November is the month film lovers in Hawai‘i look forward to with great anticipation. That’s because the curtain will rise once again on the Hawaii International Film Festival. It’s an opportunity to take in films that bridge East and West and the rest of the world through cinematic storytelling.
HIFF 38 — the Hawaii International Film Festival presented by Halekulani —will feature 187 films from 35 countries. On O‘ahu, the festival will run two weeks, from Thursday, Nov. 8, through Thursday, Nov. 18. Of the 187 films, 30 are from Japan or have Japanese-related themes. Many of them were selected for screening at HIFF after being shown at the prestigious Sundance, Cannes and Toronto film festivals.
The Herald culled through all of the film titles and put together a list of the films from Japan or that have Japanese-related themes. They are listed here by HIFF “section” and in ascending order by their first screening date, along with a synopsis of the film. Tickets can be purchased at hiff.org. Most of the Japanese-related films are being shown in Hawai‘i for the first time, six are receiving their North American premiere at HIFF, four are receiving their U.S. premiere and two their international premiere.
Most of the films are being screened at the Dole Cannery Theatres, although the closing night presentation, Na‘alehu Anthony’s “Moananuiäkea,” about the legacy of Höküle‘a, is being world premiered at the Hawaii Theatre. Neighbor Island residents will have a chance to see some of the films, as well, with screenings planned for the Waimea Theater on Kaua‘i (Nov. 15-18), and at the Hilo Palace Theater on Hawai‘i Island and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.
So, if you are a Japanese film fan, start making your list because tickets to HIFF’s Japanese films always go fast. — Karleen Chinen
SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN
“RIVER’S EDGE” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 118 min.
Director: Isao Yukisada
Based on classic 1990s manga, “River’s Edge” is Isao Yukisada’s (“Crying Out Loud,” “In the Center of the World”) nostalgic coming-of-age drama. Haruna (Fumi Nikaido of “Himizu,” “My Man”) is a quirky high school student who doesn’t fit in with the mainstream, and classmate Ichiro (Ryo Yoshizawa of “Gintama,” “Bleach”) is a bullied loner
harboring a personal secret.
The two form a bond when Haruna sticks up for Ichiro at school. But that bond is tested when Ichiro discovers a dead body by the river. “River’s Edge” effortlessly captures teen life in 1990s Japan. It made a splash at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival and is a must-see at HIFF 38.
Screenings: Nov. 8, 6 p.m. | Nov. 16, 1 p.m.
“KILLING FOR THE PROSECUTION” | Hawaii Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 122 min.
Director: Masato Harada
From renowned director and HIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Masato Harada (“Sekigahara,” “Emperor in August,” “Kakekomi”) comes one of the biggest crime dramas of the year based on the hit novel by Shusuke Shizukui. Keiichiro Okino (Kazunari Ninomiya of “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “The Last Recipe”) is a young public prosecutor assigned to the Tökyö prosecutor’s office, which deals with violent cases. He is thrilled to work with veteran Takeshi Mogami (Takuya Kimura of “Love and Honor,” “Blade of the Immortal”), whom he admires.
When an elderly moneylender is killed, the suspect turns out to be a key witness from a teenage girl’s murder years ago. Mogami questions the results of the old murder case and is determined to prove the suspect guilty. But at what cost? In typical Harada fashion, this densely packed procedural will keep you on your toes until the end.
Screenings: Nov. 9, 6 p.m. | Nov. 13, 8:30 p.m.
“50 FIRST KISSES” | North American Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 114 min.
Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Meeting the woman of your dreams in Hawai‘i is a blessing — until you discover she has short-term memory loss and forgets everything by the next day. The Japanese remake of the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, “50 First Dates,” reunites Takayuki Yamada and Masami Nagasawa, who co-starred in the 2007 romance, “Say Hello to Me.”
Yamada is Daisuke, a womanizing travel agent who is also passionate about astronomy. The object of his affections, Rui (Nagasawa), is an art teacher living with her father and brother, who try to preserve the illusion that nothing has changed since the day she lost her memory in an accident.
The Japanese version faithfully recreates many of the “50 First Dates” characters and set pieces. Rui’s condition and the way it is handled by her family and friends may seem implausible, much like the American version. What sells the premise is the chemistry
between Nagasawa and Yamada.
