perfectly in order to ratchet up the tension while also revealing the multiple facets of each character. At first, we see characters effectively through their own eyes, how they try to present themselves to the world. Then we see them through the eyes of others, where some of those seams start to show. Ultimately, we see them for who they truly are. And, not unexpectedly, what we find there isn't pretty. Montse is confined to the house. Not by some external force but an internal one. She can make it to the door, but she'll never go past it. Her sister, who she refers to as niña (translated as "the girl"), can go out. The girl goes to work during the day, and Montse stays home. She cooks and cleans and makes sure that her sister stays away from men. Because men are bad people who do bad things. (Note that it's clear almost immediately what happened to Montse, but that doesn't make the ultimate reveal any less painful, nor does it really prepare you for what follows.) One day, a man basically falls into her lap. As Carlos tries to leave his apartment (a floor above the girls'), he falls down the stairs, breaking his leg and hitting his head. After asking for her help, he faints. She brings him inside, binds his leg, and puts him in her bed. What follows, of course, is misery. Also, Misery. From the outset you know that Montse is unhinged, but the question is how far she'll go to keep Carlos there. The answer: Really Fucking Far. But in order to get to that point, we need context. Montse is viscous, something we learn early on, but seeing how her madness manifests itself is crucial to making the violence feel justified. Violence for the sake of violence can be fine, but there's something disquietingly realistic about characters in Shrew's Nest. Montse has had a rough time of it, and her psyche has been shaped accordingly. The girl is a little afraid of her sister, but the relationship is at the point where that's generally fine, until Carlos comes into the picture. Carlos isn't particularly concerned, particularly since Montse is so kind to him, but he doesn't understand the situation. He believes her when she says she had a doctor visit, but we know she's lying. Each time a character makes a decision, even if they make the wrong one, it felt fair. Characters do stupid things, but so do people. And characters don't do certain stupid things that they would be expected to do in a horror movie. Shrew's Nest is not particularly scary, but it is consistently unsettling. It's also claustrophobic, taking place entirely in a single apartment building (two apartments and the stairwell between them). That's good both for both budgetary and narrative reasons. The world never really feels larger than the one building, even as people other than the leads come in and out. That's important, because Shrew's Nest takes place in a place where other people live. Misery was in the middle of nowhere, but Montse doesn't have that sort of luxury, and neither do the filmmakers. This building – and really just the one apartment – needs to feel like the entire world, and it succeeds in that respect.  In fact, it succeeds in pretty much every respect. The minor issues I had ultimately don't matter, and as I think back on it, I barely even remember what they were. Only the good things stick in my brain, and there are a whole lot of good things. It's well crafted, well acted, well concepted, and well executed. There are some moments that are truly grotesque in the absolute best way, and there are images I'm not going to be able to scrub from my mind for quite some time. With a film like this, that's really all you can want. And Shrew's Nest delivers that and a whole lot more. 
Shrew's Nest Review photo
Shrew's Company
When I was in middle school, we'd periodically have a writer, Jon Land, come and talk to us. He'd talk about writing and life and whatever else. (Honestly, I don't really remember what most of those talks were about, but what...

NYKFF 2015 photo
NYKFF 2015

The 2015 New York Korean Film Festival is coming


Runs November 6-11 at the MoMI
Oct 26
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
My favorite New York-based film festival of the year is the New York Asian Film Festival. It has a special place in my heart for a lot of reasons. Among the smaller, more tightly-focused festivals, though, the New York Korean...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Partners in Crime

Jul 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219686:42500:0[/embed] Partners in Crime (共犯)Director:Country: Taiwan  
Partners in Crime photo
Jungle of breadcrumbs
Partners in Crime is the reason I love the New York Asian Film Festival. It's the reason I love film festivals in general. It's the sort of gem that you will likely never see outside of a festival. I have always been imp...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Pieta in the Toilet

Jul 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219688:42498:0[/embed] Pieta in the Toilet (Toire No Pieta | トイレのピエタ)Director: Daishi MatsunagaCountry: Japan 
Pieta in the Toilet photo
Don't let the name fool you
Pieta in The Toilet is done a disservice by its name. From the country that brought us Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, there are certain expectations that come with a name of that sort. And the use of such a well-known religi...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Strayer's Chronicle

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219670:42496:0[/embed] Strayer's Chronicle (Sutoreiyazu Kuronikuru | ストレイヤーズ・クロニクル)Director: Takahisa ZezeCountry: Japan 
Strayer's Chronicle photo
X-Men for nihilists
It's hard to make a rip-off of X-Men without hundreds of millions of dollars to back up the production. With a relatively minimal budget, any version of the mutants with superpowers who have to fight other mutants with (bette...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Kabukicho Love Hotel

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219626:42495:0[/embed] Kabukicho Love Hotel (Sayonara Kabukicho | さよなら歌舞伎町)Director: Ryuichi HirokiCountry: Japan 
Kabukicho Love Hotel photo
No hope for the hopeless
When director Ryuichi Hiroki came out to introduce Kabukicho Love Hotel, he said something to the effect of, “Please stay through the credits. After the credits, you will see some hope.” It wasn’t really adv...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: I Alone

Jul 21 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219665:42490:0[/embed] I Alone (この世で俺/僕だけ | Kono yo de ore/Boku dake)Director: Sho TsukikawaCountry: Japan 
I Alone Review photo
Save the baby
I Alone is a film about a lot of things. It's about political corruption and kidnapping, sure, but it's also about responsibility and staying true to one's own beliefs. It's about fighting until the bitter end, because i...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Revivre

Jul 14 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219609:42489:0[/embed] RevivreDirector: Im Kwon-TaekCountry: South Korea 
Revivre Review photo
The End
Revivre is director Im Kwon-Taek’s 102nd film. Think about that. Really, really think about what that means. Even if most of his early films were essentially throwaways created to entertain the unwashed masses, this man...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Coin Locker Girl

Jul 14 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219612:42486:0[/embed] Coin Locker Girl (Chinatown | 차이나타운)Director: Han Jun-HeeCountry: South Korea 
Coin Locker Girl photo
Family values
Director Han Jun-Hee introduced Coin Locker Girl as a "fun" film. He said that he doesn't joke much but he made a fun movie and hoped we would have fun with it. And either his translator really missed the point of his in...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Chasuke's Journey

Jul 13 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219663:42484:0[/embed] Chasuke's Journey (天の茶助 | Ten no Chasuke)Director: SabuCountry: Japan 
Chasuke's Journey photo
Mr. Angel's Screenwriting Workshop
Chasuke’s Journey is an indictment of dramatic shortcuts in writing. The head tea server in heaven works among the screenwriters who decide the fates of everyone below, but their stories are trite. The immortal one who ...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Nowhere Girl

Jul 13 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219660:42485:0[/embed] Nowhere Girl (Tōkyō Mukokuseki Shōjo | 東京無国籍少女)Director: Mamoru OshiiCountry: Japan 
Nowhere Girl Review photo
Whup whup whup whup
New York Asian Film Festival co-programmer Samuel Jamier has a tendency to describe films as “interesting,” and he will sometimes say the word five times in half as many minutes when introducing them. He didn&rsqu...

