ACA Film Project Presents NEW FILMS FROM JAPAN (February 10-16)

 

Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (ACA) announces the sixth ACA Cinema Project series – New Films from Japan – organized as part of its Japan Film Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project in collaboration with the IFC Center and with Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO) entrusted with the operation of the project. This edition of the program will present four films that have made an impact, received critical acclaim, and won awards at film festivals around the world over the course of the past year.

Screening at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave – at West 3rd St,) on February 10-16, the lineup will include Kei Ishikawa’s A Man, Shô Miyake’s Small, Slow but Steady, Nao Kubota’s Thousand and One Nights, Yuji Nakae’s The Zen Diary, and Juichiro Yamasaki’s Yamabuki.

New Films from Japan series is the latest presentation of the ACA Cinema Project, representing the buzzworthy films of contemporary Japanese screen entertainment and highlighting the work of award-winning and celebrated filmmakers from Japan to film fans, industry insiders, dealmakers, and press in the United States. With these film series, ACA works to promote Japanese cinema internationally. Additional films, panels, events, and attending filmmakers and special guests will be announced soon.

Katsura Toda, Senior specialist for the arts at Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs – Government of Japan, and the organizer of ACA Cinema Project said, “These films are among the outstanding works that Japan has produced last year, with each sharing a true artistic achievement in filmmaking. All four films demonstrate a nuanced approach to storytelling, beautifully shot, with wonderful performances across the board. We could not be more excited to give them this platform at the IFC Center in New York City.”

Kei Ishikawa’s A Man debuted at the Venice Film Festival. Adapted from the Keiichiro Hirano novel, the film looks at Japan’s “lost generation” via a troubled lawyer plunged into a web of mystery when he is asked to follow the trail of a deceased man who lived under a false identity. Shô Miyake’s Small, Slow but Steady, shot entirely on 16mm film, continues to receive rave reviews at over 13 international film festivals around the world, including Berlin. The film follows the emotional journey of a hearing-impaired young woman who is a talented boxer with natural instincts and abilities, who struggles to win when the aging boxing club president who was her biggest supporter can no longer be there for her in the same way. Nao Kubota’s Thousand and One Nights won the FIPRESCI Award at the Busan International Film Festival. The film connects two women caught in an uncertain place between grieving and acceptance due to the mysterious disappearances of their husbands in a small coastal island town.

Yuji Nakae’s The Zen Diary screened in the Culinary Cinema section of the San Sebastian International Film Festival and at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The film has attracted attention for the many delicious Zen dishes featured in the film in addition to its story about an author and cook living a solitary existence living off the land in the mountains, who finds he must face his own mortality while preparing food and writing his next manuscript. Juichiro Yamasaki’s Yamabuki was the first Japanese film ever to be selected for the ACID section of the Cannes International Film Festival. The film intersects multiple characters whose loneliness and frustrations with where their lives have taken them have bubbled to the surface. They include a former equestrian athlete working off crushing debt while trying to start a new family with a young mother, and a high school girl whose publicly staged protests inspiring community action put her at odds with her father, a widowed policeman.

 

Ticket prices are as follows:

Adults: $17

Seniors and children: $14

IFC members: $12

Students: $13 (must show valid student ID at the box office)

ACA cinema project postcard coupon gives you a $4 discount as well.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to: https://www.ifccenter.com/series/aca-japan-2023

 

NEW FILMS FROM JAPAN Film Descriptions and Filmmaker Bios

All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.

Films are listed alphabetically.

 

A Man                                                                                      EAST COAST PREMIERE

Director: Kei Ishikawa

Country: Japan; Running Time: 121 minutes

Adapted from the Keiichiro Hirano novel, A Man comments on the collective existential crisis of Japan’s “lost generation” via the journey of a troubled lawyer plunged into a web of mystery when he is asked to follow the trail of a deceased man who lived under a false identity. As he gets closer to the shocking truth, he increasingly finds himself haunted by his own unsteady place in the world.

Festivals/awards: Orizzonti Competition at the 79th Venice Film Festival, Naguib Mahfouz Award for Best Screenplay 44th Cairo International Film Festival

About the director:

After studying physics at Tohoku University and film directing at the {polish National Academy for Film, Television, and Theater, Kei Ishikawa’s short film Dear World (2008) received a Special Prize in the prestigious Akira Kurosawa Foundation competition. His feature film, It’s All in the Fingers (2010) premiered at New Directors/New Films in NYC. His feature-length debut work,  Gukoroku – Traces of Sin (2017) was selected for the Orizzonti Competition at the 73th Venice Film Festival. His most recent film was Listen to the Universe (2019)

 

Small, Slow but Steady

Director: Shô Miyake

Country: Japan; Running Time: 99 minutes

A hearing-impaired woman with dreams of becoming a professional boxer discovers her fight isn’t just in the ring with the next opponent, but also includes the struggle simply to focus and train properly due to the threatened closure of her boxing club compounded by the illness of its aging president, who has been her biggest supporter. Despite a lack of support and understanding from her family and her own struggles with feelings of self-worth, she must push herself to the limit if she is to succeed. The film stars Yukino Kishii and Tomokazu Miura.