Screenings: Nov. 9, 8:15 p.m. | Nov. 14, 5:30 p.m.
“BORN BONE BORN” | North American Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 111 min.
Director: Toshiyuki Teruya
Four years after their mother’s death, the estranged Shingo children return to the family home on Aguni Shima, a Ryukyuan island west of Okinawa island, to perform the traditional ritual of senkotsu, or bone-washing, a tradition largely extinct today. Practiced on Aguni Shima only, it offers families of the deceased an opportunity to bid a last farewell to their loved ones.
To everyone’s surprise, daughter Yuko arrives alone and pregnant, and son Tsuyoshi is mysteriously without his wife and children. They discover that their father, Nobutsuna, at home alone on the island, has been drowning his sorrows in alcohol. But maybe an ancient burial ritual is what the Shinjo family needs to heal their wounds and unite once again.
A heartwarming meditation on love, family and the power of tradition and ritual, “Born Bone Born” is must-see at HIFF 2018. Okinawan comedian Gori (Toshiyuki Teruya) directs a film that defines him as an up-and-coming filmmaker to watch.
Screenings: Nov. 10, 12:45 p.m. | Nov. 12, 5:30 p.m. | Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater
“WACHIGAI-YA ITOSATO” | International Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 117 min.
Director: Makoto Kiyohiro
Three memorable women, three love affairs. This film is set in one of the most turbulent eras of war in Japan, when shogun ruled the people and there were fierce battles between samurai to control the new government alongside the emperor. Through the eyes of young Itosato we find a woman’s struggle for love and happiness. Three women risk everything for life and love and make hard choices: collaboration, secrets and suicide. This film is based on actual events about one of the biggest assassination mysteries of all time. It presents a unique view of the bloody yet beautiful world of war and love in 1863.
Screenings: Nov. 10, 3:15 p.m. | Nov. 17, 6 p.m., Waimea Theater
“SHOPLIFTERS” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 121 min.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl out in the freezing cold. Although reluctant at first to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning about the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor and barely making enough money to survive on through petty crimes, they seem to live together happily until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets that test the bonds that unite them.
“Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is a serious contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Told with trademark grace and generosity to his characters, director Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts a compelling story of love and family intimacy on the fringes of modern Japan. Gentle, heartwarming and profound, this is filmmaking at its finest.
Screening: Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m.
“ASAKO I & II” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 120 min.
Director: Ryüsuke Hamaguchi
Asako (Erika Karata) falls madly in love with the wild and irresistible Baku (Masahiro Higashide of “Sekigahara” and this year’s “Yocho”), who suddenly disappears one day. Two years later and now living in Tökyö, she meets his perfect double, Ryohei. Suspicious at first, she soon finds that Ryohei is the exact opposite of Baku in temperament: Ryohei is even-keeled, reliable and thoughtful. They fall in love and move in together. But memories of Baku continue to haunt their seemingly perfect relationship.
When Baku reappears on the scene as a famous male model, his presence threatens to upend the new life Asako has built for herself. “Asako I & II” was an official selection of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
Screenings: Nov. 11, 1:30 p.m. | Nov. 13, 7:45 p.m.
“THE BLOOD OF WOLVES” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 126 min.
Director: Kazuya Shiraishi
Renowned actor Koji Yakusho (“Shall We Dance,” “The Emperor in August,” “Sekigahara”) returns with one of the best performances of the year in Kazuya Shiraishi’s (“Twisted Justice,” “Birds Without Names”) gangster crime drama, “The Blood of Wolves.”
In 1988 Hiroshima, tough guy cop Ogami (Yakusho) has a unique way of managing the local yakuza. Skirting the line between legal and moral, he keeps the peace by maintaining an “in” with the local syndicates. Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka), a straight-laced and by-the-book rookie cop, is dismayed at Ogami’s actions when he is assigned to be his partner, viewing Ogami as a corrupt cop. When a local financial company worker goes missing, the mismatched duo must bridge the divide between themselves to solve the case.
As the plot thickens and a brewing war between the local syndicates becomes apparent, Hioka begins to question whether Ogami might not be the corrupt cop he seems to be after all. With a fresh take on the gangster genre, “The Blood of Wolves” is one of the best yakuza crime dramas in recent years, cementing Kazuya Shiraishi as a rising star in Japanese cinema.
Screenings: Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 17, 8:15 pm.