NYAFF Review: Tokyo Tribe

Jul 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219610:42463:0[/embed] Tokyo TribeDirector: Sion SonoRating: NRCountry: Japan  If you asked a small child to describe to you what they thought when they heard the phrase "rap battle," you'd probably get something like Tokyo Tribe. This isn't a film about a few MCs spittin' some ill beats in order to prove themselves and ultimately win the respect of their peers; it's a film about a city ravaged by rap-related crime and the ultimate gang war that breaks out. And much of the dialogue spoken between the characters flows against the thumping beats that back the entire film. It's a rap musical; it's a martial arts action film; and it's a sardonic comedy eviscerating systemic issues with Japanese culture. It's everything you could possibly want it to be and a whole lot more shoved into just two hours of screentime. (It's also a manga adaptation. Shocker, that.) I honestly wonder who will find the music more grating: people who hate rap, or those who love it. It's pretty obvious why the former would hate it, but the latter is the more interesting thing to discuss. This is a film that clearly has reverence for rap music, but more often than not it makes a pretty poor case for the genre. Rapping is hard. (I should know. My dream is to be a white rapper some day, but I'm terrible at it, and it definitely won't happen.) I get the impression that a lot of people don't appreciate the linguistic ability and agility required to really get some funky fresh rhymes going. Unfortunately, those are things the general cast of Tokyo Tribe lack. When the credits rolled, a couple of Japanese names (written in Japanese letters) were followed by "Young Dais." I'd been expecting something like that, because I knew right off the bat that Kai, the head of the Peace and Love gang, was actually a rapper. Everyone else had an awkwardness to their rhythm that Kai had on point from start to finish. Everyone else was amateur by comparison. And yeah, of course they were. They're actors, and he's a rapper for one of Japan's various boy bands. It was a good casting choice, but it made me wish that there were more rappers and fewer actors. (There were some others that were clearly rappers as well (I particularly liked the heads of the female gang), but they weren't crucial to the story and didn't get much screentime.) Sion Sono has played up style at the expense of substance in the past, but never so dramatically as here. Tokyo Tribes oozes more character from an average frame than most films in their runtime. Whether it’s the ridiculous and elaborate sets or the bizarre image distortions and lens flares (or a combination of the two), this is a movie that is distinctive and memorable. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny it. You don’t forget that you’ve seen a movie like Tokyo Tribes. You can’t, unless you legitimately have a memory disorder. And if you do… well, you’ll get to see it for the first time all over again, and there’s something magical about that too.  But, of course, form can overtake function, and that undoubtedly happens here. During the film’s final confrontation, one of the characters raps The Point of the movie, and I nearly said (out loud), “Oh! So it’s a film with a message.” It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now, but up until that moment the film wasn’t building up to anything other than a battle. I mean, there’s a “Good vs. Evil” thing in the sense that the bad guys hate Kai's gang because of the peace and love thing, but that never feels like more than a way to artificially build conflict. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but to pretend at the 11th hour that this was all in service of something? Come on.  The only time when style gets away from the film is in the moments of pathetically poor CGI. There are a few moments where it’s so blatantly fake that the veracity of the moment is ruined. You have to suspend a whole lot of disbelief in order to get into this movie, but there’s still a limit. A tank that looks like something a child would make in a My First AutoCAD class is that limit. And it’s not just that tank, though that’s the most obvious example of it. What’s worse is the blood. In the past, Sion Sono films have been horrifyingly bloody, but the blood was real. It felt like a thing that existed in the film. My only real problem with Why Don’t You Play in Hell? was that it took the easy way out on occasion (and lower-budget Asian cinema clearly hasn’t figured out digital blood sprays yet (come on guys, Fincher had this shit down in 2007)). But here it's worse, because even if the initial spray in his previous film was sometimes faked, at least the blood staining the floors and the people after the fact were real. The moment could be forgiven in service of the greater good. Not so here. The film verges on being bloodless, because the red stuff has no feel to it. It's just an effect lazily thrown onto the screen a few times and then forgotten about. But those are all relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. People have said that Tokyo Tribes is too much of a good thing, and I don't think that's quite accurate. It's not too much of a good thing, because it's too many things to be too much of any one of them This film throws the proverbial kitchen sink at the screen and does so with an ungodly amount of technical flair. When you get sick of rapping, it turns into a (fantastic) action movie. The punches may not always land, and the wirework is very clearly wirework, but ya know what? It's freaking awesome. And then there's more rapping. And then there's some rapping and fighting. And it's all awesome. A plausible argument could be made that there's just too much movie, that it could have been cut down by 20 or 30 minutes without much narrative impact. But to what end? The content of the film is nothing if not excessive. Why shouldn't the film itself embody that as well?
Tokyo Tribe Review photo
Well then.
My favorite film to play at last year's New York Asian Film Festival was Sion Sono's cinematic love-letter/masterpiece Why Don't You Play in Hell?. It's a spectacular film, and now that it's seen a domestic release, y'all hav...

Fantasia 2015 photo
Fantasia 2015

Full 2015 Fantasia Film Festival lineup unveiled


Festival season keeps going strong
Jul 07
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Although we've just kicked off coverage of one film festival and will soon be covering another, this seems like as good a time as any to let you know that there is a third pretty awesome festival that happens every July: the ...

NYAFF Review: Meeting Dr. Sun

Jul 01 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219608:42457:0[/embed] Meeting Dr. Sun (Xingdong daihao: Sun Zongshan)Director: Chih-yen Yee Rating: NRCountry: Taiwan  Everyone knows the rule of threes. You can do a joke three times before it becomes grating. If done well, that repetition can make it amazing, but going beyond that just becomes frustrating. I don't know who who it came from, but I've heard it said that the trick to Family Guy's humor is that things become funny again after you've done them for the 27th time. It's funny, funny, funny, not funny, not funny, infuriating... kinda funny, funny, amazing. And that's kind of accurate. I'm sure there's something in our brains, probably a fear response, that tells us that eventually this thing that is making us uncomfortable with its repetition is actually something to be laughed at (again), lest we drive ourselves actually crazy. Whatever it is, it works. Sometimes. Meeting Dr. Sun really wants that to be true. Or at least, its editor does. Because apparently he left the editing bay after he put together his rough cut and someone walked by and shouted, "It's perfect!" Every single scene is too long. Every. Damn. One. You could cut at least 10 seconds from the end of every sequence in the film and it would only benefit the film. Most shots go on too long, and every joke definitely goes on too long, but sometimes they become funny again. Meeting Dr. Sun is a heist movie, of sorts. Some kinds can't afford to pay their class fees, so they decide to steal a statue and sell it for scrap. But they have to steal it. But because they're children (end of middle school/beginning of high school (or the Taiwanese equivalent of that), if I had to guess), everything is inherently very silly. As it's presented, there are no great stakes, and there are no serious dangers. It's not even really clear what it would mean if the kids didn't pay their class fees. (Here my American ignorance is probably at issue, though the film's dialogue makes it seem like it's not a necessity to get through the year.) The whole thing feels appropriately childish, and on some level the humor actually works like that as well.  Some years ago, I was having dinner with a friend and his extended family. His very young cousin wanted to be the center of attention, and so he said to said to his dad, "Hi mommy!" and everyone laughed. And then he went to every single person around the table (nearly a dozen of us) and said, "Hi mommy!" to all the men and "Hi daddy!" to the women. The first couple of times, it was adorable. By the time he got to me? It was infuriating. But the kid thought he was the cat's pajamas, and he kept doing it until his dad (thankfully) stopped him. He would have done another round of the table, I'm sure, because he didn't understand what actually made it funny, just that other people were laughing. And that's what the humor in Meeting Mr. Sun is like. I laughed pretty hard on multiple occasions, and some of the people around me laughed so hard I literally (not figuratively) thought they were going to die, but then once I'd moved on, the young kids onscreen wanted to keep doing the joke. They keep pantomiming or dancing or talking or moving or doing any of those other things that kids do, because... they're kids. What else are they gonna do?  That said, there's a weird, dark undercurrent about issues of socioeconomic class structures throughout the film. And while it's always there, it doesn't come up explicitly until the end, when it hits in a fascinating, mood-wrecking kind of way. And thinking back on the film through that lens, it's actually pretty seriously depressing; a (very) long sequence involving two characters trying to prove that their family is worse off is played for humor, sort of, but it's really very sad. At the time, that was in the back of my mind, but it didn't snap into focus until that moment near the end. But this theme seems so at odds with the comedic intentions of the film. Director Yee wanted us to laugh. But here was this grand theme about poverty and what it forces people to do, even on a small scale. And... we were supposed to laugh at it? I mean, I definitely did. I'm just not sure how I feel about having done so.
Meeting Dr. Sun Review photo
Child's play
In the two hours leading up to the US premiere of Meeting Dr. Sun, I saw director Chih-yen Yee speak twice. First was at a reception hosted by New York Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. The second was just minute...

NYAFF 2015 photo
NYAFF 2015

The 2015 New York Asian Film Festival lineup and schedule are here


My favorite festival of the year returns
Jun 08
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
The New York Asian Film Festival is very near and dear to my heart. When I started at Flixist in 2011, I was a news writer. I wasn't supposed to be writing reviews or doing any of that high-minded stuff. But then my girlfrie...
Japan Cuts 2015 photo
Japan Cuts 2015

2015 Japan Cuts Film Festival lineup unveiled


And it's pretty flipping cool
Jun 05
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
One of the best parts about being an Asian film lover in New York is the late-June-through-mid-July run of Asian-centric festivals. The second half of that time is taken up by the Japan Cuts Film Festival, a showcase at the N...

