Friday, August 14, 2009

Five Films I'll Be Catching at the Shinsedai Cinema Festival

With both the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and, of course, the Toronto International Film Festival, the end of summer/start of fall period has always been a busy one for film lovers whether they already live in Toronto or are willing to make the trip to sate their cinematic appetites. Well, now there's one more attraction that looks like it's going to be a real treat for those same adventurous viewers: the Shinsedai Cinema Festival, which is being curated by Midnight Eye co-founder Jasper Sharp and my friend Chris MaGee, founder of the Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow. The Shinsedai Festival will be taking place from August 21st to 23rd at the Canadian Japanese Culture Centre and focusing exclusively on a diverse selection of new films from emerging Japanese filmmakers (some of whom will be in attendance to present and discuss their films; see the full list of attendees here and here).

A look through the list of films will tell you that the festival will be featuring quite an intriguing mix to choose from. While I'll be setting out to catch most (if not all) of the featured films, here's a quick "Top Five" list of the ones that I'm the most curious about.

1) Freeter's Distress (Hiroki Iwabuchi, 2007)

This film provides a first-person account of the life and trials of the 23 year-old Hiroki Iwabuchi's life as a "freeter" - an educated young person who is trapped in the world of part-time employment. While it looks like an informative watch, Freeter's Distress is sure to be so much more, especially because of its "confessional" quality (acting as both director and subject, Iwabuchi simply picked up a camcorder and recorded the details of his day-to-day life - and ended up with an entire 67-minute film!).

Read the review here.

2) Now, I... (Yasutomo Chikuma, 2007)

Right off the heels of Freeter's Distress, here's a fictional film that's sure to have its share of similarities and differences with Iwabuchi's film alike. Starring director Chikuma (who made the film on a shoestring budget that sent him into the all-too familiar territory of independent filmmakers: credit card debt), it details the experiences of a young man who must make his way through the world without proper education, work experience or his mother, whose death initiates a new chapter in his life.

3) Thunderfish (Raigyo) (Touru Hano, 2005)

While this film looks like the most genre-influenced selection in the Shinsedai Festival, even it sounds like a refreshingly unique work to get lost in. Touru Hano's film plunges a journalist into a mystery involving Cantella Island, a missing photographer, a local brothel and an old legend surrounding a giant fish known as the raigyo. Color me curious!

4) Peaches (Bunny in Hovel, emerger & Csikspost)

The very notion of the Peaches filmmaking collective has me very interested in what they have to offer, since they promote and practice both do-it-yourself filmmaking (controlling such aspects of their films as distribution and screenings) and women getting behind the cameras themselves (Peaches is currently comprised of nine young female directors). Shinsedai will be featuring three of the group's films: Mayumi Yabe's Bunny in Hovel (2009), about a young son's return to an abusive household, Aki Sato's emerger (2008), about two kindred spirits and their (mis)adventures in love, and Yumiko Beppu's Csikspost (2009), a summertime tale about a little girl, a single father and one black hole.

Read a review of emerger here.

5) Vortex & Others: Five Short Films by Yoshihiro Ito (2001-2008)

This series of shorts looks like a treasure trove of some of the stuff that makes Japanese cinema so appealing: unconventional stories, off-the-wall inventiveness, an eccentric, elusive mix of horror and humor. Written, shot and directed by Yoshihiro Ito, these five films are sure to remind many of the works of such directors as David Lynch and Seijun Suzuki and offer a surreal and exciting diversion from what one usually expects from the mainstream.

Read a review of the five Ito films to be featured here.

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