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 the transcendent 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 Best Newcomer. 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.
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 NEST EGG!? 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
For more information on the TJFF lineup:
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