Tribeca Review: Maggie

May 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219246:42343:0[/embed] MaggieDirector: Henry HobsonRelease Date: May 8, 2015 (limited)Rating: PG-13 Wade (Schwarzenegger) brings his daughter Maggie home from the city after she's attacked by a zombie. Bite victims slowly turn. Symptoms include necrosis, cataracts, dizzy spells, respiratory problems, and a heightened sense of smell. It's only a matter of time before Maggie will need to be killed or sent to a quarantine center, and the latter may be a worse fate. At certain points of Maggie, I was struck by how Schwarzenegger has aged in an interesting way. The texture of his face is like tree bark from certain angles and in certain light. More than that, the expressiveness of his brow and his eyes has increased. Same goes for his mouth, as if the stoic straight line we're accustomed to from his blockbusters is able to communicate more with age. It's not just a one-liner dispenser, and his scowls seem layered. Patiently holding a shot on Schwarzenegger has the potential to reveal his inner emotional machinery. This unexpected depth in Schwarzengger's performance comes mostly from the film's quiet moments. In one scene, like something out of a Terrence Malick film or an Andrew Wyeth painting, Wade wanders a field introspectively. His silhouette from behind has a heftier grimness in the dimming light. It's impossible to forget he's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet maybe the moment works better than it would otherwise because it's Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to negate his own Arnold-Schwarzenegger-ness for the sake of the story. Maggie is at its best when it uses zombie-ism to explore the impending loss of a loved one to a terminal illness. In Maggie's case, it's about coming to terms with the inevitability of death. Had Schwarzenegger not been cast, the film would have been billed as a showcase for Breslin. She carries at least half of the film. (She's the title character, after all.) When not succumbing to fits of dread, Maggie tries to live just like a teenager. There's a normalcy about living with her condition. In a brief sidetrip from the farmhouse, we see Maggie with her friends being carefree before going back to high school in the fall. Infected or not, to them, at least for now, she's still Maggie. The film's handful of missteps have less to do with the performances than the occasional saccharine note in the script. Bits here and there feel a little too much like "father and daughter bonding" beats in a movie. Breslin and Schwarzenegger perform them well, but the actors seem more natural when exchanging small looks and little lines together throughout the film rather than dedicating a full scene to semi-expository bonding. An accretion of affection is almost always preferable to a tenderness dump. For a film that's propelled more by its quiet moments, the wind down of Maggie features an overbearing bombast in the sound design and David Wingo's otherwise low-key score. It undermines some of the control that Hobson maintains for the film, and I wonder how much better a scene or two would play if they were muted. This might be one of the few times that anyone's called for an even quieter and more delicate finale to a movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but in Maggie, the performances are able to do the emotional heavy lifting on their own.
Maggie Review photo
I know now why you cry
Maggie is one of the last things you'd expect out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Abigail Breslin, who plays the title character? Okay. Joely Richardson, who plays Maggie's stepmother? Sure. But not Arnie. Though Maggie's a post-ap...

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Tribeca Film Festival tickets go on sale March 31st


The New York City festival will feature appearances by George Lucas, Monty Python, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Mary J. Blige, Christopher Nolan, and maybe movies
Mar 27
// Hubert Vigilla
The Tribeca Film Festival will run from April 15th-26th here in New York City. American Express holders can order festival tickets on March 31st, and the general public can order tickets starting April 6th. The festival will ...
Kung Fu Fest NYC photo
Kung Fu Fest NYC

NYC's Old School Kung Fu Fest 2015 has so many ninjas


You don't even know
Mar 24
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
The folks over at Subway Cinema head up the annual New York Asian Film Festival, my favorite of all the year's festivals, and I'm always excited to see what else they cook up. Last month, we brought news of their efforts to f...
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Help fund The Old School Kung Fu Fest 2015 in NYC


There will be ninjas this year--NINJAS!
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
We here at Flixist love the people at Subway Cinema. Not only do they put on the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the New York Korean Film Festival, they also hold a great showcase of classic martial arts movies here ...
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SXSW 2015 film lineup released


Let's get this party started
Feb 03
// Matthew Razak
SXSW is my favorite festival to cover and one of the few I do regularly. I won't be able to attend this year because of the impending birth of my first child, but it looks like I'll be missing out on some great stuff. Plenty ...
SAIFF 2014 photo
SAIFF 2014

Here comes the South Asian International Film Festival


November 18-23 at the SVA theater
Nov 14
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
As is often the case, it's a festival of festivals here in New York. And if you're particularly fond of Indian and/or Pakistani films, this is probably the one you've been waiting for. The South Asian International Film Festi...
NYKFF Returns photo
NYKFF Returns

Here comes the 12th Annual New York Korean Film Festival


Runs from November 20-23 at BAM
Nov 11
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
When February came and went with no mention of the New York Korean Film Festival, I was disheartened. With all of the far-less-deserving festivals in this fine city, I couldn't accept that this one had gone away. Fortunately,...
NYFF 52 photo
It starts tonight!
Hello everyone. It's festival time again! The 52nd New York Film Festival kicks off tonight with the world premiere of David Fincher's Gone Girl, and continues through October 12th, closing with Alejandro González I&nt...