Festivals/awards: the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, the 27th Busan International Film Festival, the 66th London Film Festival, the 56th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

 

About the director:

Shô Miyake directed his first theatrical feature film Playback in 2012, which was screened in the Competition at Locarno International Film Festival. His feature film And Your Bird Can Sing (2018) was officially selected to the Forum section at Berlin International Film Festival. Other directorial works include a music documentary The Cockpit (2014) which was selected for the New Directors section of Cinema du Réel, a costume TV drama “The Courier” (2017) and a streaming TV drama series “Ju-on origins” (2020).

 

Thousand and One Nights                                                       US PREMIERE

Director: Nao Kubota

Country: Japan; Running Time: 126 minutes

A gently paced character-study of two women brought together by their shared experience of husbands who have gone missing, Thousand and One Nights is set in a beautiful port town on a remote northern island. Thirty years have passed since Tomiko’s husband suddenly disappeared. She still doesn’t know why he disappeared or if he is still alive. She fends off the overtures from Haruo, a local fisherman, as she keeps waiting for his return, holding on to the small memories of her beloved. Then she meets Nami, a younger woman, whose husband also disappeared, two years ago. The women connect over their shared loss, as Nami searches for the reason why her husband “disappeared” in order to come to terms with her situation and move on. Then, Tomiko happens to see Yoji, Nami’s missing husband, on the street… The film won the FIPRESCI Award at the 27th Busan International Film Festival.  The film stars Yuko Tanaka and Machiko Ono.

Festivals/awards:the FIPRESCI Award at the 27th Busan International Film Festival

 

 

About the director:

A prolific television documentary filmmaker, Nao Kubata made their feature film directorial debut with Homeland (2014). The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for a SIGNIS Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Asian New Talent Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

 

 

Yamabuki                                                                                 US PREMIERE

Director: Juichiro Yamasaki

Country: Japan/France; Running Time: 97 minutes

Languages: Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese

A story of finding a place to root yourself when life’s obstacles have disheartened you. Multiple characters have stories that intersect including a former equestrian athlete forced to give up on his dream works at a quarry site to work off crushing debt while trying to find happiness with a woman and her infant daughter who are estranged from the girl’s father. Meanwhile, Yambuki, a high school girl stages silent protests at a major intersection that begin to grow into community action to the dismay of her father, a widowed policeman. Everyone’s frustration and loneliness that have been lying just under the surface, increasing reveal themselves and are given a voice, which in turn begins to connect people in unexpected ways. The film stars Kang Yoon-soo and Kilala Inori.

Festivals/awards: the ACID section of the Cannes International Film Festival

 

About the director:

Juichiro Yamasaki organized a student film festival during his studies at university, made a couple of short films and worked as an assistant director. The Sound of Light (2011), about life as a farmer in current times, was his feature debut and won the Nippon Visions Award at the Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival. His follow up, Atarashki tami (2015) portrayed an uprising of people of Sanchu in 1726.

 

 

The Zen Diary                                                              EAST COAST PREMIERE

Director: Yuji Nakae

Country: Japan; Running Time: 111 minutes

Adapted from Tsutomu Mizukami’s book, The Zen Diary follows Tsutomu, a man who lives alone in the mountains, writing essays, cooking food with vegetables he grows and mushrooms he picks in the hills. His routine is happily disturbed when Machiko, his editor/love interest, occasionally visits to pester him for his next manuscript. She loves to eat, and he loves to cook for her. Tsutomu seems content with his daily life. However, a close brush with death will now force him to decide on what he values most in life and what he must choose going forward. The film stars Kenji Sawada and Takako Matsu.

Festivals/awards: the Culinary Cinema section of the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the Hawaii International Film Festival

 

About the director:

Yuji Nakae specializes in films set in Okinawa, featuring Okinawan music, language, themes, and atmosphere. He shared the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award for his debut film, Pineapple Tours, which was an omnibus film co-directed with Tsutomu Makiya and Hayashi Tōma. His film, Hotel Hibiscus (2002) won a Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival, as well as receiving a Special Mention at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

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