FFM 2017 wrap-up

The 41st Montreal World Film Festival (FFM) is now over. This year was a slim pick for the Japanese cinema aficionado since there was only two Japanese movies (two others were co-productions with non-Japanese directors). Besides that, the festival went smoothly for me. However, the only question remaining above our heads is: will there be a festival next year? Of course Serge Losique wants to be reassuring and said that the FFM was here to stay. He even announced the dates for the next two years: August 23rd to September 3rd 2018 and August 22nd to September 2nd 2019 !!

One of the event that I would have liked to attend (but couldn’t by lack of time) was the press conference and Master Class held at L’Astral by Chinese Martial Art Filmmaker Xu Haofeng (The Hidden Sword) on Monday August 28th. It seems that it was one of the rares (if not the only one) press conference held at the FFM this year. I really miss those… (and the film market and the press room!)

The closing film of the festival was a surprise to be announced after the awards, just a few hours before its free screening. It was meant as a gift for the movie fans.

A press release announced the awards for the 48th Student Film Festival: for the Canadian competition it went to Land by Samiramis Kia (York University, Toronto) and for the International competition it went to Elene by Seven Kayhan (Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey).

Another press release announced the awards for the festival itself: the Grand Prix of the Americas (Best Film) went to And Suddenly the Dawn by Silvio Caiozzi (Chile) and the Special Grand Prix of the Jury went to Dear Etranger by Yukiko Mishima (Japan). Check the press release for the other awards.

To summarize, I’ve seen and commented on two Japanese movies:

I also wrote a few informational posts about the festival:

Finally, here are the latest comments about the FFM in the media:

 

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Dear Etranger

Based on the novel from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, this is the story of Makoto Tanaka, a 40-years-old who has remarried. His wife is Nanae and they care for 2 daughters from Nanae’s prior marriage. Makoto tries to have an ordinary family but Nanae becomes pregnant and things are bound to change.

 

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

Dear Étranger is an average Japanese family drama: it’s both funny and sad, offers excellent acting but is rather slow moving. It’s a touching story about Makoto, a man in his forties, who has remarried and must deal with the difficulties of a blended family. He has one pre-teen girl (Saori) from a previous marriage (with Yuka). His new wife, Sanae, has two daughters (Kaoru, a tweenager, and Eriko, a preschooler) from her own previous marriage (with Sawada, who used to beat her and the children). When she gets pregnant, the delicate balance of their couple is challenged. Of course, in such situation, the children are suffering the most (with emotional or psychological stress). Can they really call themselves a “family”? Can he call himself a “dad”? Can he succeeds to keep a good relationship with BOTH his tweenage daughters? Or is he just a “dear stranger” to them?

The movie tackle quite realistically many aspects of the modern Japanese society: divorce, one of its causes (domestic violence) and one of its increasingly frequent consequences, the stepfamily. Divorce in Japan is relatively similar to what it is in the West (although there is no joint custody). Still not as frequent as in the West, the Japanese divorce rate has been steadily increasing (up to one in three marriages, quadrupling the rate of the post-WW2 era — mostly among retiring-age couples) but it has recently started to decrease due to a corresponding diminution in marriages (men are too busy at work and don’t feel economically confident enough to seek marriage and have children). The Japanese society is evolving and it is not surprising that we also see an increase in the number of female movie directors, who are more likely to want to use sociological theme in their storytelling.

I cannot pass over in silence the superb inclined elevator that regularly appears in the film. The Nashion inclined elevator (????????????  / Nashion shak? ereb?t?) is located in Higashiyamadai, Nishinomiya (Hy?go prefecture) near Kobe and Osaka. Many scenes were shot in that area. It offers a beautiful scenery but might also symbolise the hardship of the main protagonist as he must step up to resolve his delicate situation.

Anyway, when you put together two interesting writer and script-writer, a skilled director (who already came to the FFM in 2014 with A Drop of the Grapevine) and a great cast of actors, you can only get a good movie. And, apparently, the Jury of the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival agreed with this, since they awarded Dear Étranger with the Special Grand Prix of the Jury (a kind of “second best” award).

Dear Etranger (?????????? / Osanago Warera ni umare / lit. “Children born to us” or We’re having a Baby): Japan, 2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Yukiko Mishima; Scr.: Haruhiko Arai (based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu); Cast: Tadanobu Asano (Makoto Tanaka), Rena Tanaka (Nanae), Shinobu Terajima (Yuka), Raiju Kamata (Saori), Sara Minami (Kaoru), Miu Arai (Eriko), Kankurô Kudô (Sawada), Shingo Mizusawa, Narushi Ikeda.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on Friday September 1st 2017 (Cinema Imperial, 19:00 — the attendance was about an hundred people) as part of the “World Competition” segment. Shinji Sakoda, the international sales representative from Pony Canyon, was there to introduce the movie.