Japan Cuts 2014 continues where NYAFF leaves off

Jul 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema  July 10-20, 2014 at Japan Society New York, NY -- North America’s largest showcase of Japanese film and “One of the loopiest… and least predictable of New York’s film festivals” (New York Magazine),JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema returns for its eighth annual installment. Running July 10-20 and screening 27 features with 8 special guests, JAPAN CUTS 2014 encompasses a thrilling cross section of cinephilic genre oddities, sword-swinging period action, profound documentaries, cathartic melodramas, warped comedies and cutting-edge arthouse cinema made in and around Japan. Guests include superstar performers and independent auteurs opening up in rare Q&As and dynamic parties rocking Japan Society’s historic theater and waterfall atrium. As in past years, the festival dovetails with the 13th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), co-presenting 13 titles in the JAPAN CUTS lineup July 10-13. JAPAN CUTS 2014 again earns the distinction as “New York’s premiere Japanese cinema event,” every title never before screened in New York City, “unspooling across a kaleidoscopic range of taste and aesthetics” (The Wall Street Journal). Boasting 1 World Premiere, 3 International Premieres, 7 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 5 East Coast Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres, every day of the festival provides a must-see event for the NYC cinephile, follower of Japanese art and culture, and devoted world cinema aficionado alike.  The festival opens July 10 with the U.S. Premiere of Takashi Miike’s candy-colored undercover cop saga The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, followed by the yakuza-turned-filmmaker movie magic that is Sion Sono’s Why Don't You Play in Hell?. The screening is joined by young actress Fumi Nikaido, named by Variety this year as its International Star You Should Know, who joins for an introduction and Q&A, as well as the JAPAN CUTS Opening Night “Let’s Play in Hell!” Party. The festival centerpiece is the World Premiere on July 17 of director Momoko Ando’s masterful dark comedy 0.5mm—a wicked critique of patriarchy following an assisted living caregiver who survives unemployment by taking advantage of elderly men. Ando visits Japan Society to present and discuss her film, as well as participate in the intimate reception after the screening. JAPAN CUTS’ closing film is the magnificent The Tale of Iya, with its North American Premiere July 20. Director Tetsuichiro Tsuta joins to present his renowned work that tells a timeless story on beautiful 35mm, showing a vanishing part of rural Japan through a mode of film artistry which is itself disappearing. A sign of the times, JAPAN CUTS 2014 marks the debut of a new digital cinema projection system in the Lila Acheson Wallace auditorium of Japan Society’s landmark building, continuing to show viewers the best of this vibrant international film scene in the best cinematic conditions possible. The festival also celebrates the career of brave and unpredictable international starKazuki Kitamura, who receives JAPAN CUTS’ annual prize, the CUT ABOVE Award for Excellence in Film. Kitamura has proven to be not only a versatile performer in dramatic and comedic roles in Japan’s Tragedy and Thermae Romae, but a trailblazer in transnational filmmaking in The Raid 2 and Killers, receiving Kinema Junpo's Best New Actor award for his work in Rokuro Mochizuki's Minazuki and Takashi Miike's Ley Lines (Nihon Kuroshakai). Kitamura joins the festival July 19 to share Dave Boyle’s Japanese-American thriller Man from Reno along with the director, including an introduction and Q&A following the East Coast Premiere of this sexy, moody neo-noir. Kitamura will receive the award as part of the International Premiere of the irresistible comedy Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, in which Kitamura plays a deadly ronin whose heart is melted by his feline target, followed by the Japan CATS Party!. Other festival highlights include the hotly anticipated East Coast Premiere ofUnforgiven, Sang-il Lee’s adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s original Western masterpiece. Starring Ken Watanabe, this samurai-western remains in the realm of greatness, while completely reformed for the new setting. Japan’s controversial mega-blockbuster The Eternal Zero will screen for the first time in the U.S., giving local audiences a chance to see its amazing aerial dogfight sequences as well as confront the film’s contested vision of history. Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage, a moving tribute to the power of language and Japan’s Oscar entry, receives its awaited New York Premiere, and anime fans get their fix with the North American Premiere of Keisuke Yoshida’s rapturous My Little Sweet Pea, an emotional rollercoaster of a family melodrama about an aspiring anime voice actress otaku. Also slated is the U.S. Premiere of Aya Hanabusa’s Tale of a Butcher Shop and the East Coast Premiere of Yoju Matsubayashi’s The Horses of Fukushima, two remarkable documentaries that tackle inequality and post-3/11 life through the exploration of human-animal relationships. July 18 sees a euphoric night of exceeding depravity, with the International Premiere of Ryoko Yoshida’s must-be-seen-to-be-believed comic tale of sex and possession The Passion adapted from Kaoruko Himeno’s acclaimed novel, U.S. Premiere of Daisuke Miura’s brilliant orgy-cum-psychodrama Love’s Whirlpool, and the East Coast Premiere of Eiji Uchida’s bloody intergenerational battle to the death Greatful Deadwith newcomer Kumi Takiuchi. Zany director Katsuhito Ishii takes on the children’s genre with the North American Premiere of Hello! Junichi (kids get in for only $6 following Ishii’s own efforts to conscript young cinephiles during the Japanese release!). Award-winning writer for the screen and stage Shiro Maeda makes his directorial debut with the hilarious and profound The Extreme Sukiyaki, presented here in its North American Premiere. Maeda will join for a Q&A via live video stream to discuss this remarkable film.  “Curating annual festivals of a national cinema is necessarily problematic, swinging between exhaustive cultural surveys or limited selections of titles with international arthouse appeal, between a lineup that is representative and one that is exceptional. Our tactic at JAPAN CUTS--and I believe this is especially so this year--has been to focus on diversity,” says filmmaker/scholar Joel Neville Anderson, programmer for JAPAN CUTS 2014. “And the results have been surprising, politically incendiary, and always entertaining. I see the festival’s ongoing engagement with high and low genre, mainstream and experimental forms, as an extension of Japan Society’s century old mission of cultural exchange. The lineup demonstrates Japan’s film cultures navigating issues such as discrimination, aging, regional transformation, and widespread social precarity, evincing a nationalist groundswell attempting to revise history, as well as positive political awakenings following the natural and human-made disasters of 3/11." Tickets: $13/$10 Japan Society members, seniors and students, except for the July 10screening Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and the July 19 screening of Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~: $20/$15, including after parties. Tickets for Hello! Junichi are $6 for any child 12-years-old or younger accompanied by an adult. Patrons who purchase more than 5 tickets for at least 5 different films receive $2 off of each ticket (this special offer is available only in person at the box office or by telephone, not with online purchases, and is not valid for the July 10 screening of Why Don’t You Play in Hell?,July 19 screening of Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, or the discounted $6 ticket forHello! Junichi.) General admission tickets may be purchased in person at Japan Society, by calling the box office at 212-715-1258, or at www.japansociety.org. The box office will be closed July 4-7 in observance of the July 4th holiday weekend. SCREENING SCHEDULE AT-A-GLANCE Thursday, July 10 6:00 – THE MOLE SONG: UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI 8:30 – WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? + guest intro/Q&A + party Friday, July 11 6:00 – THE SNOW WHITE MURDER CASE 8:30 – MARUYAMA, THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER Saturday, July 12 12:30 – THE GREAT PASSAGE 3:00 – THE ETERNAL ZERO 6:00 – THE DEVIL’S PATH 8:30 – MISS ZOMBIE 10:30 – THE PINKIE  Sunday, July 13 12:30 – WOOD JOB! 3:00 – MONSTERZ 5:30 – ALL-ROUND APPRAISER Q: THE EYES OF MONA LISA 8:00 – UZUMASA LIMELIGHT + guest intro/Q&A    Tuesday, July 15 6:00 – THE HORSES OF FUKUSHIMA 8:30 – UNFORGIVEN Wednesday, July 16 6:30 – THE EXTREME SUKIYAKI + guest intro/Q&A Thursday July 17 6:30 – 0.5MM + guest intro/Q&A + reception Friday, July 18 6:30 – THE PASSION 8:30 – LOVE’S WHIRLPOOL 10:45 – GREATFUL DEAD Saturday, July 19 12:00 – TALE OF A BUTCHER SHOP 2:15 – MY LITTLE SWEET PEA 4:30 – MAN FROM RENO + guest intro/Q&A 7:30 – NEKO SAMURAI ~SAMURAI ♥ CAT~ + guest intro/Q&A + party 11:00 – KILLERS + guest intro Sunday, July 20 12:30 – PECOROSS’ MOTHER AND HER DAYS 3:00 – HELLO! JUNICHI 6:00 – THE TALE OF IYA + guest intro/Q&A JAPAN CUTS 2014 SCREENINGS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER) All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.  0.5mm (0.5 miri) – CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION Thursday, July 17 at 6:30 pm **World Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Momoko Ando, followed by a reception Japan. 2014. 