Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: 2009 JAPAN CUTS Festival of New Japanese Film

2008 "Halfway" Film Partners
Running through July 12, Japan Society presents the third annual JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film, screening 18 feature length films, many never-before seen in the World, U.S. or NY, in addition to several filmmaker Q&A’s and special events. Highlights in 2009 include the final installment of Takeshi Kitano’s deeply personal trilogy about an artist’s dilemma, Achilles and the Tortoise; the much-anticipated 4-hour hentai (pervert) epic Love Exposure (dir. Sion Sono); the controversial cop-crime-action flick Confessions of a Dog (dir. Gen Takahashi) held from release for four years after its completion; Halfway (dir. Eriko Kitagawa), produced by coming-of-age film master Shunji Iwai; and the sci-fi, time travel romantic comedy Cyborg She (dir. Kwak Jae-Yong).

The festival presents a number of exclusive Q&A’ s with filmmakers and actors, including Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Eiji Okuda, Sion Sono, Gen Takahashi, the duo UrumaDelvi, and Momoko Mieda, who hosts a special conversation in memory of late director Jun Ichikawa.

Special public events include two post-screening themed celebrations. The Cyborg Party following Cyborg She (July 11) encourages patrons to come as their favorite human-robot hybrid. In addition, independent filmmakers from the U.S. and Japan, Kenneth Eng and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri take part in the panel discussion co-presented with DCTV, How to Make a Film in Japan & Beyond (July 9).

This year JAPAN CUTS spotlights UrumaDelvi, the artistic duo behind the hugely popular animated music video The Bottom Biting Bug, with a series selection of the duo’s short animations, including world premiere English versions of The Bottom Biting Bug and Sumiko: Who Do You Think you Are? UrumaDelvi also provides the original JAPAN CUTS 2009 festival trailer.

Confessions of a Dog (Pochi no kokuhaku) Thursday, July 9 at 7 pm & Saturday, July 11 at 2:15 pm
**Featuring a Q&A with director Gen Takahashi
2008, 195 minutes, DVcam. Directed by Gen Takahashi. With Shun Sugata, Hironobu Nomura, Harumi Inoue and Hajime Ide. International Premiere.
“In Japan there are two things you shouldn’t question: the emperor and the police,” says Takeda, a loyal detective who is seduced into an organized drug ring involving Japan’s entire police department. This riveting commentary on law enforcement’s abuse of power, the media’s complete obedience and unquestioning public compliance unfolds fast and furiously with astounding performances and incomparable grit. The film was only recently released in Japan after four years of controversy.

Panel Discussion: How to Make a Film in Japan & Beyond
Thursday, July 9, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Panelists: Directors Kenneth Eng, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, producer Keiko Kusakabe and more! Co-presented with DCTV).
Japan has been a very popular character in and of itself in American movie culture, but is the filmmaker’s journey as exotic and intriguing as the locale they’re shooting in? In this panel discussion, an array of filmmakers explore international production and cross-border storytelling. Topics include how to gain access to subjects, locations, and crew members; overcome language barriers; and find domestic and foreign financing.

Ain’t No Tomorrows (Oretachi ni asu wa naissu)
Friday, July 10 at 6:30 pm
2008, 79 min., Digibeta. Directed by Yuki Tanada. With Tokio Emoto, Yuya Endo, Tomorowo Taguchi and Sakura Ando. North American Premiere.
This bold, yet humorous portrait of six high school seniors reveals the suffocating realities of coming of age, from 17 year-old Hiruma who in a desperate attempt for sex unleashes his urges on Anpai, an overweight boy who has “boobs,” to classmate Tomono, a sickly loner in a serious relationship with a married teacher.This film is helmed by Yuki Tanada (One Million Yen Girl, 2008; script for Sakuran, 2007), an emerging director who is distinguished by her intimate realist approach to characters.

Non-ko (Nonko 36 sai–kajitetsudai)
Friday, July 10 at 8:15 pm & Sunday, July 12 at 4:15 pm
**Q&A with director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
2008, 105 min., 35mm. Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri. With Maki Sakai, Gen Hoshino, Shingo Tsurumi and Kanji Tsuda. NY Premiere.
Nonko, a 36-year-old divorced ex-actress, returns home to her family, where her father is a priest at a local Shinto shrine. Disillusioned and lonely, she takes out her frustration by drinking herself to oblivion at a local bar until she meets a naïve young man who is trying to make his fortune by selling baby chicks. Maki Sakai gives a stellar performance in the title role of Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s uplifting portrait of a complex woman.
Crime or Punishment?!? (Tsumi toka batsu toka)
Saturday, July 11 at 12 pm
2008, 110 min., 35mm. Directed by Keralino Sandorovich. With Riko Narumi, Kento Nagayama and Sakura Ando. International Premiere.
To avoid charges for unintentional shoplifting, a clumsy and aspiring model agrees to become a “Celebrity Police Chief” for a day. When she realizes that a junior detective in her precinct is her former lover and a psychopathic serial killer, she must choose between what is right and what is in her heart. Director Keralino Sandorovich’s over-the-top black comedy is ripe with Monty Python-esque absurdity.