“KILLING” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/English subtitles | 80 min.
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
From cult film maestro Shinya Tsukamoto (“Tetsuo: The Iron Man,” “Fires on the Plain”) comes a dark take on the samurai drama. A young ronin (played by a brooding Sosuke Ikematsu of “The Vancouver Asahi,” also in this year’s “Samurai’s Promise”) turns up at a farming village on his way through the countryside. He offers to help with the harvest and is taken in by the farmers. One farmer’s son takes an immediate liking to the ronin and begs him to show him how to fight, while the farmer’s daughter (Yu Aoi of “What a Wonderful Family,” “Honokaa Boy,” “Hana & Alice”) sends beguiling looks his way.
A short time later, an experienced samurai (played by director Tsukamoto) comes through town looking for men to join him on his way to Edo. The ronin begrudgingly accepts the samurai’s offer, and the farmer’s son makes enough of an impression to be invited along, as well. But when a band of roaming thugs appears outside the village, it may spell a change of plans for the trio and doom for both the ronin and the village.
Screenings: Nov. 12, 6:15 p.m. | Nov. 17, 7 p.m.
“MIRAI” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/English subtitles | 100 min.
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Kun, an only child obsessed with bullet trains, lives in an affluent suburb with his loving parents. His life is thrown upside down, however, with the birth of his infant sister, Mirai. Kun is now forced to compete with his little sister for his parents’ attention. Everything changes, however, when Kun discovers a magical portal in his garden that connects him with past and present versions of his family, including his now-teenaged sister. Learning lessons all along the way, Kun comes to terms with the changes occurring in his life and in those around him.
From acclaimed animation director Mamoru Hosoda (“Boy and the Beast”) and inspired by his own experiences watching his children grow up and interact, “Mirai” imparts a playful yet universal story of family and the small things that add up to make us what we are now. Hosoda’s film is gloriously animated, yet elegantly simple. It is a nostalgic invitation into the imaginative landscapes of childhood.
Screenings: Nov. 14, 5:45 p.m. | Nov. 17, 12:45 p.m. | Nov. 18, 3:15 p.m., Waimea Theater
“IT’S BORING HERE, PICK ME UP” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 98 min.
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
From veteran filmmaker Ryuichi Hiroki (“It’s Only Talk,” “Kabukicho Love Hotel”) comes a touching drama about youthful dreams and growing up. “I” (Ai Hashimoto of “Little Forest,” “Wonderful World End,” “The World of Kanako”) couldn’t wait to leave her small town after high school. After working in Tökyö for 10 years, she realizes that the big city wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and returns home to work at a local magazine. Along with her photographer colleague, she picks up her best friend from school, “me” (Mugi Kadowaki of “Gassoh,” “Close Knit”), and they embark on a trip across town and down memory lane to find out what happened to the most popular boy in school, learning the fate of other classmates along the way.
“It’s Boring Here, Pick Me Up” cuts back and forth across time, capturing the hopes, dreams and realities of a group of small town friends and classmates. It cleverly captures how the way we perceive — or often mis-perceive — the lives of those around us, shapes our own lives in immeasurable ways. This is one of Hiroki’s best films yet.
Screenings: Nov. 14, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 18, 3:15 p.m.
“BLANK 13” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 70 min.
Director: Takumi Saitoh
Thirteen years after abandoning his wife and two sons when he stepped out to get a pack of cigarettes and never returned, deadbeat gambler Masato dies of stomach cancer. At his funeral, a motley crew of mahjong players, pachinko parlor employees and former drinking buddies come to pay their respects and share stories, revealing aspects of Masato’s life that complicate his sons’ resentment towards him.
“Blank 13” shines the light on director Takumi Saitoh, winner of the Asian New Talent Award for Best Director at the Shanghai International Film Festival for his unique sensibility. The film quietly evokes the enigma of discovering the private life of a loved one and the elasticity of familial bonds.
Screening: Nov. 15, 6 p.m.
“THE HUNGRY LION” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 78 min.
Director: Takaomi Ogata
Hitomi (Urara Matsubayashi in her feature film debut) is a personable and popular high school student. While in class one day, her teacher is abruptly dismissed and arrested. When a video of the teacher having inappropriate relations with a student is leaked online, a rumor begins to circulate that the student is Hitomi. Although clearly false, the rumor takes on a life of its own.