198 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Momoko Ando. With Sakura Ando, Junkichi Orimoto, Toshio Sakata, Masahiko Tsugawa, Akira Emoto. Sawa, an assisted living caregiver for a middle class family with an elderly infirm grandfather, is forced to stretch her morals to keep her job. As a result, she finds herself broke and out on the street. She survives her first night by striking up an ambiguous friendship with a kindly old man, gaining access to a portion of the immense wealth held by Japan's aging population. She continues with similar encounters, and while these begin as scams or revenge on rampant sexism, they ultimately become vulnerable intergenerational exchanges. Director Momoko Ando (Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, 2009) masterfully crafts this journey through Japan's embattled sexual landscape, confronting aging, class and patriarchy. Adapted from the director's first novel, 0.5mm features Sakura Ando (the director's sister), who charges each scene with as much humanity as its impeccably photographed frames can handle. This is a dark and profound comedy of the best sort. “Her debut film (Kakera) is a finely tuned meditation on what it means to be loved and to love, regardless of boundaries and social constructs." --Film International --- All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa (Bannou Kanteishi Q Mona Riza no Hitomi) Sunday, July 13 at 5:30 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 119 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinsuke Sato. With Haruka Ayase, Tori Matsuzaka, Eriko Hatsune, Charles Deladonchamps, Hiroaki Murakami. The Japanese will always have Paris! In this adaptation of the arch-popular eponymous mystery novel by Keisuke Matsuoka, the city of l'art et l'amour provides the gorgeous backdrop for a grand intrigue involving the world's most iconic artistic treasure: the Mona Lisa. Armed with quasi-supernatural powers of deduction, bottomless knowledge on a limitless array of subjects, and last but not least, cute-and-sexy librarian good looks that would give Audrey Tautou a run for her money, Riko Rinda (Haruka Ayase) is a brilliant appraiser whose "All-Round Appraiser Q" reputation earns the attention of The Louvre as a Mona Lisa exhibition is to be held for the first time in Japan. Accompanied by sidekick Yuto Ogasawara (Tori Matsuzaka), a magazine editor who follows Riko for professional and possibly most personal purposes, she goes to Paris and finds her judgment challenged by the shroud of mystery and threats of theft surrounding the masterpiece as well as the Mona Lisa herself. Minds will be blown, puzzles will be solved, but will a 500-year-old curse be removed? By the director who gave you the Gantz and Library Wars blockbusters. --- The Devil's Path (Kyoaku) Saturday, July 12 at 6 pm **East Coast Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 128 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuya Shiraishi. With Takayuki Yamada, Pierre Taki, Lily Franky, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kazuko Shirakawa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Katsuya Kobayashi, Yu Saito. The Devil's Path shows the hell of guilt and conscience as it chronicles the case of a condemned yakuza. A massive monster of a thug (actor-singer Pierre Taki) seeks revenge on his former accomplice and hopes to achieve his goal by telling his story to a journalist (Takayuki Yamada), revealing three unknown killings. The film is a sullen journey that hardens its emotions, anxieties and energies into a shell of obsession. For the death-row gangster, who's now found God, killing was just part of the cost of doing business. For his accomplice (Lily Franky), killing is just fun. A modest, quiet man, Yamada stands in for the viewer as Taki's mesmerizing, murderous presence absorbs the space around him, inviting him in to encounter a possibly even more evil man, his former partner in crime. As it tells their deeds, the movie becomes an expression of philosophical despair. Nominated for Picture of the Year, Director of the Year and Screenplay of the Year at the 37th Japan Academy Prize --- The Eternal Zero (Eien no Zero) Saturday, July 12 at 3 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 144 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. With Junichi Okada, Haruma Miura, Mao Inoue, Hirofumi Arai, Shota Sometani, Min Tanaka, Isao Natsuyagi. Japan's biggest hit last year, one of the 10 top-grossing Japanese films of all time, will no doubt provide the most unique and extreme film experience of the NYAFF/JAPAN CUTS 2014 lineup. As infuriating in its ideological and political black holes as it is exhilarating in visual artistry, The Eternal Zero follows a young man who, as he investigates the life and times of his grandfather, a reluctant kamikaze pilot during the Pacific War, goes from troubling revelations to shocking truths about heroism, history and his own family. Adapted from a hugely popular novel by Naoki Hyakuta, the film tells the tale of tokkotai ("special section," or kamikaze) pilot Kyuzo Miyabe in flashbacks that progressively reveal his alleged cowardice in battle actually concealed a specific moral philosophy of survival. From the cruelties of war to breathtaking airborne battles, this kinetic, emotionally intense, but also politically ambivalent film will leave no one indifferent. --- The Extreme Sukiyaki (Ji, Ekusutorimu, Sukiyaki) Wednesday, July 16 at 6:30 pm **North American Premiere **Featuring Q&A with Director Shiro Maeda via streaming video Japan. 2013. 111 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shiro Maeda. With Arata Iura, Yosuke Kubozuka, Mikako Ichikawa, Kana Kurashina. Reaching a crisis in his post-college life, Horaguchi (Arata Iura) abandons his job and searches out his best friend from his school days. However the bitter and unemployed Ohkawa (Yosuke Kubozuka) hasn't heard from his friend in 15 years and is reluctant to resume their friendship. He is given no choice in the matter. Joined by Ohkawa's partner Kaede (Kana Kurashina) and Horaguchi's former love interest Kyoko (Mikako Ichikawa), the four set off on an aimless day trip to the beach, sukiyaki pot in tow. Ohkawa brings along the one thing that excites him--a crude boomerang he's carved.The Extreme Sukiyaki marks the reunion of Iura and Kubozuka, who shot to stardom after appearing side by side in Ping Pong (2002). This is the directorial debut of award-winning writer and playwright Shiro Maeda, whose film is adapted from his own novel. Directorial debut of Shiro Maeda, winner of the 52nd Kishida Drama Award and 22nd Mishima Yukio Prize --- The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu) Saturday, July 12 at 12:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 134 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yuya Ishii. With Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kaoru Kobayashi, Go Kato. Cult arthouse director Yuya Ishii (Sawako Decides) racked up top honors at the Japan Academy Awards this year (best picture, best director, best actor for Ryuhei Matsuda, best script plus technical prizes) with this captivating existential drama/comedy featuring a charmingly nerdy editor, Majime Mitsuya (Ryuhei Matsuda), who spends decades writing and compiling definitions for a "living language" dictionary while courting his landlady's granddaughter. Set in the mid-1990s, The Great Passage starts as the responsibility for putting together the massive dictionary project is passed on from long-time editor Kouhei Araki (Kaoru Kobayashi) to Majime Mitsuya, a much younger man with a degree in linguistics and an obsessive love for words. An oddball ode on the surface, the film is in fact a deeply humanist tribute to the power of language to connect people, a poignant study of life's slow but steady progression, and ultimately, about finding a reason to live. “At once accessibly humanist and endearingly nerdy, suffused with a deep love of language and a quiet awe at the possibilities of human collaboration” – Variety Selected as the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards --- Greatful Dead (Gureitofuru Deddo) Friday, July 18 at 10:45 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2014. 97 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Eiji Uchida. With Kumi Takiuchi, Takashi Sasano, Kkobbi Kim. Wealthy young Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) has found herself a hobby to while away the time between ordering new appliances and fashion accessories--surveilling the lives of the crazed and lonely, or "Solitarians," as she calls them. Perched atop the city with powerful binoculars, she tracks the descent of the elderly and unemployed into madness and death, gleefully snapping a selfie beside their freshly decaying corpses. When one of her most prized Solitarians (Takashi Sasano) is snatched up by Christian volunteers and becomes hopeful once again, Nami is sent into a murderous rage, pitting young against old in an epic, bloody battle. Eiji Uchida's genre pleaser is also a cutting critique of Japan's post post-bubble insularity and consumerism. "Dark, bloody, unflinchingly brutal, yet also laugh-out-loud funny, genuinely touching and with a profound social conscience, Greatful Dead is the real deal." --Twitch Film --- Hello! Junichi (Halo! Junichi) Sunday, July 20 at 3 pm **North American Premiere Japan. 2014. 90 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Atsushi Yoshioka. With Amon Kabe, Hikari Mitsushima, Ryushin Tei, Chizuru Ikewaki, Tatsuya Gashuin, Yoshiyuki Morishita. Katsuhito Ishii (Funky Forest: The First Contact and The Taste of Tea) takes on the story of Junichi--a timid third grader who can't muster the courage to return an eraser he borrowed from his secret crush--and turns it into a children's rock 'n' roll comedy. Junichi's world is turned upside down as apprentice teacher Anna-sensei (Hikari Mitsushima) scraps her lesson plan to show the rambunctious students about life as an adult. With Anna's unorthodox style, Junichi and his friends are able to gain confidence and pursue their goal of putting on a big concert. Co-directed with Kanoko Kawaguchi and Atsushi Yoshioka, Hello! Junichi brings out the kid in adults and lets kids be kids. Boasting Ishii's signature dance numbers and Yoshiyuki Morishita (the "Japanese Steve Buscemi") as the band's homeroom teacher, it's a unique experience built for future and current movie maniacs. "Extraordinary." --Udine Far East Film Festival Special price of $6 for children 12-years-old and under! --- The Horses of Fukushima (Matsuri no Uma) Tuesday, July 15 at 6 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 74 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoju Matsubayashi. Fukushima's Minami-soma has a ten-centuries-long tradition of holding the Soma Nomaoi ("chasing wild horses") festival to celebrate the horse's great contribution to human society. Following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, local people were forced to flee the area. Rancher Shinichiro Tanaka returned to find his horses dead or starving, and refused to obey the government's orders to kill them. While many racehorses are slaughtered for horsemeat, his horses had been subjected to radiation and were inedible. Yoju Matsubayashi, whose Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape is one of the most impressive documentaries made immediately after the disaster, spent the summer of 2011 helping Tanaka take care of his horses. In documenting their rehabilitation, he has produced a profound meditation on these animals who live as testaments to the tragic bargain human society made with nuclear power. Note: Some scenes contain graphic animal imagery. Winner of the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary Best Film Award at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival --- Killers (Kirazu)   Saturday, July 19 at 11 pm   **East Coast Premiere   **Introduction by actor Kazuki Kitamura  Indonesia/Japan. 2014. 137 min. Blu-ray, in English, Indonesian and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto). With Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Mei Kurokawa, Denden.  