Aki-No Festival brings Japanese cinema to Israel

It features the best of contemporary Japanese cinema, which is currently in the midst of a renaissance, as Japanese films from every genre generate buzz and win awards at festivals.

A scene from Asako I and 2 (photo credit: Courtesy)
A scene from Asako I and 2
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the third year, the Aki-No Festival for Japanese Cinema, which was created and produced by the Holon Cinematheque, will be held from October 22 to November 3 at the cinematheques in Holon, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sderot and Herzliya.
It features the best of contemporary Japanese cinema, which is currently in the midst of a renaissance, as Japanese films from every genre generate buzz and win awards at festivals. This year’s festival features nine films, some of which have been shown at the Cannes, Venice and Toronto film festivals. All the films will have subtitles in English as well as Hebrew.
The festival’s director is Alon Rosenblum, the director of the Holon Cinematheque, and the artistic director and curator is Roni Mahadav-Levin, manager of the Jerusalem Cinematheque. The festival is supported by the Japanese Embassy and the Japan Foundation.
The opening-night film is Eric Khoo’s Ramen Shop, which tells the story of a young ramen chef who leaves Japan to explore his family’s history and the culinary delights of Singapore. When he meets his estranged grandmother, she tells him some stories and memories from the Japanese occupation of Singapore.
Vision, by Naomi Kawase, stars Juliette Binoche as Jeanne, a woman who travels to the woods in Japan, searching for a rare plant with medicinal powers. The film is a mystical fantasy set against the backdrop of some of Japan’s most beautiful scenery. Kawase is one of Japan’s leading directors and has made the acclaimed films Radiance, Sweet Bean and Still the Water.
Japan has long been known for its animated films. Mirai, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, is a spectacular feature film about a four-year-old boy whose life is turned upside down when his baby sister is born, but things look up when he finds a magic garden where he can meet his relatives at different points in their lives, which gives him a very special perspective.
Yukiko Mishima’s Dear Etranger tells the story of a couple who are both on their second marriage. Everything is going well, until they find out they are expecting a baby. This heartfelt drama about the complications of life in an extended family features outstanding performances.
Killing, directed by Shin’ya Tsukamoto, is a period drama set during the Edo era, about a samurai without a master who is in love with a peasant’s daughter and is training her brother. As rumors of an imminent war reach the village, a veteran samurai arrives.
Asako I & II, by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, tells the story of love at first sight and the heartbreak that follows. A girl falls in love with a free spirit who disappears after a brief romance, then meets someone who looks just like him years later, but is very different. The movie premiered in the main competition at Cannes this year.
Kiseki: Sobito of that Day, by Atsushi Kaneshige, tells the story of two brothers who are interested in music, and their strict father who doesn’t want them to go into the arts. One brother rebels and becomes a musician anyway, while the other starts studying dentistry but is still drawn to music. Eventually, they decide to put out a CD together but to remain anonymous.
Hiroshi Ando’s Moon and Thunder is about a young woman who grew up without a mother and who discovers some surprising truths when she meets the son of someone who dated her father.
Sweating the Small Stuff, directed by and starring Ryûtarô Ninomiya, is about an ordinary young man who repairs cars for a living and who goes to visit the mother of a childhood friend who is dying of hepatitis C, a visit that shakes up his life in unexpected ways.

For more information, visit the websites of the individual cinematheques.