“The Hungry Lion” is a powerful critique about the sway of social media in modern life. It is a smart, multilayered drama that captures teenage life in post-millennial Japan with a sense of nuance and authenticity. Cleverly structured and beautifully shot, the film is an impressive work by up-and-coming director Takaomi Ogata, and is based upon several real-life news stories that made headlines in Japan. HIFF has nominated this film for its new emerging filmmaker award, Kau Ka Hökü.
Screenings: Nov. 15, 7 p.m. | Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m.
“SAMURAI’S PROMISE” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 112 min.
Director: Daisaku Kimura
The year is 1720. Shinbei, who was exiled from the Ogino clan for getting too close to a conspiracy, has been relegated to wandering the countryside with his sick wife, Shino, who has only a short time to live. As her dying wish, Shino asks Shinbei to return to the clan and save clan elder Uneme Sakakibara from a brewing civil war.
“Samurai’s Promise,” starring Junichi Okada (“A Samurai Chronicle,” “Sekigahara”) as Shinbei, Haru Kuroki (also in this year’s “Every Day is a Good Day”) and Hidetoshi Nishijima (“Creepy,” “The Last Recipe”), is a sweeping period-drama from veteran cinematographer and director Daisaku Kimura (“Summit: A Chronicle of Stones”).
Screenings: Nov. 15, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 17, 5:45 p.m.
“RECALL” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 120 min.
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Tomoya Nagase (“Too Young to Die!”) plays Tokuro Akamatsu, who runs a family-owned transport company. The company is not wealthy, but they manage to make ends meet for their employees . . . until a freak accident kills a pedestrian, which seemingly dooms Akamatsu Transport.
Tokuro begins to suspect the car manufacturer of foul play, setting off a battle against a corporate giant to save his family and his company. “Recall” is a thrilling drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Screenings: Nov. 16, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 18, 5 p.m.
“HANALEI BAY” | U.S. Premiere | Japan, U.S. | 2018 | English, Japanese w/ subtitles | 96 min.
Director: Daishi Matsunaga
From a short story by best-selling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami comes this tale of loss and connection. Sachi’s son dreamed of surfing in Hawai‘i. When he is killed in an accident at Hanalei Bay on Kaua‘i, her grief is unbearably deep. Sachi travels to Kaua‘i’s north shore every year on the anniversary of his death, seeking to heal. On this pilgrimage to the bay, she meets two Japanese boys her son’s age. They introduce her to a young Japanese surfer with only one leg. For Sachi, that meeting leads to a new connection that may hold the key to dealing with her loss.
“Hanalei Bay” was filmed almost entirely on Kaua‘i’s north shore, and features a local supporting cast. It is a story about overcoming loss and finding redemption in an unlikely place. Actress Yo Yoshida (“Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Desperate Sunflowers”) delivers an outstanding performance as Sachi, along with up-and-coming Nijiro Murakami (“Miracles of the Namiya General Store”) as disabled surfer Takahashi.
Screenings: Nov. 16, 8:15 p.m. | Nov. 18, 2:45 p.m. | Nov. 18, 7 p.m., Waimea Theater
“THE MIRACLE OF CRYBABY SHOTTAN” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 127 min.
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda
From director Toshiaki Toyoda (“Blue Spring,” “9 Souls”) comes the true story of Shoji “Shottan” Segawa (Ryuhei Matsuda of “The Great Passage,” “Before We Vanish”), the man who broke the rules in order to become one of the greatest professional shogi players. Shogi, or Japanese chess, is a 1,000-year-old game of strategy steeped in history and tradition. Those striving to reach the top levels must endure a strict training process known as the shore-kai system in order to become a professional.
Shoji Segawa loved the game since he was a young boy. He wasn’t a star pupil in school, but he excelled at shogi. When he and his best friend discover the local smoke-filled shogi parlor, a whole new world opens up for them, inspiring the two boys to compete on the youth circuit.
When a twist of fate causes Shoji’s best friend to leave the competition circuit, Shoji decides to roll the dice and pursue a professional career in the game. To do so, he joins a nearby shore-kai. If Shoji fails to reach the highest level by age 26, he will forever be relegated to the amateur circuit. This nail-biting drama about passion, tradition and courage is one of the best “sports dramas” of the year.