Kazuki Kitamura's tour de force performance as an eerily handsome and decadently deranged serial killer centers this remarkable Indonesian-Japanese co-production. Nomura (Kitamura), a wealthy expat returned to Tokyo from the U.S. after the financial crisis, has taken to killing young women and uploading videos of the acts. Bayu Aditya (rapper Oka Antara), an honest Jakarta journalist whose personal life has been destroyed by a corrupt politician, encounters Nomura's viral snuff films online and his sense of vigilante justice becomes a dangerous bloodthirst. Communicating anonymously online, Nomura encourages the fledgling killer, but when Bayu wants out, Nomura forces him to complete the transformation in a bloody, operatic finale. Executive produced by Gareth Evans of The Raid, Killers channels American Psycho and Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill via Johnnie To's Fulltime Killer. By turns funny and assaultive, Killers is one of the most disturbing and rewarding viewing experiences in years.    "One of the most interesting, disturbing, and provocative takes on the world of the serial killer ever made." –Twitch 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. --- Love's Whirlpool (Ai no Uzu) Friday, July 18 at 8:30 pm **U.S. Premiere Japan. 2014. 123 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Daisuke Miura. With Sosuke Ikematsu, Mugi Kadowaki, Kenichi Takito, Eriko Nakamura, Hirofumi Arai, Yoko Mitsuya, Ryusuke Komakine, Seri Akazawa. In a fancy split-level condo in Tokyo's Roppongi nightlife district, four women and four men gather from midnight to 5 am. They've all paid to be there (men more than women), and they have only one thing in common--they seek anonymous sex. Using no names, they're known only by their types: freeter (temp or part-time worker), mild-mannered salaryman, duplicitous OL (office lady), self-conscious working class factory worker, perfectionist teacher, veteran pervert, shy NEET ("not in education, employment or training") and bashful college student. Together, they unravel their identities in a night of increasing debauchery. Daisuke Miura's adaptation of his critically acclaimed 2005 play of the same name explores Japan's fuzoku (sex industry) with depth, humor and freewheeling indecency. This surprising, erotic and disturbing film features breakout performances by Sosuke Ikematsu and Mugi Kadowaki, who are tempted to mix love with sex. 18+ This film is unrated, and may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. Original stage play winner of the 50th Kishida Drama Award --- Man from Reno (Rino kara Kita Otoko) Saturday, July 19 at 4:30 pm **East Coast Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Dave Boyle and Actor Kazuki Kitamura USA/Japan. 2014. 111 min. DCP, in English and Japanese with bilingual subtitles. Directed by Dave Boyle. With Ayako Fujitani, Kazuki Kitamura, Pepe Serna, Elisha Skorman, Hiroshi Watanabe. A Japanese bestselling crime novelist visiting San Francisco finds herself embroiled in a real life mystery after a night with a handsome stranger. The man--Japanese and supposedly from Nevada--disappears the next morning, after which increasingly strange and dangerous events begin to occur. This beautifully photographed Japanese-American co-production overturns the gender stereotypes of the mystery thriller, casting international star Kazuki Kitamura as its homme fatale. Kitamura effortlessly slides between gentle and sinister, while Ayako Fujitani fits perfectly into the role of author-turned-detective. One of this accomplished transnational film's greatest features is a rare leading turn from Pepe Serna, veteran character actor of over 100 Hollywood films (Scarface, The Black Dahlia). Set in San Francisco, this neo-noir offers not only a compelling portrayal of gender and globalization, but a model for vibrant independent filmmaking across borders. "Uncovers exhilarating new takes on genre conventions." --Los Angeles Film Festival --- Maruyama, The Middle Schooler (Chuugakusei Maruyama) Friday, July 11 at 8:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 119 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kankuro Kudo. With Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Takuma Hiraoka, Kenji Endo, Ik-June Yang, Maki Sakai, Toru Nakamura, Nanami Nabemoto, Yuiko Kariya, Fumina Hara, Ryo Iwamatsu. Though described by acclaimed actor/scriptwriter/director Kankuro Kudo as a "self-fellatio" comedy, Maruyama is also a moving coming-of-age story and an exploration of the infinite possibilities of the human imagination. Maruyama, a sex-crazed 14-year-old (Takuma Hiraoka) is not only dedicated to auto-eroticism but desires to defy the limitations of his body and transcend himself--until his spine literally cracks. When he encounters a newcomer, a nerdy, single father (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) who finds fault with his neighbors, things take a weird turn as corpses are found in the otherwise ordinary neighborhood. As Maruyama's imagination gets out of control, his fantasies go joyously wild and free as he reimagines his family and the inhabitants of the entire apartment complex as manga-like characters cast in an action-packed saga of assassinations and revenge. “[A] hugely entertaining, sensitive, hilarious and whimsical pop-comedy gem.” – Twitch Film --- Miss Zombie Saturday, July 12 at 8:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 85 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by SABU. With Ayaka Komatsu, Toru Tezuka, Makoto Togashi, Riku Ohnishi, Tateto Serizawa, Takaya Yamauchi. In a future or parallel world, family-man Dr. Teramoto (Toru Tezuka) receives a very special delivery: a crate containing a mail order female zombie (Ayaka Komatsu), complete with an instruction manual prescribing a vegetarian diet, a cautionary note against any meat, and a gun--just in case. Teramoto's wife (Makoto Togashi) promptly puts the zombie to work, assigning her the task of scrubbing the garden patio. In lieu of wages, she gets daily rations of rotten greens. Things take a disturbing turn when two contractors working at the villa molest the zombie girl. Witnessing this, the doctor becomes turned on and makes her his plaything. The zombie shows no particular emotional response and yet, as she stoically sews back her wounds, a sense of foreboding emerges. Fate comes knocking at the door when Teramoto's young son, Kenichi (Riku Onishi), has a dreadful accident. The tables begin to turn for master and servant. “A deadpan social satire, an ode to motherhood, and a self-consciously grungy homage to classic silent horror-thrillers” – Variety Winner of the Grand Prize at the 2014 Gérardmer Film Festival; Winner of Best Film Award at the 2014 Fantasporto Film Festival --- The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (Mogura no Uta Sennyu Sousakan REIJI)– OPENING FILM Thursday, July 10 at 6 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 130 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Miike. With Toma Ikuta, Riisa Naka, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Kamiji, Takashi Okamura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Kenichi Endo, Sarutoki Minagawa, Ren Osugi, Koichi Iwaki. Takashi Miike leaves respectability, restraint and decency at the door in this out-and-out balls-to-the-wall cops vs. yakuza farce. Inept rookie cop Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) falls short of busting a city councilor who's caught molesting a teenage girl. Fired without ceremony, he is quickly rehired for an undercover mission to infiltrate a yakuza clan. Reiji's new colleagues give him a baptism of fire with an unorthodox initiation rite: he gets beaten up, tied naked to the hood of a car and driven around at top speed, and is coerced into shooting another cop. Reiji soon befriends Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), the No. 2 in the gang. Sharing Reiji's taste in fashion as well as his distaste for drugs, they face down the diamond-toothed "cat" Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura) and his gang. How far will Reiji go in the yakuza underworld, and will he be able to bring down the gangsters in the end? ”Takashi Miike hits a home run with an irresistible cops and yakuza romp” – The Hollywood Reporter “Anyone who falls asleep during this extremely exuberant film can ask for his money back.” – International Film Festival Rotterdam 2014 --- Monsterz (Monsutazu) Sunday, July 13 at 3 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 111 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hideo Nakata. With Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takayuki Yamada, Satomi Ishihara, Tomorowo Taguchi, Motoki Ochiai, Taiga, Masaki Miura, Mina Fujii, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Yusuke Hirayama. Japanese horror master Hideo Nakata (Ringu, Dark Water) returns with a remake of the 2010 South Korean film Haunters, a paranormal thriller that offers an original, exciting variation on the tale of two men with supernatural abilities locked in a duel to the death. The nameless villain is a brooding loner (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who uses his mind control to rob banks to fund his solitary lifestyle. He is thrown off guard when delivery man Shuichi Tanaka (Takayuki Yamada) remains unaffected by his power, even after everyone standing in a public square has been placed under the control of his menacing sapphire eyes. Feeling threatened, the malevolent mind-bender sends a speeding truck after Shuichi and leaves him for dead. The young man mysteriously recovers and finds a job working for the driver, Mr. Kumoi (Tomorowo Taguchi), a guitar-shop owner. But when the mind-bender finds out that Shuichi is still alive, it is a war to the death between the two men. --- My Little Sweet Pea (Mugiko-san to) Saturday, July 19 at 2:15 pm **North American Premiere Japan. 2013. 95 min. DCP, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Keisuke Yoshida. With Maki Horikita, Kimiko Yo, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yumi Asou, Yoichi Nukumizu. It isn't easy to find a dream to chase when you're young, but Mugiko (Maki Horikita) has one: she can't wait to become an anime voice actress. Saving up for classes while she works part-time in a manga store, she lives with her older gambling brother (Ryuhei Matsuda), her father having passed away. When the mother (Kimiko Yo) she never knew turns up out of nowhere and moves in, it only causes irritation for the aspiring otaku. But when she disappears just as quickly, it leaves Mugiko (or "Sweet Pea") searching for answers, bringing her back to her mother's hometown to discover what happened to her mother’s own dream. Featuring fun animated sequences produced especially for the film by renowned studio Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire), My Little Sweet Pea boasts hilarious and moving performances all round, with director Keisuke Yoshida's signature comic timing and snappy dialogue. A consummate two hanky melodrama, My Little Sweet Pea won't leave a dry eye in the house. “You’ll feel like calling Mom after this one.” --Mark Schilling --- Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~  (Neko Zamurai) Saturday, July 19 at 7:30 pm **International Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with actor Kazuki Kitamura, with CUT ABOVE Award Ceremony, Followed by the Japan CATS Party! Japan. 