Thank you to our friends at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival for gifting Thirty Four Flavours with a stack of tickets to get you out there in the sun and ready to catch some wonderful Japanese films! Yes, I will be giving away 3 pairs of tickets per film listed below.
IN THE WAKE
KIBA: THE FANGS OF FICTION
INUBU: THE DOG CLUB
PURSUIT OF PERFECTION
What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and the Toronto Japanese Film Festival Ticket Giveaway?
The samurai of the cinematic variety, are set to descend on Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s Kobayashi Hall this summer. They are joined by yakuza mobsters, manga artists in love, teenage assassins, ruthless journalists, anime princesses, campaigning dog lovers, Michelin star chefs, dashing hotel detectives and the fantastic beasts of Japan myth.
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s 11th annual Toronto Japanese Film Festival will be held from June 16 to 30 and features 24 films. After 2 successful virtual editions, the festival returns to in-person screenings at the JCCC’s Kobayashi Hall. Also returning to the festival are taiko drumming performances, great food and art exhibitions. One of the largest film events of its kind outside Japan, the TJFF is recognized by the Japanese film industry as a vital conduit for bringing Japanese film to the world. Many films come to the festival prior to their Japanese release.
TJFF 2022’s Opening Night film is the Canadian premiere of THE PASS: LAST DAYS OF THE SAMURAI, directed by Takashi Koizumi, Akira Kurosawa’s Assistant Director on Ran and Kagemusha followed byan exclusive virtual Q&A with the director. Director Koizumi creates classic samurai cinema, replete with gorgeous period costumes, sets and epic battle scenes tell the story of historical figure Tsuginosuke Kawai and the demise of the samurai class. Starring Koji Yakusho, Tatako Matsu, Tatsuya Nakadai
The Closing Night film is the International premiere of Kenji Nakanishi’s DREAMING OF THE MERIDIAN ARC, a light-hearted look at the Edo-period creation of the first map of Japan.
Highlights of the TJFF lineup of 24 feature films include –
Masaharu Takizaka’s THE LAST GOZE tells the true story of Haru Kobayashi, one of the last “goze” artists. Becoming sightless as an infant at the dawn of the 20th century, Haru’s best option is to become a “goze” – a blind entertainer who travels the countryside singing stories while playing the shamisen. At the height of her career, Haru became one of the most famous performers of her generation, eventually named a Living National Treasures.
Preceded by a shamisen performance by Ten Ten’s Aki Takahashi.
Takuya Kimura and Masami Nagasawa return in the hit follow-up to Masquerade Hotel. Police detective Nitta and hotel concierge Yamagishi are reunited at the elegant Cortesia Hotel to stop a murder at a New Year’s Eve countdown party with 500 invitees in costume. Can they unveil the truth hidden behind the murderer’s mask in time? A fast-paced, entertaining who-done-it featuring an all-star cast.
THE LAST TEN YEARS
The North American premiere of Michihito Fuji’s tender, deeply moving story of thetranscendent power of love. Matsuri learns she has an incurable disease and only 10 years left to live. She vows not dwell on her condition, to live her best life and, given her life expectancy, she swears not to fall in love. That is, until she goes to a school reunion and meets Kazuto… Starring Nana Komatsu, Kentaro Sakaguchi and Yuki Yamada.
IT’S A FLICKERING LIFE
Master director Yoji Yamada’s love letter to the golden age of the Japanese film industry based on the novel by popular prize-winning novelist Maha Harada. This heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship spanning a lifetime was nominated for multiple Japanese Academy Awards including Best Picture. Starring Kenji Sawada, Masaki Suda, Mei Nagano, Nobuko Miyamoto
LAST OF THE WOLVES
Director Kazuya Shiraishi’s action-packed continuation of the masterful yakuza saga he launched with 2018’s The Blood of Wolves. Detective Hioka has the responsibility of keeping the yakuza gangs in check but bloody war is set to erupt when psychopathic gangster Uebayashi is released from prison vowing to avenge the death of his boss. Nominated for multiple Japanese Academy Awards including Best Film, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor, the film interweaves ferociously violent battles and complex interpersonal drama. Unmissable for fans of the great yakuza films. Starring Tōri Matsuzaka, Nijirō Murakami, Ryōhei Suzuki
Winner of the 2021 Japanese Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Lead Performance and BestNewcomer. Nagisa is a transgender woman who moves from Hiroshima to Tokyo to work as a dancer in a nightclub. Her distant niece, Ichika follows her to Tokyo and pursues ballet. Although initially reluctant, Nagisa takes care of Ichika and starts to develop maternal feelings for her for the first time. This powerful and heartrending film features shattering performances by its two leads and shines a light on the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community in Japan. Starring Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Misaki Hattori.
