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The 16th Japanese Film Festival

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The Japanese Film Festival opens in Melbourne this week, showcasing the best of that nation’s cinema.

Now in its 16th year, the festival has grown considerably from its humble beginnings under the oversight of festival director Masafumi Konomi, who I caught up with recently. Konomi has been involved with the festival since its initial incarnation as an initiative of the government funded Japan Foundation in Sydney.

“We thought it was the best way to introduce Japanese culture, since obviously film is one of the most effective tools to do this,” he explains.

The festival has since developed into a distinct entity in its own right, touring the country each year to exhibit programs in major cities across Australia. Konomi believes that the festival fills a void left by distributors and other festivals in Australia, who tend to limit themselves to the few prestige Japanese films that feature on the international festival circuit. “I want to show the diversity of the Japanese cinema, which is one of our main aims.”

Exclusively for the Melbourne leg of the festival, the program includes a retrospective on legendary Japanese director Yasuzo Masumura, to be held at ACMI. Notably, these screenings will be free to the public, with tickets available on the day until sold out.

Asked to select some favourites from this year’s festival, Konomi nominated the comedy Key of Life, directed by Kenji Uchida, who will be present as a special guest at the Melbourne screening. He also highlighted The Kirishima Thing, an high school drama which posses a unique take on the genre, mentioning that he was very curious to hear people’s opinion about this film from the Western point of view.

Konomi hopes that the festival’s growing popularity will enable his team to program more diverse films going forward, and eventually expand its reach into regional Australia.

The 16th Japanese Film Festival runs from the 29th November to 9th December.
For more information and tickets visit japanesefilmfestival.net.


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