2014. 100 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshitaka Yamaguchi. With Kazuki Kitamura, Misako Renbutsu, Yasufumi Terawaki, Kanji Tsuda, Shigeyuki Totsugi. The ever versatile Kazuki Kitamura stars as masterless samurai Kyutaro Madarame, a feared swordsman who has fallen on hard times in old Edo. Caught between two warring gangs in an epic battle of cat lovers and dog lovers, he begrudgingly accepts the canine faction's offer to assassinate the opposite leader's beloved pet: an adorable white cat. Yet upon raising his lethal sword, he cannot bring himself to go through with the act, and the cat melts his ronin heart. But before finding peace as a newly minted cat person, the still fearsome Madarame will have to take on both gangs in a classic samurai street brawl. Kitamura and the cat ("Tamanojo") form a winning onscreen pair in this charming and hilarious romp. Directed by former Takashi Miike Assistant Director Yoshitaka Yamaguchi, Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~ is perfect for cat lovers and cinephiles alike. "Obviously, this is a must see film. Let's not even kid around about that." --Badass Digest --- The Passion (Junan) Friday, July 18 at 6:30 pm **International Premiere Japan. 2013. 95 min. DCP, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Ryoko Yoshida. With Mayuko Iwasa, Kanji Furutachi, Yasushi Fuchikami, Kumiko Ito. A singular deadpan comedy, The Passion tells a story of a young woman raised in a convent named Frances-ko (Mayuko Iwasa), after Saint Francesco. Distressed by not knowing about love and sex, she calls out for a sign from above, but instead hears a voice from below. A human-faced growth speaks to her from between her legs, constantly berating her, calling out "Woman, you are worthless!" Mr. Koga, as she names it, continues the verbal abuse, yet Frances-ko somehow adapts, forming an adversarial yet symbiotic relationship. This bizarre film, based on Kaoruko Himeno's acclaimed 1997 novel of the same name, is skillfully directed by Ryoko Yoshida, lensed by veteran cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa, grounded by Iwasa's show-stopping performance and enlivened by the hilarious Kanji Furutachi, who lends his voice to the chauvinistic Koga. The soundtrack boasts an unmissable eclectic score by legendary experimental musician and composer Otomo Yoshihide. 18+ This film is unrated, and may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. Original novel shortlisted for the prestigious Naoki Prize --- Pecoross' Mother and Her Days (Pekorosu no Haha ni Ai ni Iku) Sunday, July 20 at 12:30 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 113 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Azuma Morisaki. With Ryo Iwamatsu, Harue Akagi, Kiwako Harada, Ryo Kase, Naoto Takenaka, Kensuke Owada. Laid-back baby boomer Yuichi (Ryo Iwamatsu) is a middle-aged manga artist and singer-songwriter when he isn't at his salaryman day job or watching out for his elderly mother. Suffering from increasing dementia since her husband's death, Mitsue (Harue Akagi) is a constant source of comic energy or annoyance for Yuichi, and he and his son must soon decide if they should put her in a home for the elderly. Jumping back in time, we see how Mitsue (played by Kiwako Harada) tracked the tumult of the latter half of the 20th century, being raised as one of 10 brothers and sisters, surviving the war, and having to push her alcoholic husband (Ryo Kase) along in life. Pecoross is directed by the oldest active film director in Japan, Azuma Morisaki (b. 1927), who creates an emotionally complex work that is only the more profound and life-affirming for its cartoonish portrayal. Awarded Best Japanese Film of 2013 by Kinema Junpo and Eiga Geijutsu --- The Pinkie (Samayou Koyubi) Saturday, July 12 at 10:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 65 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Lisa Takeba. With Ryota Ozawa, Miwako Wagatsuma, Haruka Suenaga, Reon Kadena, Takashi Nishina, Mondo Yamagishi, Kanji Tsuda. The winner of the Grand Prix at the 24th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Lisa Takeba's debut feature is a hyper-imaginative sci-fi(ish) drama about a slacker and his clone. Devil-may-care Ryosuke is taking it easy, nice and easy, particularly with the girls. Unfortunately, the latest beauty he seduces turns out to be a yakuza's moll. Reckoning comes when gangsters beat him up and chop off his pinkie, which falls in the hands of Momoko, a naughty girl who has been stalking him. She gets herself a cloning kit and grows her own Ryosuke-clone. It performs beyond expectations and proves to be a remarkable lover. Frantically paced, The Pinkie is chock-full of Western and Japanese pop culture references and jokes, as if Gen Sekiguchi's Survive Style 5+ had been directed by the minds behind Sushi Typhoon splatter films, mixing Weird Science, Battles Without Honor and Humanity and The Terminator into 65 minutes of concentrated weirdness. “The best thing about The Pinkie is its total adherence to a vision. That this vision is so utterly bizarre is what makes it special.” – Film.com --- The Snow White Murder Case (Shirayukihime Satsujin Jiken) Friday, July 11 at 6 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 126 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. With Mao Inoue, Go Ayano, Misako Renbutsu, Nanao, Shihori Kanjiya, Nobuaki Kaneko, Erena Ono. Yoshihiro Nakamura's Snow White Murder Case (helmer of Fish Story and Golden Slumbers) offers one of the best brain teasers of the year. Based on a novel by bestselling author Kanae Minato, the film dissects the odd goings-on behind the grim discovery of a corpse in the woods of a national park near Tokyo. The victim is a beautiful young office worker, Noriko Miki (Nanao), the object of much jealousy at the cosmetic company where she was employed. Suspicions soon turn toward her co-worker Miki Shirono (Mao Inoue), who has vanished after the murder. Blogger/journalist Yuji Akahoshi (Go Ayano) takes his investigation to the world of social media and the case quickly turns into a witch hunt with a full-blown Twitter storm. As the plot makes brain-bending twists and turns, the camera takes a cold, hard but not humorless look at the damage wrought by the pettiness of a passive-aggressive society. “Exceptionally well-written and skillfully lensed, The Snow White Murder Case is definitely one of the most compelling crime thrillers to come out of Japan in the last few years.” – Twitch Film --- Tale of a Butcher Shop (Aru Seinikuten no Hanashi) Saturday, July 19 at 12 pm **U.S. Premiere Japan. 2013. 108 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Aya Hanabusa. The Kitades run a butcher shop in Kaizuka City outside Osaka, raising and slaughtering cattle to sell the meat in their store. The seventh generation of their family's business, they are descendants of the buraku people, a social minority held over from the caste system abolished in the 19th century that is still subject to discrimination. As the Kitades are forced to make the difficult decision to shut down their slaughterhouse, the question posed by the film is whether doing this will also result in the deconstruction of the prejudices imposed on them. Though primarily documenting the process of their work with meticulous detail, Aya Hanabusa also touches on the Kitades' participation in the buraku liberation movement. Hanabusa's heartfelt portrait expands from the story of an old-fashioned family business competing with corporate supermarkets, toward a subtle and sophisticated critique of social exclusion and the persistence of ancient prejudices. Note: Some scenes contain graphic animal imagery. Official selection 2013 Busan International Film Festival and 2013 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival --- The Tale of Iya (Iya Monogatari--Oku no Hito--) – CLOSING FILM Sunday, July 20 at 6 pm **North American Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Tetsuichiro Tsuta Japan. 2013. 169 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Tetsuichiro Tsuta. With Rina Takeda, Shima Ohnishi, Min Tanaka, Hitoshi Murakami, Naomi Kawase. Shot on 35mm in Tokushima Prefecture's gorgeous Iya Valley, Tetsuichiro Tsuta's second feature feels like the work of a seasoned filmmaker. The Tale of Iya depicts the story of a shrinking rural community and traditional ways of life encroached on by modern society and consumerism. A grandfather (legendary dancer Min Tanaka) and his granddaughter, Haruna (actress and martial artist Rina Takeda), live together in a small mountain town, eating food they grow and hunting in the forest. Haruna is about to finish high school and must choose whether she will stay or move to the city. Tanaka is powerful and nearly wordless in this indelible screen performance, matched by Takeda, who provides the film with its emotional anchor. Through the appearance of a young man from Tokyo (Shima Ohnishi), Tsuta subtly portrays the dilemmas of leaving, staying and the politicized fights to conserve the environment or temporarily boost the economy. "5/5 stars… a work of instant and startling brilliance." --The Telegraph (UK) --- Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru Mono) Tuesday, July 15 at 8:30 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 135 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Sang-il Lee. With Ken Watanabe, Koichi Sato, Akira Emoto, Yuya Yagira, Shiori Kutsuna. In adapting Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), Sang-il Lee paid tribute to the film's grandiosity and scale while exchanging America's Western frontier for Meiji-era Japan, a time of immense social and political change after the fall of the Shogunate. Jubei (Ken Watanabe), once a samurai assassin, has survived to raise his children as an impoverished farmer. Before his wife's death, he promised her that he would lay down his sword, but when Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto) comes with news of a bounty on two men who mutilated the face of a prostitute, he can't turn him down. Young Goro (Yuya Yagira) joins the hunt, but they'll have to get through sadistic police chief Ichizo Oishi (Koichi Sato) first, and Jubei must confront even greater injustices, as well as his past deeds and killer heart. With gorgeously choreographed action set pieces in Hokkaido's beautiful and cruel landscape, this Unforgiven stands tall and alone. "Unexpectedly brilliant." --Time Out London ---  Uzumasa Limelight (Uzumasa Laimulaito) Sunday, July 13 at 8 pm **International Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF **Featuring Intro and Q&A with director Ken Ochiai and actress Chihiro Yamamoto Japan. 