 

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ AsianWiki — IMDbOfficial webVimeo —  Youtube ]

Dear Etranger © 2016 ????????????????? .

See also the comments of Mark Schilling (Japan Times) and Claude R. Blouin (Shomingeki).

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Noise

Eight years have passed since the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home of Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

In this movie we see Japan like we rarely see it in movies: people being poor, homeless, destitute, at their wits’ end. Japan is interiorizing everything, hiding the pain, the ugliness and sometimes the boil needs to burst. The Akihabara massacre wasn’t the cause of anything, it was a symptom. It also shows the ugly underside of Akihabara, the low level idols that are struggling, the delivery guys who deliver goods by feet because they lost their driving licenses in accidents, the almost-sex industry exploiting young girls, etc.

This docudrama is interesting because this director is willing to show us what others wouldn’t dare: the price Japan is paying for past economic crises and for a rigid society that must always preserve the appearance. Unfortunately, this young director is lacking the skills to express all this in a beautiful, well-organized manner. The result is a loud (it’s called noise isn’t it?), disjointed, awkward, disorganized movie. There are too many characters, scenes transition that comes without warning or coherence which makes the story quite difficult to follow. However, it is  compelling and the actors’ play is excellent.

It is a hard movie that requires patience like most unpolished gems. In the end, it gets easier to understand as we get to know each character better. Noise has potential with such an interesting subject and its great acting, but it unfortunately doesn’t succeed to be artistically good enough. However, it is entertaining and well worth watching.

Noise : Japan, 2017, 124 mins; Dir.: Yusaku MATSUMOTO; Cast: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urara Anjo, Kosuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi, Takashi Nishina, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroshi Fuse.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 25th, 2017 (Cinema du Parc 1, 20:15 — the attendance was around fifteen people out of a capacity of about two-hundred seats) as part of the “First Feature Competition” segment. There was no production team member to introduce the movie or do a Q&A.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ IMDbOfficial WebVimeoYoutube ]

Noise © ?Noise?????? 2017. All rights reserved.

See also the comment on this movie by Claude R. Blouin (in french).

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Japanese movies at the FFM 2017

There are only four Japanese movies at the Montreal World Film Festival this year. You will find bellow all the details we could find on each of them:

World Competition / Film en compétition

Dear Etranger (?????????? / Osanago Warera ni umare / lit. “Children born to us”): Japan,  2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Yukiko Mishima; Scr.: Haruhiko Arai (based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu); Cast: Rena Tanaka, Tadanobu Asano, Miu Arai, Narushi Ikeda, Raiju Kamata, Kankurô Kudô, Sara Minami, Shingo Mizusawa, Shinobu Terajima.

Based on the novel from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, this is the story of Makoto Tanaka, a 40-years-old who has remarried. His wife is Nanae and they care for 2 daughters from Nanae’s prior marriage. Makoto tries to have an ordinary family but Nanae becomes pregnant and things are bound to change.

Schedule : Cinema Imperial — Fri 09/01 19:00 / Cinema Imperial — Sun 09/03 11:00.

[ AsianWiki — IMDbVimeo —  Youtube ]

First Feature Competition / Compétition des premières oeuvres

Noise : Japan, 2017, 124 mins; Dir.: Yusaku MATSUMOTO; Cast: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urara Anjo, Kosuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi, Takashi Nishina, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroshi Fuse.

Eight years have passed since the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home of Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

Schedule : Cinema du Parc 3 — Fri 08/25 10:00 / Cinema du Parc 1 — Fri 08/25 20:15 / Cinema Dollar 1 — Sat 08/26 21:00.

[ IMDbOfficial WebVimeoYoutube ]

Focus on World Cinema / Regards sur les Cinéma du Monde

Nightscape : S. Korea / Japan, 2017, 71 min.; Dir.: In-chun Oh.

Based on a true event. There was a new team chasing after a suspicious Taxi. It started with just a small suspicion. But… what happened to them that midnight?

Schedule : Cinema Dollar 2 — Sat 08/26 21:00 / Cinema du Parc 3 — Thu 08/31 12:00 / Cinema du Parc 3 — Mon 09/04 17:00.

