BFI London Film Festival – Highlights of Japanese Films

The BFI London Film Festival, now in its 57th year, continues to attract film lovers in the UK with a fascinating line-up of films of different genres from around the world. This year’s festival will run from 9th to 20th October, and there are a number of new Japanese films on show that will appeal to seasoned enthusiasts of Japanese cinema as well as newcomers to Japanese films. The full programme is available here. Meanwhile, HYPER JAPAN’s picks of the bunch are as follows:

Like Father, Like Son (So shite Chichi ni Naru)

Dir Hirokazu Kore-eda. Scr Hirokazu Kore-eda. With Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky,Arata Iura.

Japan 2013. 119min. UK Distribution Arrow Films

Kore-eda looks more and more like the best mapper of the terrain of Japanese families since Ozu. His piercing new film starts from a conundrum: what if it were discovered, six years after the event, that a hospital had inadvertently swapped two male babies and given them to the wrong parents? Despite marked differences in class, temperament and approaches to parenting, the Nonomiya and Saiki couples respond to this bombshell by exchanging their sons. Keita adjusts quite easily to the easy-going Seiki household, but Ryusei has a harder time of it with the Nonomiyas; his new father Ryota is quite stern and has difficulty in expressing emotion. Kore-eda, a newish father himself, admits that the distant Ryota is a kind of wry self-portrait – which helps explain why the account of a man loosening up and learning to love his wife and son is so profoundly believable. A small triumph.

(Synopsis by Tony Rayns)

The Ravine of Goodbye

Dir Tatsushi Omori. Scr Makoto Takada, Tatsushi Omori. With Yoko Maki, Shima Onishi, Mayu Tsuruta, Nao Omori, Hirofumi Arai.

Japan 2013. 117min. Sales Stardust Pictures

Tatsushi Omori’s breakthrough film, a top prize-winner in Moscow, trumps the ‘problem macho’ stories he’s told before with a transfixing look at a most unusual heterosexual relationship. He starts with the arrest of a mother suspected of killing her child, but the focus is on her neighbours, Shunsuke Ozaki and his wife Kanako, an apparently happy couple with a very active sex life. But there’s a rumour that Ozaki had an affair with the arrested woman, and so a tabloid editor assigns his staffer Watanabe to investigate the man. It turns out that Ozaki has a black hole in his past: as a student he was involved in the gang rape of a young woman, left college without graduating, and hasn’t been able to hold down a job since. But what relevance could this history have to present circumstances? This superbly acted mystery turns on female empowerment and male guilt.

(Synopsis by Tony Rayns)

Komaneko, Home Alone (Komaneko no orusuban)


Dir Tsuneo Goda. Japan 2013. 8min

Koma is home alone and missing Ojii.

(Synopsis by Justin Johnson)


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