The beguiling and imaginative directorial debut from actress Non. It is the winter of 2020, and art student Itsuka can no longer display her graduation project because of the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Non also wrote this quirky and engaging coming-of-age story that captures that dream-like isolation of the early days of the pandemic while exploring the theme of how we find motivation and purpose when an unseen enemy is intent on robbing us of both.
JUNK HEAD Lauded by Guillermo del Toro for its monumental imagination, Junk Head is a visionary masterpiece combining dark themes, grotesque designs and even humour.Takahide Hori’s stop motion animation is the product of seven years of laborious work. Hori was entirely self-taught and essentially created the film himself as director, writer, sculptor, animator and composer.
AND SO THE BATON IS PASSED
The moving story of two young women and their single parents. Yuko and her step-father Morimiya have a warm, almost sibling-like relationship and he tries to make her happy, Mitan’s widowed father flies off to Brazil on a job leaving her in the care of his new bride, the flamboyant Rika. But things soon get complicated… A heartwarming drama full of tears, hope, and sympathy. Starring Kei Tanaka, Mei Nagano, Satomi Ishihara, Kurumi Inagaki, Kenshi Okada, Nao Omori
THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION
Did you know Tokyo has the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world? Focusing on four of the leading chefs in Japan today, this documentary explores the truth behind Japan’s unique and sophisticated food culture. World-renowned food experts guide the audience through the stories behind the chefs’ endless pursuit of culinary perfection. A fascinating, mouth-watering feature doc fit for foodies and lovers of Japanese culinary culture. Starring Takemasa Shinohara, Natsuko Shoji, Yosuke Suga and Takaaki Sugita
TJFF is programmed to reflect the rich diversity of the world 4th largest film industry: premieres include: Daihachi Yoshida’s KIBA: THE FANGS OF FICTION, fast-paced, exhilarating dissection of the Japanese publishing world; Takahiro Horie’s SENSEI, WOULD YOU SIT BESIDE ME?, the wry and perceptive look at relationships seamlessly blends the artfulness of manga with real, live-action emotions that imitates art that imitates life; Tetsu Maeda’s WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR NESTEGG!? stars two of the greats from Takarazuka theatre, Amami and Kusabue both nominated for Japanese Academy Awards; and Shuichi Okita’s ONE SUMMER STORY, a heartfelt and uplifting coming-of-age anime based on Tajima Rettou’s award winning manga.
Yukiko Sode’s ARISTOCRATS questions how boundaries of class and gender intertwine in a nuanced tale of female friendship; Hugo Sakamoto’s indie action-comedy BABY ASSASSINS; Takahisa Zeze’s IN THE WAKE, nominated for Best Film, Best Actor and Supporting Japanese Academy Awards is adapted from popular author Shichiri Nakayama’s best-seller is a taut, intense thriller touching on themes of collective responsibility, the limits of compassion and the stigma surrounding welfare in Japan.
In Takayuki Hirao’s animated POMPO THE CINEPHILE a famous movie producer gives her young production assistant a chance to direct his first film. Based on the popular webcomic, Masaaki Taniguchi’s MUSICOPHILIA, tells the story of a young man with a special ability to hear sounds from the shapes and colors of objects; and the YA adventure film Takashi Miike’s THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – GUARDIANS, is a grand and hilarious adventure through the world of Japanese myth
The Toronto Japanese Film Festival’s mandate is aligned with that of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. In the 59 years since the opening of the JCCC, film has been an important tool in creating friendship, understanding, and exchange between the Japanese and broader Canadian community. Ticket sales from the festival also help to drive our heritage programming which shares the important lessons of cultural acceptance and human rights, implicit in the Japanese Canadian experience with all Canadians.
