From epic fantasies to spine-tingling thrillers and avant-garde features from modern mavericks in contemporary cinema, the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) returns to Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney for its historic 25th year from 29 October to 5 December.

The JFF in Australia is an annual film festival presented by The Japan Foundation, first launched in 1997. In 2020 JFF Australia was held both online and in cinemas, reaching an Australian audience of over 43,000 people.  2021 marks the 25th year of JFF Australia, offering newly-released Japanese titles along with rare 35 and 16mm film screenings.  

This year's festival program features 15 films from newly-released feature titles spanning a diverse selection of genres from action to anime, drama, documentaries and much more.

“In celebration of JFF’s 25th year, we’re thrilled to return to cinemas and share the very best in Japanese cinema with Perth audiences,” said Japanese Film Festival Director, Yurika Sugie. “This year film connoisseurs can look forward to a stellar selection of contemporary works, international film festival favourites and award winners, alongside an incredible online program.”

Opening the Festival is Hokusai, Hajime Hashimoto’s biopic about the wildlife of legendary Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. The star-studded cast features Yūya Yagira (Nobody Knows), Hiroshi Abe (The Crimes That Bind, JFF 2018) and Min Tanaka (Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura, JFF 2018).

Award-winning dramas include Best International Feature Audience Choice Award winner at Chicago International Film Festival Under the Open Sky, about a hardened ex-yakuza who sets out to find his long-lost mother after thirteen years behind bars; and Japan’s submission for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards True Mothers, an emotionally charged family drama directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Naomi Kawase.

The Deer King, an epic fantasy story about a world plagued by a deadly ‘Black Wolf’ disease and the two survivors believed to hold the cure for the epidemic; and Poupelle of Chimney Town, the tale of a young chimney sweep who embarks on an adventure in search of the stars beyond his grimy steampunk-esque town, are also showing. Both films were recent nominees for Best Animated Feature at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

For those who love thrillers, Masked Ward is a spine-tinglingly tense hostage thriller based on a popular medical mystery novel; Al Amok, a tech nightmare in which a benevolent medical AI malfunctions with deadly consequences; and The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, an occult mystery following a crime-solving duo who investigate grisly murders both human and otherworldly.

Other program highlights include Sumodo ~ The Successors of Samurai, an eye-opening documentary that delves into the intimate workings of what it means to be a professional sumo wrestler in modern Japan; The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill, the action-packed sequel to Kan Eguchi’s (Riding Uphill, JFF 2019) live-action manga adaptation of The Fable; and Not Quite Dead Yet, an offbeat comedy about a metalhead singer whose wish for the demise of her disapproving father is realised with chaotic results.

JFF 2021 will also feature a FREE Special Series of films by one of Japan’s most influential avant-garde film directors Shūji Terayama, screened in cinema as a part of the overall Festival program. JFF will also screen an online program of five films over seven days for audiences across Australia in November (15-21). The free online program of films includes Little Nights, Little Love, Dance with Me, Tora-san in Goto, The Great Passage and Gon, The Little Fox.

The full program can be found at: www.japanesefilmfestival.net.

2021 Japanese Film Festival screening dates: 

CANBERRA: 29 October - 2 November

Palace Electric Cinema

PERTH: 4 - 7 November

Palace Raine Square

BRISBANE: 11 - 21 November  

Palace Barracks & Palace James Street

MELBOURNE: 18 November - 5 December

The Kino Cinema & Australian Centre of the Moving Image

SYDNEY: 25 November - 5 December

Palace Cinemas Norton Street, Chauvel, Central, Verona

ONLINE: 15-21 November                                                                         

Main image: ©️ Ken Wakui/Kodansha ©️ 2020 Tokyo Revengers Film Partners