20th Japanese Film Festival
The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) is presented by The Japan Foundation, Sydney. The JFF started in 1997, 100 years after the first foreign cameraman arrived in Japan, with three free film screenings by former Festival Director Masafumi Konomi, and has become the largest Japanese film festival in the world, showcasing a vast, well curated variety of cinematic delights from classics to newly released films currently screening in Japan as well as bringing out special guests from Japan for exclusive Q&A sessions and film screenings.
The history of the cinema of Japan is an interesting one as its DNA and the distinctive narrative style that is the foundation of traditional Japanese filmmaking is infused with the idea of the haiku as poetic art, which narrates with images rooted in the traditions of Kabuki and doll theater.
The Japanese Film Festival caters to all of its distinctive genres: Be it the equivalent to the Hollywood western, i.e. Samurai cinema with honor as the main plot theme; or anti-war films, which JFF pays homage to with a range of post-war classic films by Tadashi Imai and Kaneto Shindo: With Japan being the only nation to have experienced a nuclear attack, it is literally the first and only post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic society. These movies often explore the trauma that resulted from the atomic bomb attacks, even when they are at face value not explicitly about the event.
Another curious genre in Japanese film originating from the late 1950s is Yakuza. With a clear relation to the Hollywood gangster films, documenting the uses and customs of the Japanese mafia, a cultural phenomenon that has its antecedents in the samurai tradition
A new audience spawned demand for ultra-violent movies bereft of plot and desensitized beyond recognition, which the JFF also caters to with 18+ flics. Japanese animation deserves a chapter all to itself. Standing out for highlighting of human values based on an exceptional technique that connects with the public on an aesthetic level, creating a colorful mirror suspended in time.
Your humble narrator and Japan aficionado had the chance to watch Kampai! For the Love of Sake – a documentary about the passion that fuels the brewing and the spirit of sake.
Personal narratives of three modern sake brewers trace the global love affair with Japan’s favorite alcoholic beverage. Following not only the fifth-generation brewery owner Kosuke Kuji but also the journey of the Westerners Philip Harper, who became a master brewer, and John Gauntner, who was re-christened the “evangelist of sake” by Japanese sake luminaries make the documentary all the more compelling, as it tracks the journey of sake from the brewery to the restaurant table.
The documentary was accompanied by a sake tasting event, during which Gauntner’s seven basic tasting parameters found their application – fragrance, impact, sweet versus dry, acidity, presence, earthiness, and tail – on the five basic types of sake, each having its own distinct brewing method and a different percentage of rice milling (seimaibuai).
The Japanese Film Festival will hold court in Sydney until 27 November and one does not have to be a movie buff to be well entertained.
Photos by Wagamama Media LLC