The festival, which used to be in November, took a break last year to reposition itself in April, “a time,” the brochure says, “associated in Japan with new beginnings and the famous cherry blossoms.”
The festival is blossoming — presented by Access Cinema, in association with the Embassy of Japan, this year’s programme is its biggest, with more screenings and more venues as part of a tour that takes in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
The festival began when the Embassy of Japan approached Access Cinema to widen the perception of Japanese film. “When people think about Japanese cinema, it does tend to fall into either anime (animation) or samurai films, and we were conscious not to fall into that bracket of just programming anime and action samurai movies, so we very much wanted the festival to be a snapshot of what had been currently distributed in Japan, but never makes its way over to the UK or Ireland,” says Access Cinema programme manager, David O’Mahony.
Japanese film, apart from anime, is not distributed widely outside of Japan, despite its huge, vibrant industry. “We really felt that the regular dramas, and comedies, and romances that are released in Japan are very under-represented, so we wanted the festival to have that as a goal.” The Japanese Film Festival reflects these aspirations, but the huge appetite for anime ensures it is more than a third of the programme. “There are so many societies and clubs and conventions that go on around Ireland, just dedicated to anime and Cosplay, where people dress as their favourite characters from games and mangas,” O’Mahony says. “But there are very few of the actual films that are exhibited, so we like to think that the Japanese Film Festival has that remit there to give them what they want.”
The festival will also satisfy those curious to see what other types of films are popular in the Japanese market. “Hideki Takeuchi’s Thermae Romane, described as a madcap time travel comedy, was the most lucrative film in Japan last year.”
The Woodsman And The Rain is a charming comedy with a dark edge, directed by Shuichi Okita, whose 2009 film The Chef of The South Polar screened at the festival. Kaori Imaizumi’s moving drama, Just Pretend To Hear, traces the burgeoning friendship between two girls, one recently bereaved, the other a special-needs student. Naoko Ogigami’s whimsical Rent-A-Cat will appeal to cat lovers, while the prolific Takashi Miike’s Ace Attorney is based on the Nintendo DS game. His musical, For Love’s Sake, is also showing.
* The Japanese Film Festival opens tonight at The Light House Cinema in Dublin, and begins its tour of the country at the Triskel, Cork, on Friday 11, University of Limerick, on Monday 15, EYE Cinema Galway, on Monday 21 and Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, on Tuesday 23. www.accesscinema.ie