2014. 103 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Ken Ochiai. With Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda. A moving, nostalgic portrait of the men behind the golden age of chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films), Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre for which Japan is famous. A professional extra named Kamiyama (Seizo Fukumoto, a real-life kirare-yaku, or chambara extras whose job it is to get killed on screen) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku in sword-fighting movies produced at Kyoto's Uzumasa Studios. A master of the art, he lives to die--or more exactly "to be cut"--and show a beautiful, spectacular death on screen. Now an elderly man, Kamiyama lives very modestly but has earned immense respect from his peers, some of them movie stars. When the studio where he works decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, Kamiyama finds himself at a loss. Hope arrives in the form of a young girl named Satsuki, who soon becomes Kamiyama's disciple. Will the art of dying by the sword live on? --- Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de Naze Warui) Thursday, July 10 at 8:30 pm **NYC Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF **Introduction and Q&A with actress Fumi Nikaido, Followed by the LET’S PLAY IN HELL! Opening Night Party Japan. 2013. 126 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Sion Sono. With Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino, Tomochika. A tribute to old-school yakuza cinema and shoe-string amateur filmmaking based on a screenplay Sion Sono wrote 17 years ago. The Fuck Bombers, a group of film geeks led by Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa), try to turn brawler Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) into their new Bruce Lee but are nowhere near making their action masterpiece. An ambush set up by a yakuza clan comes to a gory end in the home of boss Muto (Jun Kunimura) with only one man, Ikegami (Shinichi Tsutsumi), surviving. When Mitsuko, the Mutos' young daughter, makes an unexpected entrance, Ikegami is instantly smitten. Ten years later, she has become one sultry mean mess of a girl (Fumi Nikaido). Determined to make Mitsuko a star, her father gives Hirata a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make his movie, with the yakuza as film production crew and the Bombers joining the "real" action--the ultimate sword battle between the Muto and Ikegami clans. "Quite possibly mankind’s greatest achievement, Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is less of a question than it is a glorious grindhouse requiem for an entire mode of filmmaking… “– Film.com --- Wood Job! (Ujjobu! Kamusari Naanaa Nichijo) Sunday, July 13 at 12:30 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 116 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinobu Yaguchi. With Shota Sometani, Masami Nagasawa, Hideaki Ito, Yuki Hirano, Naoki Ishii, Yoki Iida. The new film from Shinobu Yaguchi, director of Water Boys, is based on Shion Miura's bestseller, a bittersweet coming-of-age novel. Yuki Hirano (Shota Sometani), an ordinary 18-year-old high school graduate, fails his university entrance exams. Finding himself without a job or anything much in the way of career prospects, he abruptly decides to leave the city life behind, prompted by a brochure with a dishy girl on the cover (Masami Nagasawa) that advertises a one-year forestry program. He winds up in Kamusari, a backwater village nestled deep in the mountains, far beyond civilization, convenience stores and mobile phone coverage. There, he meets Iida (Hideaki Ito), a combination of mountain boy scout, dreamboat, handyman and wildman. Alongside Iida, Yuki learns and grows to love the Thoreau-like lifestyle in the woods and he finds himself embracing the dream of forging a fresh green life--and finding the girl from the brochure. “[Yaguchi’s] latest … is a return to comic form, with more laugh-out-loud gags than his films have produced in many years.” – The Japan Times   GUEST SPOTLIGHTS Kazuki Kitamura (Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, Man from Reno, Killers) - An incredibly versatile, talented actor, Kazuki Kitamura has established himself over the past two decades as one of Japan's most sought-after stars. Embodying devilishly handsome villains and dashing heroes in dramatic and comedic performances of equal virtuosity, he'll present three of his latest films at JAPAN CUTS: the hilarious Neko Samurai, the the Japanese-American independent thriller Man from Reno, and the Indonesian-Japanese co-produced horror-thriller Killers. Recently taking on ambitious transnational projects such as the Indonesian action film The Raid 2, Kitamura hails from Osaka, and made a name for himself in 2000 when he received Kinema Junpo's Best New Actor award for his work in Rokuro Mochizuki's Minazuki and Takashi Miike's Ley Lines (Nihon kuroshakai). That same year he was awarded Best Supporting Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival for his work in Minazuki, Ben Wada'sPerfect Education (Kanzen-naru shiiku), and Kazuhiro Kiuchi's Kyohansha. Since then, Kitamura has continued to impress with a wide range of memorable leading and supporting roles in film and television, including the deliciously evil alien commander in Godzilla: Final Wars, the Thermae Romae franchise and acting opposite Tatsuya Nakadai in Japan's Tragedy. JAPAN CUTS 2014 celebrates Kitamura's career with candid introductions and Q&As for Man from Reno, Killers and Neko Samurai followed by the Japan CATS Party! Momoko Ando (0.5mm) is a multitalented filmmaker, artist and writer, and a rising star of Japan's independent filmmaking scene. Ando's first film, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, was released in 2009 to great acclaim, scored by the Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha.0.5mm, her tour de force second feature, is adapted from her debut novel of the same name, and stars her sister, actress Sakura Ando. (From an immensely creative family, Momoko Ando is also the daughter of actor/director Eiji Okuda and essayist Kazu Ando.) While critically approaching contemporary issues of gender and patriarchy, Ando's films evince a classical visual style and brilliant comic touch. JAPAN CUTS presents the world premiere of 0.5mm as the festival's Centerpiece Presentation, including an introduction, Q&A and reception with the director. Dave Boyle (Man from Reno) is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker once memorably described by the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Yang as "the best Asian American filmmaker who's not actually in any way Asian American." After debuting with the bilingual comedy Big Dreams Little Tokyo (2006), in which he also starred as a young American businessman obsessed with Japanese culture, Boyle's sophomore featureWhite on Rice starring Hiroshi Watanabe and Nae Yuuki was released in theaters in 2009. In 2011, he embarked on a multi-film collaboration with San Francisco musician Goh Nakamura, who played himself in both Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings. JAPAN CUTS presents his fifth feature film, Man from Reno, accompanied by an introduction and Q&A with the director, and star Kazuki Kitamura. Shiro Maeda (The Extreme Sukiyaki) is a writer/director/actor and leading figure in Japan’s contemporary performing arts scene, also establishing himself through his work on novels, TV and movies. Born in the 1970s, Maeda is said to represent the voices of Japan’s “Lost Decade,” which refers to those who have lived through times of economic downturn and social uncertainty. Maeda is most recognized and praised for the way he deals with heavy and universal issues through levity, subtle humor and even absurdism. He is recipient of Japan’s most prestigious award for playwrights, the 52nd Kishida Drama Award, and the 22nd Mishima Yukio Prize for literature. Adapted from his novel, Maeda presents his directorial debut The Extreme Sukiyaki and joins JAPAN CUTS for a Q&A via streaming video. Fumi Nikaido (Why Don't You Play in Hell?), one of Japan's most popular rising stars, was scouted at the age of 12 to become a model and television actress. Hailing from Naha, a southern coastal town on Okinawa Island, Nikaido made her film debut in Koji Yakusho's 2009 Toad's Oil. For her stirring performance in Sion Sono's 2011 Himizu, she received the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice International Film Festival with co-star Shota Sometani, the festival's highest prize for emerging talent, never before awarded to a Japanese performer. Nikaido joins JAPAN CUTS to present Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, including an introduction and Q&A followed by the Let's Play in Hell! Opening Night Party on the festival's opening night Ken Ochiai, Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto (Uzumasa Limelight) - Ken Ochiai is a writer/director based in Los Angeles who works in both the U.S. and Japan. Having made his first film at age 12, he left his native Tokyo after high school to pursue filmmaking in the U.S., graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a BA in Production and the American Film Institute. Seizo Fukumoto entered Toei Studio Kyoto at 15. Since then he has been featured in film and TV for more than half a century. Chihiro Yamamoto started learning Tai Chi at 3 and won gold and silver medals at the World Junior Wushu Championship. This is her film debut. The director and stars present Uzumasa Limelight at JAPAN CUTS, joining for an introduction and Q&A. Tetsuichiro Tsuta (The Tale of Iya) studied filmmaking at Tokyo Polytechnic University, where he began using black-and-white 16mm film. His first feature, Islands of Dreams was produced on this now rare format, and his magnificent second film, The Tale of Iya, is shot on color 35mm in the mountains not far from his hometown. The Tale of Iya, starring legendary dancer Min Tanaka, was awarded a Special Mention in the Asian Future section of the Tokyo International Film Festival, and chronicles not only a disappearing part of Japan, but a rare mode of film craftsmanship. Tsuta joins to present his spectacular work as JAPAN CUTS’ Closing Film, with an introduction and Q&A.
Japan Cuts 2014 photo
It never ends
With our NYAFF coverage still running strong, it seems an appropriate time to let you know that there's much, much more where that came from. Starting this Thursday, July 10th, the Japan Society kicks off their NYAFF crossove...


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