10 April 2008

Nippon Connection

I found a great interview with Marion Klomfass at Deutsche Welle (English version) that gives an overview of the history of the Nippon Connection film festival. It includes a lot of interesting statistics and mentions some of the highlights of the festival. I have already written about some of the films I saw at the festival including the Open Art Animation, experimental animation Salt Lake Screaming, and the film that one the audience choice award at the festival Fine, Totally Fine. I am still working on reviews of other films that I saw at Nippon Connection including Ying Li's controversial Yasukuni documentary, Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed: Ex Machina, Eiji Uchida's Sisterhood, Naomi Kawase's The Mourning Forest, Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimeters per Second, Nobuhiro Yamashita's touching films Linda, Linda, Linda and his latest film A Gentle Breeze in the Village, and Ichiro Kataoka's benshi performance of Kinugasa's Page of Madness. Needless to say, it may take me a wee while to get through all my notes from the festival!

For my research for a book I am writing on Japanese art animation I also watched almost all of the Nippon Retro films. This included selections of films by Yoji Kuri, Taku Furukawa, Renzo Kinoshita, Kihachiro Kawamoto, and Tadanari Okamoto. It was really great seeing these films on 16mm and 35mm as for the most part I have only watched digital copies of these works. I am really impressed by the films in available in the The Japan Foundation library.

I may have caught a lot of screenings, but I did miss out on a lot of films I really wanted to see due to problems with scheduling. Films screened at Nippon Connection that I hope to have the opportunity to watch in the near future include Osamu Tezuka's Pictures at an Exhibition, Nobuhiro Doi's Nada Sou Sou, Shinji Imaoka's The Tender Throbbing Night, Yasutomo Chikuma's Now, I..., and Koji Wakamatsu's United Red Army.

My biggest regret was that I couldn't make Hirono Yamada's benshi performance. I don't think he performs overseas very often so I may have to wait until the next time I'm in Japan to catch one of his performances. Yamada has modernized the benshi practice in an exciting way. He shoots his own silent films, influenced by the aesthetic of 1970s exploitation films. I would love to hear from anyone who saw his performance at Nippon Connection or elsewhere.

If you can read German, there are some great reviews of films from the festival already posted on Janik Liebt Nachrichten. Jason Gray has also written an extensive article detailing his experience of Nippon Connection. There is some interesting debate in the comments section about Yasukuni.

Update (20 April 2008): here is the link to the Midnight Eye article Jasper mentions in the comment below giving the background to the Nippon Connection festival. Mark Nornes gives some interesting insight into the politics of film festivals in general.