The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) is offering a diverse range of films, from experimental New Wave classics, Palme D’Or winners and animated sci-fi mysteries in 2020.

The JFF will tour across both major Australian cities and regional towns and will a screen a collection of critically-acclaimed Japanese films. The main program, featuring both past and new JFF films, will be available to stream online for free. 

The JFF began as an initiative by the Japanese government to spread Japanese culture abroad. Twenty-four years later, the JFF is now an annual festival showcasing the best of what Japanese cinema has to offer. 

“The Japanese Film Festival is an opportunity to access cinema that doesn’t often get an international release,” said Susan Bui, one of the four main programmers for the festival. 

As most films produced by the Japanese film industry receive only a domestic release, the JFF is one of the few ways Australian audiences are able to see these groundbreaking and innovative films.

“It connects both people in the Japanese diaspora to their culture, as well as exposing what’s happening in Japan to people who are interested in Japanese film and culture,” said Bui. 

Bui was a part of the team that curated the film festival. They selected the Classics program based on their theme of the year- radical and experimental filmmaking.

“[We] delved deep into the archives coming up with a long list of avant-garde, boundary-shattering films for us to review, explained Bui.

“After watching a lot of mind-blowing films we managed to narrow it down to 8 titles that offer a broad scope of innovative cinematic masterpieces from Japan between the 1960s and early 2000s.”

One of the major films being screened this year is Funeral Parade of Roses (dir. Toshio Matsumoto), a 1969 film that blends documentary and cinematic techniques to showcase the life of a transgender woman living in 1960s Toyko.

Japanese Film Festival

The film would later influence Stanley Kubrick’s classic and controversial film, A Clockwork Orange. 

Funeral Parade of Roses is definitely a film that is highlighting a very small subculture of Japanese culture especially in the 1960s,” said Bui. “But it is very much remembered by cinephiles. For people who are interested in the topic of queer identity and new wave cinema in Japan.” 

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Another classic film to be screened is Pistol Opera (dir. Seijun Suzuki), which has influenced Quentin Tarantino’s filmography, particularly the Kill Bill duology, featuring a female assassin who claws her way to the top. 

“It’s just visually incredible,” said Bui. 

Japanese Film Festival

“Across the classic program, the films don’t follow the general kind of linear narrative. They’re all experimental and groundbreaking in different ways. Whether it’s highlighting a political issue of that time or a cinematic technique,” she explained. 

In the JFF’s Satellite program, which tours Australia’s regional cities, the 2018 Palme D’Or Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda) will likely be the main draw for audiences. It centres on an impoverished family, who relies on shoplifting to make ends meet. 

Japanese Film Festival

“Shoplifters definitely highlights a part of Japanese society that is probably not really well-acknowledged but is very prevalent,” said Bui.

“It looks at what constitutes family…It questions how contemporary Japanese society can function when a lot of other things are in the shadows.”

A range of animated films will also be shown across three programs, including the surreal, psychedelic Mind Game (dir. Masaki Yuasa) and the sci fi-mystery Penguin Highway (dir. Hiroyasu Ishida).  

The main, online program will also offer a series of comedies, dramas, thrillers, documentaries and animated movies.

The Classics program will be touring Canberra, Brisbane, and Sydney from December to March 2021.

The Satellite program will be touring Alice Springs, Cairns, Townsville and Bunbury from September to December 2020.

The main program will be available to stream online for free from December 4th-13th 2020 HERE.