UrumaDelvi Collected ShortsSaturday, July 11 at 6:15 pm
**Q&A and animation-making demonstration with UrumaDelvi
Total running time: approx. 50 min.
UrumaDelvi, the wildly popular artistic duo, comes to JAPAN CUTS to premiere their witty, adorable and highly inventive animations loaded with super-saturated colors, selected from an oeuvre of over 500 works. First aired on the Japanese public television network NHK, UrumaDelvi’s famous animated music video The Bottom Biting Bug swept the nation, selling over 250,000 CDs and a million ringtone downloads. Among 17 featured shorts, The Bottom Biting Bug and Sumiko: Who Do You Think You Are? make their English-language debuts.

Cyborg She (Boku no kanojo wa saibogu)
Saturday, July 11 at 8:00 pm
**Featuring a post-screening “Cyborg Party”
2008, 120 min., 35mm. Directed by Kwak Jae-Yong. With Haruka Ayase and Keisuke Koide. NY Premiere.
Celebrating his 20th birthday alone at a restaurant, Jiro, a shy university student, is approached by a cute girl and spends an unforgettable evening with her before she vanishes. A year later the girl reappears but Jiro notices some changes–particularly her superhuman strength and robotic behavior. Korean director Kwak Jae-Yong (My Sassy Girl, 2001) teams up with a Japanese cast and crew in this sci-fi romantic comedy that pays homage to Terminator, Back to the Future and Doraemon, Japan’s most beloved manga.

Buy a Suit (Sutsu wo kau)Sunday, July 12 at 12 pm
**Followed by a conversation with actress Momoko Mieda
2008, 47 min., HDcam. Directed by Jun Ichikawa. With Yukiko Sunahara, Sabakichi and Momoko Mieda. U.S. Premiere.
Veteran director Jun Ichikawa (Tony Takitani, 2004), who died suddenly the night that he finished editing this film (originally a private project), reveals his more personal and playful side while filming with nothing more than a few friends as actors and a camcorder. The film follows Yuki’s visit to Tokyo in search of her missing brother Hisashi, and their later reunion with Hisashi’s ex-wife. Ichikawa’s camerawork and plain sets draw out these affectionate characters and their connection amidst the barren Tokyo cityscape. In memory of late director Jun Ichikawa, this screening of Buy a Suit is followed by a conversation with Momoko Mieda, an actress in the film and Ichikawa’s personal friend.

Halfway (Harufuwei) Sunday, July 12 at 7 pm
2009, 85 min., 35mm. Directed by Eriko Kitagawa. With Kii Kitano, Masaki Okada and Takao Osawa. International Premiere.
Hiro, a high school senior in Hokkaido, is so deeply in love with her boyfriend Shu that she gets dizzy just being near him. But when she discovers that Shu is planning to apply to a university in Tokyo without her, she begs him not to go. This collaboration between famous screenwriter Eriko Kitagawa and master of romance Shunji Iwai (Love Letter, 1995; All About Lily Chou-Chou, 2001), depicts a precious moment in the lives of these immature yet innocent characters using unscripted dialogue and improvisation.

Born in Hokkaido, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri quickly gained international recognition with his thesis film Kichiku (1997), an extremely brutal portrait of the 1970s student movement and its corruption. Kumakiri customarily explores difficult topics, and Non-ko is his seventh feature film following Hole in the Sky (2001), Antenna (2004), The Violated Woman (2004), Green Mind, Metalbats (2006) and Freesia (2006, Japan Cuts 2007).

Eiji Okuda was born in Aichi. His acting credits span numerous films and TV series in close collaboration with distinguished film directors such as Kei Kumai (The Sea and Poison, 1986) and Tatsumi Kumashiro (Bo no kanashimi, 1994). Okuda has also directed many award-winning films, including An Adolescent (2001), A Long Walk (2006, Grand Prix, Montreal World Film Festival) and Out of the Wind (2007), which stars his daughter, Sakura Ando, a rising star in Japan’s indie scene.

Born in Aichi, Sion Sono is known as a rebel essayist, poet and filmmaker. He received the PIA Film Festival (PFF) award for two consecutive years (1984 and 1985), and made Bicycle Sighs with PFF scholarship in 1990. Since directing the controversial psycho-horror Suicide Club in 2001, he has been invited to numerous film festivals and has made Strange Circle (2005), Noriko’s Dinner Table (2006) and Exte (2006), for which Sono made a special appearance at JAPAN CUTS 2007 for the U.S. premiere.

Born in Tokyo, Gen Takahashi began his film career at Toei’s Tokyo studio. His theatrical and film directorial debut Heartless (1992) achieved enduring acclaim as a cult favorite and was followed by a number of popular films such as Young Blood Typhoon (1995) and Lady Plastic (2001). In 2004, Charon (2005) won the Fantaland Grand Prix (audience award) at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. His latest film, Goth (2008), is an adaptation of a popular horror novel by Otsu-ichi.

Best known for their animated music video, The Bottom Biting Bug, UrumaDelvi is the artistic collaboration of two animators, Uruma and Delvi, who first gained recognition with Shikato, which was created for a popular children’s TV program. Since then, UrumaDelvi have worked prolifically as animation artists, musicians and graphic designers, while developing an innovative computer animation software program, UrumaDelvi Paint.

For further details, visit

The 2009 JAPAN CUTS Festival on New Japanese Film through July 12. General admission tickets are $12/$8 Japan Society members; screenings of Love Exposure (July 3) and Cyborg She (July 11) are $16/$12 including after party; the panel discussion (July 9) is $15 / $12 IFP, Shooting People, NYWIFT and WMM members / $10 Japan Society & DCTV members. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and V subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 212-715-1258 or visit

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2009 by in Entertainment, Film, Japanese Culture, New York and tagged , .
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