[ IMDbOfficial webVimeo teaser 1Vimeo teaser 2 ]

Shorts / Courts métrages

No song to sing : Japan / United Kingdom, 2017, 24 min.; Dir./Phot.: Lukasz Gasiorowski; Scr.: Maiko Takeda; Ed.: Masahiro Hirakubo; Mus.: Ewen Bremner; Cast: Make Takeda, Takuji Suzuki, Shinjiro Takahashi, Nobuyuki Kobayashi, Kayo Takeda, Ryubun Sumori, Issei Yamashita, Kenichi Masuda.

Natsu, a professional femme fatale works for a typical Tokyo “Telephone Date Club”. She enjoys selling fantasies to lonely men, but as she becomes emotionally entangled in the web of her own deceptions, she finds herself unable to pay the price of her own merchandise.

Schedule : Cinema du Parc 3 — Sun 08/27 16:00 / Cinema du Parc 3 — Tue 08/29 16:15 / Cinema Dollar 2 — Sun 09/03 21:00.

[ IMDbOfficial webVimeo ]

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FFM Update

The 41st edition of the Festival des Films du Monde is offering us this year only ninety-two movies and forty-two shorts from countries all over the world. It might be a reduced formula (no printed program, no press room, no film market) but, still, no other festival could offers such diversity.

The information has finally finished to trickle down and we now know the complete list of the movies to be screened and their schedule. Unfortunately, aficionado of Japanese cinema will feel a little short-changed this year as the lists includes only FOUR Japanese movies:

The movies will be screened in three theatres:

Day 1: I went to see my first movie tonight, Noise. The theatre was almost empty, but that’s to be expected for a Japanese movie on a Friday night. I have taken notes on the bus ride on my way back, and I’ll post my comments on the movie as soon as I can. However, I will not see much movies this year: the one in competition for sure (Dear Etranger), but I’ll see for the other two (a horror movie and a short ?). The first day went smoothly so, even with the minimalist organisation, the festival seems to be doing well (I guess that with the experience of last year’s disaster they were better prepared this time). I hope it will continue and get better in the future. This year is the eighteeth time I have been covering and reporting on the FFM and I wish I’ll reach the twentieth time…

Here is what they say about the FFM in the news:

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FFM – First Film World Competition

Today, the FFM announced the nineteen movies included in the First Film World competition. There is one Japanese movie in the list:

Noise : Japan, 2017, 124 mins; Dir.: Yusaku MATSUMOTO; Cast: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urara Anjo, Kosuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi, Takashi Nishina, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroshi Fuse.

Eight years have passed since the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home to Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his directionless anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

[ IMDbOfficial WebVimeoYoutube ]

No screening schedule has been announced yet. We will post more information as it becomes available.

Here is what they say about the FFM in the news:

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FFM Schedule

The schedule for the competition movies has been posted last night. Those screenings will be held at the  Imperial Cinema. The schedule for the screenings at the Cinema du Parc and Dollar Cinema will be announced later.

The only Japanese movie in Competition will screen at the Imperial on Friday September 1st at 19:00 with English subtitles and on Sunday September 3rd at 11:00 with French subtitles.

DEAR ETRANGER (?????????? / Osanago Warera ni umare): Japan, 2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Yukiko Mishima; Scr.: Haruhiko Arai (based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu); Cast: Rena Tanaka, Tadanobu Asano, Miu Arai, Narushi Ikeda, Raiju Kamata, Kankurô Kudô, Sara Minami, Shingo Mizusawa, Shinobu Terajima.

Based on the novel from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, this is the story of Makoto Tanaka, a 40-years-old who has remarried. His wife is Nanae and they care for 2 daughters from Nanae’s prior marriage. Makoto tries to have an ordinary family but Nanae becomes pregnant and things are bound to change.

[ AsianWiki / IMDb / Youtube ]

We will post more information as it become available.

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What about the FFM ?

We are less than a week before the alleged beginning of the 41st edition of the Montreal World Film Festival on Thursday and there is still very little information available about it. Will it even take place?

According to an article in La Presse, it seems that it is still on course. And tonight, the list of the eighteen movies in the run for World Competition was released. There is only one Japanese movie in competition: Dear Etranger (?????????? / Osanago Warera ni umare) directed by Yukiko Mishima [ AsianWiki / IMDb / Vimeo / Youtube ].

My guess is that the festival will be even more chaotic than last year and scheduling information will trickle down day by day… But does it really matter as long as we can watch good international movies that we would probably not be able to see anywhere else?

