One of the best ways to acquaint oneself with another country’s culture is cinema, said Shuji Takatori, director of the Japan Foundation in Manila.
For this reason, Takatori said, the movies in this year’s Eiga Sai, the Japanese Film Festival, were chosen because they serve as windows to the Japanese soul and character. “We want Filipinos to understand Japan’s current situation,” he said. The festival is on its 15th year.
Although the movies are sure to appeal to the youth, there’s a film for every member of the family, Takatori noted.
“There is drama (“About Her Brother,” “Rinco’s Restaurant,” “Dear Doctor,” “Parade”), suspense (“Confessions”), action-adventure (“Kamui,” “Castle Under Fiery Skies”) and animation (“Japan, Our Homeland,” “Mai Mai Miracle”),” he said. “We picked films produced from 2005 to 2012.”
Almost all of them are rated G (General Patronage), except “Confessions,” which is rated R-15 (Restricted-15).
Pursuant to the festival organizers’ memorandum of agreement with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), the featured films need not go through the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
The festival centerpiece is the popular three-part franchise “Always: Sunset on Third Street,” a comedy-drama about families in a working-class Tokyo neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
The trilogy showcases the resilience of the Japanese people when they rebuilt the country after World War II. “It shows the hopes and dreams of ordinary folk,” Takatori said.
It is based on a famous manga series that has sold 14 million copies. “In Japan,” Takatori explained, “manga is considered literature. One-third of any bookstore’s space is usually allotted to comic books.”
He elaborated: “All the festival films depict contemporary social issues in the city and the countryside. One is about the lack of doctors in rural areas (‘Dear Doctor’), another is about alienation among young people who live in congested urban centers (‘Parade’).”
Some have been shown in major international film festivals like Hawaii, Puchon and Shanghai (‘Always 3’), Montreal (‘Dear Doctor’), Toronto (‘Kamui’), Berlin (‘Parade’) and Locarno (‘Mai Mai Miracle’).”
In 2011, “Confessions” was Japan’s entry to the best foreign language film category of the Academy Awards.
Eiga Sai is set at the Shangri-La Plaza mall, July 4-14. Admission is free, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Marline Concio-Dualan, Shangri-La Plaza marketing division manager, said the mall had lined up other activities to highlight Japanese art and culture throughout the month of July. “We will have photo and pop-art exhibits and a classical music concert,” Dualan said.
Some of the films will then move to FDCP Cinematheque in Davao City, for screening from July 19-28. Four will be screened at Abreeza Ayala mall there for two weekends (July 20, 21, 27 and 28).
Also in Davao, documentaries on Japan’s recovery efforts after the 2011 earthquake-tsunami (“Light Up Nippon” and “Fukushima Hula Girls”) will be shown.
From Aug. 7 to 11, some films will be screened at Ayala Center in Cebu.
Finally, the fest will be mounted at the University of the Philippines Film Institute in Quezon City from Aug. 19 to 25.