The Reeler


--Brooklyn International Film Festival
--Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
--Media That Matters Festival
--NewFest LGBT Film Festival
--Rooftop Films
--Swiss American Film Festival


--Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Films
--NY African Film Festival
--NY Asian Film Festival
--NY Asian American Film Festival
--NY International Latino Film Festival
--Reel Venus Film Festival
--Rooftop Films
--Rural Route Film Festival
--Scanners: The NY Video Festival


--ACE Film Festival
--Central Park Film Festival
--LaCinemaFe Film Festival
--NY Korean Film Festival
--Rooftop Films


--Coney Island Film Festival
--Impact Festival
--IFP Market/Independent Film Week
--NY Brazilian Film Festival
--NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness
--Next Reel International Film Festival


--CMJ FilmFest
--E.Vil City Film Festival
--Fordham Law Film Festival
--Hamptons International Film Festival
--Harlem International Film Festival
--NY Film Festival
--NY Bad Films Festival
--NYC Horror Film Festival
--NY Turkish Film Festival
--Pordenone Silent Film Festival Weekend at BAM
--Russian Film Week
--South Asian International Film Festival
--Woodstock Film Festival


--African Diaspora Film Festival
--Avignon New York Film Festival
--Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival
-- International Dog Film Festival
--Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
--Native American Film + Video Festival
--NY International Independent Film and Video Festival
--NY Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival
--Queens International Film Festival


--Explorers Club Documentary Film Festival
--NY Jewish Film Festival


--NY Arab and South Asian Film Festival
--Red Shift Festival
--SinCine Fest


--Craic Film Fleadh
--Fusion Film Festival
--Harlem Stage on Screen
--Independent Thai Film Festival
--New Directors/New Films
--NY International Children's Film Festival
--NY Underground Film Festival
--Westchester Film Festival


--Brooklyn Underground Film Festival
--Gen Art Film Festival
--Havana Film Festival in NY
--NY African Film Festival
--Sprout Film Festival
--Tribeca Film Festival
--Urban Visionaries Film Festival


--Bicycle Film Festival
--Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival
--NY International Children's Film Festival
--NY Minute Film Festival
--NY Polish Film Festival
--Pacifika: NY Hawaiian Film Festival
--Sundance at BAM
--Be Film / Tribeca Underground Film Festival

ONGOING --Animation Block
--Asbury Shorts of New York
--Caroline's Funny Film Shorts
--First Sundays Comedy Film Festival

NYC Film Festivals

A Cuts Above

By John Lichman

If you're a cinephile in New York City, then zebra-powered super-heroes and cyborg love affairs immediately bring to mind the New York Asian Film Festival. And for good reason: Grady Hendrix and the rest of the Subway Cinema crew have been introducing sold-out crowds to Takashi Miike, Park Chan-wook and other obscure rocket-powered Thai martial arts since 2001. But now, Japan Society is stepping into the ring -- with help from co-presenter NYAFF -- to introduce the first annual Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film. The event picks up where this year's the Asian Film Festival ends -- literally so, launching Thursday with a strong emphasis on directors in attendance, shorts programs and other experimental works (not to mention Gamera, the giant turtle that is friend to all children big and small).

Actor/director Shinya Tsukamoto in Nightmare Detective, screening this weekend at the inaugural Japan Cuts festival (Photo: Japan Society)

The program officially begins with Miike’s Big Bang Love, followed by an appearance by recent cult-fave Shion Sono (Noriko’s Dinner Table, Suicide Club) introducing his latest film Exte: Hair Extensions, best described as mocking the J-horror genre while finding creative ways to kill someone with -- you guessed it -- hair extensions.

“We’re looking at the film first, but [Sono’s] the one who really wanted to come to the screening and introduce the film," Japan Society program officer Ryo Nagasawa recently told The Reeler about the director from whom Eli Roth “borrowed” in Hostel. "I’m not sure if he knows his films are being screened now, but there are a lot of followers.” (Sono’s Into a Dream screens as well July 14, but he won’t be at the screening.)

The fest continues Friday and Saturday with the manga-inspired Death Note, whose director Shusuke Kaneko will introduce and discuss the film and its sequel. Kaneko is best known for his work with fantastic blockbuster material, just not in the traditional sense: He directed the mid-'90s Gamera trilogy as well as one of the last Godzilla films. But Death Note, based on the work of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, involves a sociopathic Japanese student who finds a notebook that can kill anyone -- provided you can follow its rules -- while shadowed by the book’s owner, the death god Ryuk. The follow-up Death Note: The Last Name, released later in 2006, wound up becoming Japan's fourth highest grossing film of the year.

“This time with Death Note, it is already popular because of the manga published in the States, and this is such a very different type of blockbuster in Japan,” Nagasawa said, adding that the masses more generally flock to traditional fare by directors like Hayao Miyazaki. But the success of the Death Note series shows how the border between manga and film blur together into a mainstream hit, particularly one that Japan Cuts would explore with its director discussing at both screenings.

Also on hand are Miwa Nishikawa (Sway) and Naoko Ogigami (Kamome Diner), who will conduct a separate discussion about women in Japanese film. Monseiur Greenpeas’ director Yasuo Kurita will perform a special puppet animation demonstration; the decision to bring Kurita to the festival symbolizes the variety of animation in Japan beyond just the tried and true anime. "[Monseiur Greenpeas] still has the Japanese sensitivity with paying attention to detail,” Nagasawa said of Kurita, who spent five years on his own animating, writing, directing and shooting this ode to the stylings of Wallace and Gromit.

The Nippon Connection Festival on Tour (the “best Japanese film festival in the world," Nagasawa noted) presents the fest's digital filmmaking highlights outside the European circuit they traditionally enjoy. Likewise, the choice selections from the Yubari Film Festival (screening as part of NCF) include Nama Natsu -- where a middle-aged man falls in love with a girl on a bus who despises him -- and Pumpkin Head, featuring the titular character as an inner-brain detective that fights a zombie in someone’s head. And no Japanese film fest is complete without the explanation of how power works featured in Electrics, which charts various forms of energy as people interact with each other. (Nagasawa: “I’m not sure what the first intention [of the film] was.”)

Further, the Japan Society presents NY-Japan Cuts, inspired by popular demand from filmmakers constantly asking how best to find subjects and distribution when it comes to bridging two distinct cultures. The July 13 program features two films and one work-in-progress that span artists (KUSAMA: Princess of Polka Dots), fantasy (Summer of the Serpent) and a businessman choir (Shall We Sing?) with a networking salon for filmmakers and industry types to better organize and bridge New York and Japan’s film industry.

Last but never least, don't miss a complimentary screening of the latest Gamera film, Gamera The Brave, offering prizes for the best turtle costume and designed to bring joy to even the hardest foreign film snob. But even if kaiju turtles aren’t your thing, there are still the latest from Shinya Tsukamoto (Nightmare Detective) and Linda Linda Linda’s Nobuhiro Yamashta (Matsugane Potshot Affair).

“I’m very happy to present the future of Japanese films being screened for the first time in the U.S.,” said Nagasawa. “Because it’s very hard to watch these latest Japanese films in the theater. You can go to the Film Forum, IFC or MoMA to find classic films like Kurosawa or Mizoguichi. There are over 400 films released in Japan every year, but only a hand film make it to New York screens.”

Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film runs July 5-15 at Japan Society; for program and ticket information, visit the festival's Web site or call (212) 715-1258.

Posted at July 3, 2007 8:50 AM

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