Here is what they say about it in the news:

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FFM videos


To complete our coverage of the festival, here is the video for the Red carpet arrival of director Yoshinari Nishikori, actors Naoki Kobayashi and Sho Aoyagi for the Japanese movie Tatara Samurai screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 29th, 2016:


Tatara Samurai - Red Carpet from clodjee on Vimeo.

And here is the video of the introduction and Q&A for Tatara Samurai screened the same night:


Tatara Samurai from clodjee on Vimeo.

As a bonus I am throwing in the video of Isabelle Adjani's red carpet arrival at the Montreal World Film Festival on September 4th, 2016:


Isabelle Adjani - Red carpet from clodjee on Vimeo.

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FFM 2016 wrap-up


Here we are concluding our coverage of the Festival des Films du Monde (FFM)

Unfortunately, only two Japanese movies won an award this year: Tatara Samurai by Yoshinari Nishikori won “Best Artistic Contribution” and Ken-san by Yuichi Hibi won “Best Documentary” (ex-aequo with a Canadian film). Although, there's almost always a Japanese film in the list of the winners, even if it's often just a token price. That's probably why Japanese producers keep presenting their films here and generally come with a big delegation. You can find on the festival website the complete list for the laureates of the 47th Student Film Festival and of the 40th Montreal World Film Festival competition.

If I look back I can say that this year's festival really had a hard time. Almost everything was against it: stingy governmental agencies, ungrateful chain of theatres, sceptical employees, hostile media, and, to top it all, even a member of the jury dying in his hotel room just the day before the closing ceremony! It's a miracle that it happened at all. However, despite all this and the chaos that ensued (which affected mostly the scheduling), they managed to keep showing movies (as long as there's movies, there's hope) and, all in all, it was a pretty good festival. The public was there. The movies were there . They met at the Cinéma Impérial (mostly, but also at a few other venues). A beautiful love story. The end? Beside this, why bother with all the media doomsday fuss?

After all, it was not that much more chaotic than the previous years (ok, I admit this time there was no press room, no film market with its screening booths, no “5 to 7” to bond & meet with people of the industry, no outdoor screenings, screenings were spread all over town and the schedule kept changing so I could see only FOUR of the twelve announced Japanese movies — but, I mean, beside that (which was an annoyance mostly for the press), it wasn't that bad, isn't it?). The good thing with this year situation is that, with only one screen, there wasn't any schedule conflict anymore! Also, I might I've seen only four movies, but at least I saw something and I am happy with it.

However, I would reserved very harsh words (that I would rather not repeat here) for the various levels of government who let down the movie-loving public and, particularly, for the Cineplex Forum (hey! If you were to start showing movies in the end — presumably because you've reached an agreement with the festival or felt too ashamed that the Outremont and Park theatres were picking up screenings — why not have accepted from the start and save us all the trouble of the flip-flopping screening schedule! That behaviour is down-right insulting and you will not catch me anytime soon in a Cineplex theatre).

Through all this the press has been pretty harsh on Losique and his festival. All he wanted was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his baby and they all pooped on his party. In the end, seeing it was rather a success, many rallied in the festival support but it might have been too little, too late. Nathalie Petrowski, of La Presse, was one of the few who covered the festival with a positive attitude from the start.

Amongst her comments, she offered an interesting speculation on the future of the festival: maybe the Chinese firm that donated the prize money for the awards would be interested in investing more in the festival or even buy it from Losique in order to keep promoting Chinese cinema in North America?

In another article, she quotes Pierre-Henri Deleau, who was in charge of programmation at the Cannes festival's Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. He was happy to be in Montreal, watching so many good films: “What is amazing is that despite the disorganization, chaos, pips and all the disparaging about the festival, look at that line! People are coming despite everything. Nowhere in the world you will see that. And to think that the City of Montreal continues to pretend it does not exist.”

We are hopeful for the future since Serge Losique has announced at the Closing Ceremony that there WILL be a festival next year (from August 24 to September 4, 2017) and hinted that he was planning his succession. Let's hope that the various levels of government will, this time, agree to support this iconic event just in time for the 375th anniversary of the city! But with or without subsidies, the public and the young movie-makers deserve a festival. All we need is the cinema aficionados to be there, a few screens, some beautiful movies and it will be love all over again!

Thanks to the organizers (those who stayed), volunteers, the selected film-makers who came to present their movies (and to Serge Losique) who all made this festival another interesting cinematic experience. See you next year, hopefully.

Press reviews:

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