Screenings: Nov. 17, 3 p.m. | Nov. 18, 12 noon
“MODEST HEROES: PONOC SHORT FILMS THEATRE, VOL. 1” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 52 min.
Directors: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Yoshiyuki Momose, Akihiko Yamashita
Studio Ponoc is the new animation studio founded by two-time Academy Award®-nominee Yoshiaki Nishimura (“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “When Marnie Was There”). It features many artists from the venerable Studio Ghibli and made an immediate splash last year with its acclaimed debut film, “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” HIFF 2017’s Opening Night presentation. The studio returns with “Modest Heroes: Ponoc Short Films Theatre,” three thrilling tales by some of the greatest talents working in Japanese animation today.
“Kanini & Kanino,” directed by Academy Award®-nominee Hiromasa Yonebayashi (“When Marnie Was There,” “Mary and the Witch’s Flower”), is about two crab brothers who embark on a grand underwater adventure to find their father after an accident carries him far downstream. Depicted as tiny beings in a large and merciless natural world, the brothers must evade a series of freshwater predators if they are to reunite with their family.
In “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose,” acclaimed animator Yoshiyuki Momose (key animator on Isao Takahata’s films at Studio Ghibli and animation director of the video game, “Ni no Kuni”) makes his directorial debut with a different kind of story. Eight-year-old Shun loves baseball and running. Only eggs defeat him. With the love of his strong-willed mother (Maggie Q), Shun faces the challenge of an everyday life threatened by a deadly allergy.
In “Invisible,” marking the directing debut of Akihiko Yamashita, a talented key animator on many of Studio Ghibli’s and Hayao Miyazaki’s best-known films, a man wakes up one morning and goes through his day invisible to everyone around him. Just when he seems to have reached his limit, a momentous decision gives him the chance to reclaim his humanity.
Together, the stories explore ideas of heroism, large and small. The infinite potential of the short film format allows the directors and Studio Ponoc to experiment with breathtaking, action-packed visuals, concise human drama and gorgeous fantasy worlds in this unforgettable short film anthology that is further demonstration of the studio’s exciting future.
Screening: Nov. 17, 4:15 p.m.
SECTION: EAT. DRINK. FILM., SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN
“FOR LOVE’S SAKE” | International Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 117 min.
Director: Naoki Segi
Shiori (Rina Kawaei) is a top university student with an incredible palate for wine who dreams of studying winemaking in France. Much to her disappointment, however, she is assigned to intern at a rural sake brewery. To make matters worse, upon arriving there, she finds that the brewery owners don’t really want her around.
Shiori she tries to make the best of things and pitches in at the brewery, even warming up to the idea of drinking sake.
When the brewery owner falls gravely ill and his upstart son Kanji (Yuto Onotsuka) is forced to take the lead, Shiori provides the spark that can save the brewery and change her own life in the process.
“For Love’s Sake” was filmed entirely at the Kamoizumi Sake Brewery, one of Hiroshima’s most famous breweries. It is an uplifting drama about falling in love with Japan’s most delectable fermented beverage — and maybe discovering some romance along the way.
Screenings: Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m. | Nov. 16, 6:15 p.m. | Nov. 16, 8 p.m., Waimea Theater
“EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY” | North American Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 100 min.
Director: Tatsushi Omori
University student Noriko (Haru Kuroki, also in this year’s “Samurai’s Promise”) feels aimless, unlike her best friend Michiko (Mikako Tabe of “Midnight Diner”), who seems to have it all together. Noriko doesn’t know what she wants to do after college and doesn’t seem to have any special skills.
When Noriko’s mother suggests that the two spend their summer learning tea ceremony from a local teacher, Michiko is excited while Noriko balks. When the women meet Takeda-Sensei (Kiki Kirin in her last appearance), they quickly realize that there is much more to “tea” than meets the eye. As the months pass, what seemed like just an interesting summer activity soon becomes a more lasting endeavor, setting off a transformative journey into the heart of tradition, connection and family.
An outstanding effort from director Tatsushi Omori, this film features standout performances by both Haru Kuroki and the legendary Kiki Kirin.
Screenings: Nov. 13, 5:45 p.m. | Nov. 18, 2:15 p.m.
SECTION: EXTREME ASIA, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN
“ONE CUT OF THE DEAD” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 96 min.
