As one of the shining beacons of Asian cinema, Japan is renowned for its strong, prolific, and innovative film industry, which, throughout its century-old history, has given rise to several important cinematic movements and enduring screen icons. Indeed, the Far Eastern nation has long been a touchstone for artists from around the world, who remain inspired by the creativity and talent of its celluloid practitioners.
The Japanese Film Festival continues to proudly showcase this incredible wealth of movie-making heritage and in 2016 marked its 13th season with a richly-layered programme that cuts across a variety of tastes. There was something for everyone at the 110 screenings held across seven participating Golden Screen Cinemas locations—including the inaugurally introduced NU Sentral—in four regions all through September till October. From crowd-pleasing blockbusters and laugh-out-loud comedies to trophy magnets and arthouse slow-burners, the annual bash offered old favourites and new discoveries for dilettantes and die-hard enthusiasts alike.
Adding to the excitement was the presence of the legendary KIKI Kilin. Those who were fortunate to meet the actress during her limited appearances here were delighted to find that she is as gentle, warm and witty as the benign characters she famously portrays. The arts, diplomatic, academic and press corps were out in full force on opening night at GSC Pavilion KL, where Kilin presented After the Storm, her fifth collaboration with festival darling Hirokazu Kore-eda. She plays Yoshiko Shinoda, who dotes on her son despite his failings as a novelist and family man.
The following morning, a lucky crowd of her biggest fans were able to watch An on the silver screen before anyone else in Malaysia. Kilin’s tender depiction of a cook struggling with leprosy tugged at the heartstrings of the audience, who seized the opportunity to ask the leading lady their burning questions and take home photographic mementos after the show. Kampachi Restaurants was also on hand to dish out some delicious dorayaki, the Japanese sweet bean pancake that is central to the title’s plot.
Kilin’s star power certainly rubbed off on her two featured flicks, as After the Storm and An received resoundingly warm reception at the box office. Both were lodged at the summit of the hall occupancy charts, thanks in no small part to sold-out shows at almost every venue.
Coming not so far behind was the suspense-heavy thriller Creepy, representing a genre long clamoured for by festival regulars. The two-parter live-action adaptation of bestselling manga Chihayafuru and Mamoru Hosoda’s latest The Boy and the Beast also reliably drew throngs of pop culture enthusiasts. The rest of this year’s selection were no slouches either, scoring much-improved cumulative admissions of 8,720.
Teen drama Flying Colours was the curtain-raiser at the Kuching launch at GSC CityONE Megamall, which saw the attendance of Mitsubishi Corporation Malaysia chief executive and Kuala Lumpur manager Kenji Ohta as well as many of the conglomerate’s partners in the state.
Amidst a marketplace now offering a plethora of film festivals highlighting a vast array of cultures, this mainstay of the events calendar still retains its position as the foremost cinematic celebration in the country. The swelling turnout of loyal patrons and diverse demographic composition definitely proved that the Japanese Film Festival has become a valuable lifeline to cinephiles hungry for alternatives to mainstream fare.
Opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur
Special preview of An
Opening ceremony in Kuching