2011 Japanese Film Festival

Eiga Sai turns 13
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

Okuribito (Departures), winner of the 81st Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2009, green-lighted this year’s Japanese Film Festival. The highly-anticipated annual Eiga Sai event unfolds at the Shangri-La Mall Cineplex until July 10th.
After the highly-successful French Film Festival, Shang Mall continues its series of film-fests with contemporary Japanese masterpieces. Now on its 13th year, the event heralds the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month celebration.
As the most anticipated film in this year’s installment, Departures is a movie that takes on a bizarre, albeit unique subject on one of Japan’s dying traditions, with an intelligent and poetic screenplay as well as outstanding performances, notably from its lead actor Masahiro Motoki, who plays the role of Daigo Kobayashi, an aspiring cellist turned encoffiner.
When the orchestra in which he plays the cello disbands, Daigo abandons a career in music and moves with his wife to his hometown in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata. He then finds a help-wanted ad that seems to offer good terms for work that he assumes is a travel agency and goes for an interview in an office having new coffins lining the back wall.
The company owner hires him with no more than a glance at his resume. Daigo asks what exactly the company does and is told the work involves the ceremonial enconffinating of corpses prior to cremation. He is reluctant but is urged to take the job and accepts it; telling his wife the work involves ‘ceremonies.’
A beautiful suicide victim who turns out to be a cross-dresser, a teenager who died in a motorcycle accident and an elderly grandmother who painstakingly heats the water at a public bathhouse are some of the cases wherein Daigo encounters death in varied forms. Although he is uncertain at first, he begins to understand the nobility of enconffination and respect for life itself.
His wife though finds out exactly what sort of ‘ceremony’ the job involves. Appalled, she demands that he quit, and when he refuses, leaves for her family back in Tokyo. Daigo becomes alone again since his mother died several years ago and his father having deserted the family when he was still six.
As winter turns to spring, he begins to feel confident in himself and his new career; but now a series of significant events takes place in succession: his wife returns, the mother of a close childhood friend suddenly dies, and he receives word that the father he has heard nothing from in the last 30 years has also passed away.
As an enconffiner, as husband, as a son, and a human being, Daigo deals with life and death among the people who are dearest to him – bringing the audiences to a heart-wrenching final departure and farewell.
Motoki won the Best Actor awards at the 32nd Japan Academy Prize in 2008 as well as the Kinema Junpo Awards in 2009 for his role in the film contemplating the brilliant mind of its acclaimed director Yojiro Takita.
The other exciting films in this year’s line-up include Yuki Tanada’s coming-of-age tale Hyakumanen to Nigashi Onna (One Million Yen Girl/2008), Shuichi Okita’s gustatory travails in Nanyoku Ryorinin (The Chef of South Polar/2009), Hara Keiichi’s animated feature Kappa no Coo to Natsu-Yasumi (Summer Days with Coo/2007), Ryuchi Hiroki’s school schlock Kimino Tomodachi (Your Friend/2008), Rikei Kubo’s plane crash caper Kuraimazu Hai (Climber’s High/2008), Kiyoshe Sasabe’s documentary study on the effects of the Hiroshima bombing in Yunagi no Machi, Sakura no Kuni (Yunagi City, Sakura Country/2007), Daisaku Kimura’s mountain adventure Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki (The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones/2009), Kichitaro Negishi’s domestic drama Villon no Tsuma (Villon’s Wife/2009), and Sumio Omori’s competition flick Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Feel the Wind/2009).
For inquiries, simply call 633-7851 extension 113 or log-on to www.shangrila-plaza.com for screening updates. Movie schedules are at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. After its Manila run, Eiga Sai will be shown at the Gaisano Grand Citimall in Davao City from July 22 to 24; and then at the Ayala Center Cinema in Cebu City from August 2 to 7. The film-fest returns to Manila at the UP Film Institute for its closing run from August 17 to 20.
For more details, contact The Japan Foundation Manila (JFM) office through tel. nos. 811-6155 through 58 and telefax 811-6153 or write them thru email@jfmo.org.ph.


Popular Posts