To purchase tickets online go to Torontojff.com, or call 416-441-2345 or visit the JCCC
(6 Garamond Court M3C 1Z5) 10am – 12pm & 1pm – 5pm daily, for tickets and more information.
· SINGLE TICKETS: JCCC Members: $12 / Non-member $15
· 5 FILM PASS (100 passes are available): JCCC Members $55 / Non-members: $70
· 10 FILM PASS (100 passes are available): JCCC members: $110 / Non-member: $140
If you are interested in a unique musical experience that is guaranteed to provide you with meditative moments – you must check out Candlelight Concerts. Fever Toronto brings Candlelight Concerts to Toronto. The Candlelight Concert series provides concerts illuminated by candlelight and performed by live musicians in some of the most iconic venues.
One of the most sought after events is A Tribute to Adele at the Longboat Hall. If you have tried tirelessly to get Adele tickets or are interested inhaling her music through a classical music lens, this event is for you.
The Listeso String Quartet sat on a stage as a warm collective in the darkened space of the Longboat Hall on Queen Street West. Longboat Hall is a historic landmark space, which embodies an inviting ambience to enjoy live music. Think dark pillars, wooden flooring rafters, chandeliers which has been transformed from a once YMCA space.
When you enter the Longboat Hall, you are met with a litter of candles quietly burning. Grab your seat, a drink from the bar and exhale. The quartet began promptly on time. They played some of Adele’s most legendary songs to date. Songs like, “Rumour Has It”, “Make You Feel My Love”, “Water Under the Bridge” and “Oh My God”. The space, the music, the ambience and the guests – created a deeply emotional collective connection. Guests had tears in their eyes, as they looked upon the musicians and the burning candles below their feet.
The musicians commenced with “Hello”. Listening to the first few notes of this song as played by the Listeso String Quartet will leave you feeling reflective. One of the violinists played music, which emulated Adele’s voice. It was magical, beautiful and most importantly moving. In that moment, I knew I would never forget this performance.
As the hour passed, we listened to “Someone Like You” and “Skyfall” which punctuated the room with elation and murmurs of a singalong in guest’s seats. I gazed upon other attendees above me in the rafters and on the floor; I noticed that the guests were transfixed. The wooden flooring creaked as guests settled into their seats between songs. The hour performance was just right to keep our attention. If the quartet had played another hour of classical music from their own portfolios, guests would have stayed longer to hear more.
Other songs that were on the tableau for the evening included of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, “Chasing Pavements”, “When We Were Young” and “Set Fire to the Rain”. The musical arrangements were beautifully curated. One of the musicians, by the name of Ryan, whom played the viola introduced each song with humour, which added to the relaxed atmosphere. Some guests were dressed in opulent attire, whereas others arrived in their after work clothes. After 2 years away from live music – we were present and truly letting the experience wash all over us.
As we wrapped up the evening with “Easy On Me” and “Rolling in the Deep”, there was a noted satiation amongst the guests. Would we attend another Candlelight Concert? Yes. How do we feel leaving the Candlelight Concert “A Tribute to Adele”? Happy and satisfied. As we left Longboat Hall, we passed cars playing Adele through their stereo systems with their windows wide open.
The Benevolents takes us into the world of the Tel-Aide Montreal call centre, as we follow a group of future volunteers who are learning the art of empathetic listening. Through an intimate treatment, the film seeks to recall the importance of vigilant ears in a society of loneliness.
Review: The art of listening is illustrated in this gem of a film. The viewer witnesses how counsellors at Tele-Aide in Montreal create a safe space for individuals to share their stories without interruption. Elements of care such as empathy, respect and availability colours in this black and white documentary through the words of counsellors. Resplendent. Meaningful.
The film 9 to 5 has taken its place in American history as a beloved comedy with serious subject matter. Multiple generations know every lyric to the iconic theme song that has become an anthem for working women everywhere who seek fairness, equality and dignity from their male counterparts. After more than 40 years, the feature documentary Still Working 9 to 5 celebrates the iconic film, while chronicling the important impact it had on the women’s movement of the time and one that continues today.
Still Working 9 to 5 reunites stars Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman from original 9 to 5 film, as well as Rita Moreno from the 9 to 5 TV series, Allison Janney from the Broadway musical, and other stars from the television and stage versions of the classic film. Also featured are activists and individuals closely associated with the women’s movement both now and then.
