Musicals to highlight Japanese Film Festival 2019

JFF is a month-long annual festival that promotes Japanese films to Asean countries, simultaneously creating new opportunities for Japanese filmmakers to penetrate new markets

by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

La La La at Rock Bottom tells a tale of an amnesiac, Shigeo, who becomes the lead singer of a band after his talent was discovered (Source: imdb.com)

THERE are more to Japanese films than anime, giant lizard monsters and superhero teenagers whose outfits were probably inspired by a United Colors of Benetton collection.

For those who want to explore what Japanese films can offer, the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) is the place for them.

JFF is a month-long annual festival that promotes Japanese films to Asean countries, simultaneously creating new opportunities for Japanese filmmakers to penetrate new markets.

Organised by the Japan Foundation KL (JFKL), JFF was initiated in 2004 at GSC Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur (KL) and GSC Gurney Plaza, Penang, with only eight film titles. Now, JFF makes tours around the country to states like Johor Baru, Johor; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and Kuching, Sarawak.

At the launch of JFF 2019, JFKL director Seiya Shimada (picture; above) said this is also a special year as JFKL celebrates its 30th anniversary.

He said JFF’s opening film this year is Little Nights, Little Love, directed by Rikiya Imaizumi.

The film tells the story of Sato, a 27-year-old market researcher who is single and longing for a lover. He encounters an attractive young woman who agreed to answer his survey after having a hard time searching for respondents.

This new film is set to be released on Sept 20 this year, which means that audiences in Malaysia will have the opportunity to watch it earlier than those in Japan.

“The director, Imaizumi, is one of the most acknowledged young directors in Japanese cinema now. He has released one film earlier this year which became quite a phenomenon in Japan,” said JFKL senior programme officer Kyoko Kugai.

Little Nights, Little Love is chosen for the opening night as a way to introduce new talents during the film festival.

Kugai tried to reach out to Imaizumi and the cast of the film to attend JFF in Kuala Lumpur, but they are busy preparing for the film premiere in Japan.

However, they will send a video message which will be shown at the opening ceremony on Sept 3.

Meanwhile, fans of musicals would enjoy JFF’s special feature titled Music! Music! Music! which is the highlight of this year’s festival. Another film, Little Love Song, which is directed by Kojiro Hashimoto, explores the tale of a popular high school band in Okinawa.

Their popularity garners the attention from many fans and even a Tokyo record label to produce their music.

However, tragedy struck while the band is at the height of their stardom.

Little Love Song was inspired by the hit songs of Okinawa-based punk rock band Mongol800.

Farewell Song tells the story of a break-up between a popular all-female indie duo, where they set out on a road trip for their final tour.

Directed by Akihiho Shiota, the film features three rising stars in Japan’s film industry.

JFF’s favourite, La La La at Rock Bottom tells a tale of an amnesiac, Shigeo, who becomes the lead singer of a band after his talent was discovered.

The film was directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita which features the performances of Subaru Shibutani and Fumi Nikaido.

Another interesting title is Just Only Love, which was released on April 19 this year. An adaptation from Mitsuyo Kakuta’s book, it is about one-sided love affairs of two 20-year-old couples.

The festival will begin on Sept 5 at four venues in the Klang Valley, namely GSC Mid Valley Megamall, GSC Pavillion KL, GSC 1Utama, Bandar Utama and GSC NU Sentral, KL.

The tour will head to GSC Gurney Plaza from Sept 12 to 15, then to GSC Paradigm JB, Johor Baru, from Sept 19 to 22.

JFF 2019 will then make a stop in East Malaysia from Oct 3 to 6 at CityONE Megamall, Kuching and GSC Suria Sabah Mall. The tickets will be sold at RM9 each.