“A NEW MOON OVER TOHOKU (TOHOKU NO SHINGETSU)” | U.S. Premiere | Canada | English, Japanese w/English subtitles | 98 min.

Written and directed by Linda Ohama.

A moving story of love, survival and old Japanese traditions and customs in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan.

Shingetsu is the Japanese word for “new moon” — the moon that cannot be seen, yet still exists in the darkness of the night sky. This film shares the voices of the Tohoku people who break their cultural silence and share their stories and post-3/11 lives. Through their experiences, they discover something intangible and simple, yet essential to human life. Shot on location over two and a half years in the coastal prefectures affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident — Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

Screenings:  Nov. 4, 5:45 p.m. | Nov. 6, 12:15 p.m. | Nov. 13, 5 p.m. (Regal Kapolei)| Nov. 19, 1 p.m. (Palace Theater)

“MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | English, Japanese w/English subtitles | 80 min.

Written by Steven Okazaki and Stuart Gailbraith IV. Directed by Steven Okazaki.

Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997), who appeared in 170 films, was the greatest actor from the “golden age” of Japanese cinema. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration (1948-’65) with filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in such films as “Rashomon,” “Seven Samurai,” “The Hidden Fortress” and “Throne of Blood,” which was adapted from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Mifune twice earned the Best Actor Prize at Venice Festival for “Yojimbo” (1961) and “Red Beard” (1965).

Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki and narrated by actor Keanu Reeves, the documentary explores Mifune’s life and career with archival footage and interviews with Mifune’s family and co-stars. Toshiro Mifune was born in China in 1920 to Japanese parents. At age 19, he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army aviation division and set foot into Japan for the first time as a soldier in World War II.

Japan’s postwar years were difficult. Samurai movies became a great source of comfort, given the samurai’s role of honor and stoicism in Japanese history. Mifune never intended to become an actor; in fact, he applied to become a camera assistant at Toho, Tökyö’s famous film studio. But the studio needed actors.

Life as a contract actor in Tökyö was neither easy nor glamorous. Once a movie was finished, a new one began the very next day. It was not until he was chosen as Akira Kurosawa’s leading man that Mifune was able to begin making films that fulfilled him. Together, they created the genre of the wandering warrior protagonist that would later inspire filmmakers as diverse as Sergio Leone, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and George Lucas. Actor Clint Eastwood credits Mifune as the inspiration for his own iconic Western characters.

Toshiro Mifune gave some of the finest performances in film history that audiences still marvel at today. “Mifune: The Last Samurai” is a thoughtful and loving tribute to the man and the actor. It has also been nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary.

Screenings:  Nov. 6, 4 p.m. | Nov. 13, 11:30 a.m.

In honor of Toshiro Mifune, HIFF will present a special screening of “Rashomon” at 2 p.m. on Nov. 6, followed by the Hawai‘i premiere of “Mifune: The Last Samurai.”


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