The documentary explores the comedic tone of the film and how it resonated with a wide audience at a time when the feminist message was being rejected and/or feared by a large swathe of the population. It further follows how the success of the film spawned various 9 to 5 spin-offs including a TV series (1980s) and musicals (2009 & 2019), discussing the same issues addressed in the film (and its spinoffs) and questions if the message retains its original poignancy, as well as examining what has and has not changed for women in the workplace over the last 40 years.
Review: An optimistic and upbeat film that celebrates a feminist worldview. If you are a fan of the film or enjoy the work of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton – this film is for you. A beautiful portrait into history which inspired women to embrace their gender, sexuality, and integrity.
It has been two long years since we have had an immersive opera experience that only the Canadian Opera Company can deliver. The time has come. The Canadian Opera Company welcomed back audiences with a warm heart last night with the opera fan favourite, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
As I gazed upon the patrons, I noted some interesting things. The patrons looked excited. There were individuals with their partners, young families with children, single folks and seasoned opera goers. We were together again. The time was right.
“The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the perfect choice by the Canadian Opera Company to welcome patrons new and old back into their home. It is a fresh, funny and perfect mix of light dialogue and jovial music to put a smile onto your face. For seasoned opera goers, they were satiated with a classic piece of opera they knew very well. Like the lady sitting beside me last night who hummed throughout the first act. The young man sitting on the other side of me was still and watched every detail from the SURTITLES™, to the wardrobe, actors, orchestra pit and the glorious stage production. The audience was being taken care of. Care was slowly weaving itself into the room one second at a time as the music washed over the audience.
“The Magic Flute” wove in themes of wisdom, truth, and love from the outset. Turkish-born, Austria-based tenor, Ilker Arcayürek, stars as Tamino and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner as Papageno. These two gentlemen commanded a decadent stage presence. Arcayürek provided the heartbeat to the operatic piece while Bintner loosened the mood with a delicate balance of humour and passion. Tamino and Papageno invited the audience on their journey as they travelled to rescue the kidnapped Princess Pamina played by soprano, Anna-Sophie Neher. Neher contributed a soft elegance throughout the performance while also asserting her role as heroine.
The concept of “the play within a play” challenged the audience to bear witness to what the characters were experiencing in the moment. Soprano Midori Marsh plays Papagena whose colourful exchange with Papageno injected hope into the piece. Tenor, Michael Colvin, plays Monostatos, who’s talent astounds. Sopranos, Jamie Groote and Charlotte Siegel, and mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal played the First Lady, Second, Lady and Third Lady. These three individuals are the best kept secret of the production. They embodied everything that makes “The Magic Flute” the most exquisite piece of opera through their demonstration of humour, confidence and a certain girl power. Norwegian soprano Caroline Wettergreen made her COC main stage debut as the iconic Queen of the Night. Wettergreen should be the reason that you make opera a piece of homework once you leave the performance. Wettergreen’s performance is flawless and provided the audience with a nod to grace and greatness. Canadian Director, Anna Theodosakis is joined by acclaimed set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho, whom paints the audience with a pop- up portrait of the place and time. The audience gets lost in a lush maze which symbolizes the passage from death to re-birth, as well as the cyclical progression from night to day. Lush long dresses, tight bodices, cardboard cut-outs of giraffes, zebras and bird in cages continue to lighten the mood and conjures memories of childhood story books inked in fairytale. Lighting designer Scott Zielinski illustrates the mysteries of the outdoor world beneath the cover of night where the characters act out the rituals of the drama.
German conductor Patrick Lange returns to the COC, leading the COC Orchestra through Mozart’s whimsical Singspiel. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst guides the COC Chorus.
I encourage you to make time to see the Canadian Opera Company’s production of “The Magic Flute” in the weeks that follow (May 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, and 21, 2022). It is a transformative experience and will soothe your heart and soul.
After years of living with mysterious symptoms, a young girl from Brooklyn anda DukeUniversity scientist are diagnosed with a disease said to not exist: Chronic Lyme disease.The Quiet Epidemic follows their search for answers, which lands them in the middle of avicious medical debate. What begins as a patient story evolves into an investigation into thehistory of Lyme disease, dating back to its discovery in 1975. A paper trail of suppressedscientific research, and buried documents reveals why ticks—and the diseases they carry—have been allowed to quietly spread around the globe.
