Camera Japan Festival

Last weekend the Camera Japan movie festival took place at the arthouse cinema Lantaren/Venster in Rotterdam and it was a lot of fun. The venue was packed and there was a great vibe (like always).

When I got there Friday night hoping to see “Adrift in Tokyo” and “The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine”. Unfortunately the first was totally sold out (Friday night, figure), so instead I bought a passepartout and got my tickets for the rest of the weekend.

I ended up seeing these six movies and I was amazed at the overall quality. Is Japanese cinema this good or did I have a lucky pick?

  1. Afro Samurai turned out to be a great anime blending various cultural and historic elements with humor, classic anime action and beautiful animation sequences. Recommended if you can look beyond its initial flat gangsta surface.
  2. Funuke, show some love you losers! was a great funny and blunt family drama with some strange dynamics in a family where both of the parents die in a crash and their daughter comes back home to the country. Each family member has to deal with their own past and with the others. Alternatingly very funny, dramatic and uncomfortable. Highly recommended.
  3. Tokyo Gore Police is a horrible movie both in its premise as in its execution. I won’t bore you with the details but the movie shocks as it should and is pretty funny at that. Funnier still were the people in the audience who did not make it through the movie when certain breaking points in them and in the characters in the movie had been reached. I wouldn’t recommend it, others would.
  4. What the snow brings is a beautiful film about a family reunion1 at a draft horse racing stable in Hokkaido. The landscapes are stunning and the treatment of the characters and their histories is subtle but all the more heavy hitting for it. Slow pace but highly recommended.
  5. A Gentle Breeze in the Village (official site) is even better, beautifully filmed set in the Japanese country side details the lives of a small group of children and their school. A new boy arrives from Tokyo and Soyo falls in love with him. Slow coming of age movie with a lot of telling clos-ups of the ground and feet (you have to see it). Highly recommended.
  6. Sword of the Stranger (official site) is a simple and predictable story about a young boy hunted by bad guys and a stranger who finds him and helps him. What makes this movie great is the fantastic execution in characters, story, action scenes and overall animation. Classic, highly recommended.

Like I said I saw so many good movies2 but because of their very limited releases most people I know will never get the opportunity to see any of them. The Camera Japan festival is touring through the Netherlands in the following weeks so let my list be a guide and catch a couple of these movies: 26/9 – 28/9 in Kriterion, Amsterdam and a more limited set in various other cities.

  1. Would you think this is a theme in Japanese cinema?
  2. I’m curious which movie was the audience choice.

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