by Roxy Simons
In Japan independent cinema has always been a big part of the industry, if it’s not a big-budget blockbuster then it’s an independent film, there’s no in between. Don’t be disheartened by this though as some of the country’s best films are made this way, just look at Third Window Films’ diverse range of releases. Of course not every film can be picked up by the revered distribution company, and that’s where the Raindance Film Festival comes in.
Taking place in London from September 20 to October 1, the international independent film festival is now in its 25th year and this year’s event boasts a wide range of intriguing Japanese films for cinophiles to enjoy. Opening the festival on September 20 is the UK premiere of the quirky dramedy Oh Lucy! directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi and starring Shinobu Terajima and Josh Hartnett in the lead roles. Focused on a Tokyo woman who’s lost her purpose in life, the romantic comedy sees her take on an American alter-ego known as Lucy after she decides to join an unorthodox English class.
Third Window Films’ new collaboration with Eiji Uchida, Love and Other Cults, will also have its UK premiere at the festival on September 22. The director’s controversial filmography has made him a favourite in the Japanese film industry, and his latest youth drama which sees its susceptible characters be drawn into a world of gangs, prostitution, and religious cults. With its talented group of up-and-coming actors and its unflinching exposition of the struggles teenagers face at the hands of adults, the film is certainly going to please anyone that is familiar with Uchida’s work. Another film set to look at the effect of the actions of adults on impressionable teenagers is Noise, which as its European premiere at the festival on September 26 and is up for an award for Best Film. The gritty drama looks at the lives of the survivors of an indiscriminate killing spree eight years after the fact. Featuring a killer soundtrack from dance music producer Banvox the film is said to be an intense melodrama.
Mukoku is also up for awards for best film and director, Go Ayano plays Kengo, a kendo master who has lost the will to live following the death of his father. When a rap-obsessed teen is sent to his doorstep to become his pupil the pair are immediately at odds with each other, but through their training find that their outlook on life changes greatly. Stop-motion animation Junk Head presents a grim dystopian future where a population of clones rebel against the human race and live underground. Then one day a lone human decides to explore their underground world, becoming a god to them in the process and being put through hell and back.
If you’re up for something a little more light-hearted then perhaps Perfect Revolution would be more to your taste. Starring veteran actor Lily Franky as a disabled sex activist, the film sees his character fall in love with a young girl named Mitsu who has a personality disorder, and follows them as they try to change society’s prejudices towards them. With its international premiere taking place on September 26 the film is set to be a sweet story of love and acceptance. Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock n Roll Story also seems like an amusing film. Showing on September 25, the story takes the trope of making a deal with the devil is turned on its head and sees the leader of a retro rock band come in possession of a haunted guitar amp.
Swaying Mariko showcases the best of Japanese family dramas at the event, following housewife Mariko as she leads an unhappy life with her husband of six years, Tomoharu, she begins to suspect he’s having an affair and decides to take drastic action against him. Nominated for best film and screenplay the film will have its international premiere on September 21. The final Japanese film to be shown at the festival is the unconventional documentary about the male sex industry Boys for Sale. With its first screening on September 21, the film follows the lives of Urisen, young boys who have sex with men regardless of their sexual identity. Intertwining candid interviews with animation, the film’s frank exposition of the Tokyo underground world is set to be bold and unnerving.