The best of Japanese cinema: The Aki-No Festival begins Tuesday

The highest-profile director whose work is featured in this year’s festival is Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Tel Aviv cinematheque (photo credit: DR. AVISHAI TEICHER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Tel Aviv cinematheque
The Aki-No Festival for Japanese Cinema returns to Israel from October 24-31 at the cinematheques in Holon, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Herzliya. The program features the best of contemporary Japanese cinema and includes all types of movies: comedies, dramas, science fiction and animation.
The festival’s artistic director and curator is Roni Mahadav-Levin, director of the Holon Cinematheque. The festival is supported by the Japanese Embassy in Israel and the Japan Foundation.
The highest-profile director whose work is featured in this year’s festival is Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who follows up his creepy film Creepy with Before We Vanish, a movie that combines science fiction and drama. It tells the story of Shinji, a young man who disappears and returns days later a completely different person. Meanwhile, a family is murdered in a town close by, and strange occurrences are taking place all over Japan. A local journalist investigates the mystery and discovers that the culprits may not be human.
Radiance is a romantic drama by award-winning Naomi Kawase, who directed the very moving film An, about an older woman who spent her life in a leper colony and had to adjust to the outside world after the colony was closed. Radiance tells the story of Misako, a woman who writes versions of films for the visually impaired. Nakamori is an older photographer who is gradually losing his sight. While Misako translates films for him, he opens her eyes to the hidden beauty of the world.
Ryota Nakano’s intriguingly titled Her Love Boils Bathwater uses a mixture of comedy and drama to tell an emotional story of a single mother who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and is determined to put her family’s life in order. This means finding the husband who abandoned her, restarting the family business and working on her relationship with her children.
A romantic and humorous drama about young love, Their Distance, directed by Rikiya Imaizumi, tells the story of Leon, a shy young man who falls for Sona, a drunken Korean woman he meets at his favorite park. Meanwhile, his female co-worker is secretly in love with him, but she doesn’t notice that she has captured the heart of one of her clients.
Kei Ishikawa’s Gukôroku – Traces of Sin is a psychological thriller. It tells the story of an investigative journalist who tries to find the truth behind the murder of a seemingly perfect family, a case that has gone cold. As he delves further into the story, he discovers that the murdered family had a lot more problems than anyone realized, and he has to face his own demons.
Nobuhiro Yamashita’s My Uncle, a comedy, is told from the point of view of Yukio, a boy who loves his uncle. The uncle is a part-time philosophy professor who lives off the generosity of others but gives nothing in return. His life takes a turn when he meets Ari, a woman who has to return to Hawaii to take care of her family’s coffee plantation. Taking Yukio along, he follows her back to Hawaii.
The Long Excuse
, directed by Miwa Nishikawa, is a drama about two different men coping with loss. Sachio loses his wife in a car accident, but he doesn’t feel a thing. Yoichi also lost his wife in the same accident and feels nothing but grief. Unexpectedly, Sachio offers to take care of Yoichi’s two children. Masahiro Motoki, best known for his performance in Departures (which is best known as the movie that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar the year Waltz with Bashir was nominated), plays Sachio.
Yoshiyuki Kishi’s film A Double Life is a mystery about Tama, a philosophy doctoral candidate who is assigned to follow an arbitrarily chosen stranger and document his routine. But when she discovers her test subject’s double life, she can no longer stay on the sidelines.
In This Corner of the World is an animated film, but it’s not a kids’ movie. Directed by Sunao Katabuchi, it tells the story of Suzu, a young woman who moves to the small town of Kure in Hiroshima to live with her husband’s family. When a ball of fire explodes over Hiroshima in 1945, her perseverance and courage are put to the test.