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Wartime anime, poolside plague in this year’s Eigasai |

Arts and Culture

Wartime anime, poolside plague in this year’s Eigasai

PLATFORMS - Pristine L. De Leon - The Philippine Star
Wartime anime, poolside plague in this yearâs Eigasai

What a Wonderful Family (2016), winner of the Officially Recommended category in the 2016 Shanghai International Film Festival, is a comedy about an elderly couple who decide to end their marriage of 50 years.

The Japanese have produced some of the most moving films in the history of cinema, wherein an undercurrent of raw emotion is often the driving force that animates a scene, where horror lurks in common corners, and death is hardly something eluded by its characters, but rather the subject that sets the story to vivid life.

As the Japanese Film Festival, Eigasai, celebrates its 20th year, the Japan Foundation offers over a hundred screenings of 20 films across different genres: from comedy and animation to drama, documentary, and horror. Eigasai 2017 begins in Philippine-Japan friendship month, on July 1 running until Aug. 29, starting at the CCP and Shangri-La Plaza, and proceeding to cinemas in Bacolod, Iloilo, Baguio, Cebu, and Davao.

This year, the festival features a retrospective showcase of three celebrated films. Shinichiro Sawai’s Memories of You (1988) follows a university student who meets a girl he has tutored years before, now a 14-year-old high school student with only six months left to live. Kohei Oguri’s The Sting of Death (1990), awarded the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, tells the narrative of a young commander and his wife, salvaging their marriage after the tumult of the Pacific War. Both will have a screening on July 1 at the CCP — the first venue of Eigasai 20 years ago.

Completing the showcase is Yojiro Takita’s Departures (2008). Winner of the Best Foreign Language category at the 81st Academy Awards, it follows the life of a failed cellist moving to his hometown in Yamagata and finding work as a traditional ritual mortician.

Also slated to open the festival is an animated film based on the manga by Fumiyo Kono. Winner of the Animation of the Year Award from the 40th Japan Academy Film Prize, In This Corner of the World (2016) follows the young wife of a naval officer, showing the exploits of her daily life as the war erupts in the 1940s. The screening on July 1 at the CCP will be preceded by a talk on manga by Dr. Jacqueline Berndt, a professor in Japanese Language and Culture at Stockholm University.





As the showcase sets the stage for the festival, officially opening Eigasai’s 20th anniversary on July 6 at the Shang is Her Love Boils Bathwater (2016), a drama depicting the strength of a woman’s spirit. The story follows a terminally ill mother rebuilding the foundations of a family, with an estranged husband, a withdrawn daughter, and a history of repressed secrets. On July 7 and 8 at the Cinematheque Manila and Shang Cineplex, the film’s award-winning director Ryota Nakano will hold a discussion on the film and on how he fleshes out the theme and meaning of family.

Among the roster of films are works that have gained awards and recognitions in film festivals across the globe. There’s Tsukiji Wonderland (2016), a documentary by Naotaro Endo, centered on one of the bastions of Japanese food culture, the Tsukiji market, as it sets out to move to a different location.

 Sweet Bean (2015) is a film by Naomi Kawase which won in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard category. Here, a dorayaki shop owner meets an elderly woman with a brilliant recipe for red bean paste. The business booms until an unforgiving rumor compels the lady to leave the shop.

A comedy which won in the 2016 Shanghai International Film Festival, Yoji Yamada’s What a Wonderful Family (2016) presents an aging couple, sending their family in a fit of panic when they decide to end their marriage after 50 years. 

Another highlight of the festival is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s return to horror films. Creepy (2016) plunges the viewers into the mystery of a missing family, as one criminal psychologist investigates the case and meets an odd new neighbor.

Similarly set to send thrills in the movie house is Hirobumi Watanabe’s Poolsideman (2016), winner of the Japanese Cinema Splash Award at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival. The plot revolves around a solitary swimming pool lifeguard. He accompanies his colleague to a pool in a neighboring town, which they discover is plagued with an epidemic.

A new addition to the Eigasai festival, Shangri-La Plaza will similarly screen three movies dubbed in the Filipino language. In cooperation with the Tagalized Movie Channel (TMC), Eigasai offers horror film Sadako vs. Kayako (2016), the drama If Cats Disappeared from the World (2016), and live-action adaptation of a manga series, Bakuman (2015).

Finally, accompanying this wide array of works is an omnibus film produced by the Japan Foundation and the Tokyo International Film Festival. “Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2016: Reflections” presents segments by three directors, Isao Yukisada, Sotho Kulikar and Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza. Exploring themes of love, identity, and alienation, the three stories map the reality of what it’s like to live in Asian countries. 

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