According to the CDC, an estimated500,000 people are infected withLyme each year, and 10-20% of them remain sick afterantibiotic treatment. Even still, Lyme is often dismissed by the medical establishment.
Review: In true Hot Docs film selection style, The Quiet Epidemic will give you a heartbreaking but thorough insight into Lyme disease and how it destroys the lives of those afflicted and their families. I appreciated the lens of advocacy discussed by the documentary subjects. Within the pain, anguish and sorrow of a tremendous vicious medical debate – there is optimism in the voices of those living with Lyme disease.
In her 54th film, Alanis Obomsawin pays tribute to her friend’s remarkable life and rich legacy. Despite spending his early life away from his nation’s culture, renowned Haida artist Bill Reid always kept Haida Gwaii close to his heart. While working for CBC Radio, he started learning how to make jewelry, then later sculpture, using Haida techniques and images, a move that would forever change his life and the Canadian artistic landscape. Reid’s powerful narration in the film—interspersed with Obomsawin’s own—recounts his complex childhood, his emergence as an accomplished artist, and his profound connection to his homeland. Decades after his passing, Bill Reid remains an enduring force and one of Canada’s greatest artists.
Review: You can’t go wrong with any National Film Board of Canada offering. “Bill Reid Remembers by Alanis Obomsawin” will bring you closer to the art of Bill Reid. It will also make you look closer at the toonie in your pocket. We reflect on the importance of the trees, the land and wildlife and how they play important roles in the welfare of the human spirit. Brimming in insight into the Indigenous worldview, culture and spirituality – Bill Reid narrates Haida resiliency into this poetic documentary. Resplendent. Inspirational.
A persistent art collector (Haakon Mehren) faces unexpected resistance while championing the work of an unknown Norwegian artist after finding a cache of paintings in a barn. Despite success abroad, the undiscovered work of Aksel Waldemar Johannessen, an admired contemporary of Edvard Munch, takes nearly three decades to launch. The painter’s oil depictions of prostitutes and drunks living in miserable poverty offend the bourgeois aesthetics of Norway’s art establishment and challenge the canon to the point of sabotaging his rediscovery. Will rejection by the curatorial staff at the National Museum and gatekeepers of the Munch Museum diminish Johannessen’s work? An invaluable insight into art world politics, cultural institutions’ ties to big business and the power of exposure, IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA shows Johannessen’s pieces repetitively throughout the film, to the point of familiarity, to demonstrate how contact with works of art cultivate appreciation and memorability, and how essential access is to making or breaking an audience for an artist’s oeuvre.
Review: “Images of a Nordic Drama” is a slow and contemplative documentary worthy of a quiet weekend afternoon watch at the festival between heavier films. “Images of a Nordic Drama” does a wonderful job of walking the viewer through beautifully curated visuals from Norwegian artist, Aksel Waldemar Johannessen. The narration and wisdom extended by art collector, Haakon Mehren, will move you and leave you feeling that perhaps you were looking at art wrong all this time. Resplendent. Inspirational.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, mostly Kurdish, as well as the international coalition, have succeeded in dislodging the Islamic State from their last stronghold and ending their project of establishing a caliphate in Syria. Today, thousands of Islamic State members, along with their wives and children, end up in prisons and camps under the supervision of the Kurds. With extraordinary access, we travel through Syria and inside makeshift prisons, where detainees speak candidly about their motivations, experiences and loyalties, offering an incredible range of perspectives on the formation, rise and defeat of the Islamic State. (Mariam Zaidi / Hot Docs)
Review: “Rojek” is one of the best documentaries of the Hot Docs film festival. The viewer is provided with portraiture with a heartbeat. Deeply personal interviews with Islamic State members’ that at times reluctantly details their life trajectory are revealed. We learn more about their faith, culture and lived experiences that shaped their sense of selves. Their narratives are painted in bold colours for the viewer to consider. There are also darker shades which challenge our worldviews as a western audience. “Rojek” is a documentary that you will be hard pressed to find chronicled in a book, magazine or online. The viewer is walked through rubble streets, destroyed homes and faces of individuals whom have lost everything but their lives. “Rojek” provides an opportunity to reflect deeply and also quietly encouraged to learn more.