Director: Shinichiro Ueda
A cast of relative unknowns, a brilliantly disguised low budget and an epic 37-minute opening single-take makes Shinichirö Ueda’s feature debut a bright, breezy and laugh-out-loud hilarious zombie comedy. A film crew is shooting a zombie horror flick in an abandoned water filtration plant, reportedly used by the military for human experiments. Just as the director browbeats his actors, demanding more special effects blood, a real zombie apocalypse erupts.
Another zombie film? Trust us, it’s totally worth it, even the 37-minute opening take, as you will be rewarded with one of the most inventive films in years. “One Cut of the Dead” opened in one theater in Japan, built a cult following and soon became the sleeper hit of the year.
Screenings: Nov. 10, 9 p.m. | Nov. 13, 8:45 p.m.
“INUYASHIKI” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 127 min.
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashi of “Initiation Love”), a salaryman, gets no respect from his colleagues or his family. His feelings of futility are compounded when his doctor informs him that he has terminal cancer. While lamenting his sad life on a park bench that night, he is suddenly struck by a bright light. He awakes on the ground and stumbles home, only to discover that something has transformed his body into a machine with superhuman powers, including the power to heal.
Also in the park that night is Shishigami (Takeru Satoh of “Rurouni Kenshin,” “Bakuman”), a high school student, who appears to have undergone the same transformation, except his powers seem to be destructive. Shishigami begins to use his power to hurt whomever crosses him, while Inuyashiki uses his powers to save them, setting them up for a showdown of epic proportions. “Inuyashiki” is based on the hit manga of the same name and was one of Japan’s blockbusters of 2018.
Screenings: Nov. 12, 8:15 p.m. | Nov. 14, 8:45 p.m.
“YOCHO (FOREBODING)” | Hawai‘i Premiere | Japan | 2017 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 140 min.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
A companion film to “Before We Vanish” (HIFF 2017), “Yocho” explores a darker view of pending alien invasion. Alien scouts arrive in Japan in the form of body-snatching invaders intent on stealing the concept of humanity. Young Miyuki notices strange things happening all around: Her colleague has lost her mind, and her husband is under the spell of a strange new doctor at his work. All this seems to portend impending doom, but can she alert the world in time?
Screening: Nov. 16, 8:45 p.m. | Nov. 18, 8:30 p.m.
SECTION: FILM FOR THOUGHT, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN
“TEN YEARS: JAPAN” | North American Premiere | Japan, Hong Kong | 2018 | Japanese w/ English subtitles | 99 min.
Directors: Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura, Kei Ishikawa
From executive producer Hirokazu Kore-eda, comes “Ten Years: Japan,” a series of five shorts from up-and-coming Japanese filmmakers about their vision of Japan in 10 years.
These futuristic shorts, reminiscent of a Japanese version of “Black Mirror,” include a future Japan plagued by pollution and an aging population; a society where morality and personal history are manipulated by technology; a world in which artificial intelligence takes over child rearing and education; a post-apocalyptic future in which underground living is the norm; and a nation overshadowed by the specter of war. “Ten Years: Japan” showcases the talents of five filmmakers and is an honest, dark and revolutionary look at what the future may hold.
As part of the “Film for Thought” program, the Nov. 10 screening will be followed by a discussion led by Patricio Abinales, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa.
Screenings: Nov. 10, 3:45 p.m. | Nov. 12, 1 p.m.
SECTION: SOUND X VISION, SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN
“THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS” | U.S. Premiere | Japan | 1985 | Japanese w/English subtitles | 100 min.
Director: Macoto Tezuka
In 1985, Macoto Tezuka (son of manga artist Osamu Tezuka) met musician/TV personality Haruo Chicada, who made a soundtrack to a movie that didn’t really exist, “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers.” Macoto, 22 at the time and a film student with many short, experimental films under his belt, had yet to make a feature film.
With Chicada as producer, Tezuka made his “fake soundtrack” into the real movie story about the Stardust Brothers. Inspired by “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Tezuka assembled a cast of some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time, including such greats as Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY, Sunplaza Nakano and Hiroshi Takano, along with many famous names in manga such as Monkey Punch, Shinji Nagashima and Yosuke Takahashi. He also involved many emerging film directors of the time, such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Tokyo Sonata” and this year’s “Yocho”) and Daihachi Yoshida (“The Kirishima Thing”).
Despite the array of talent on board with its large budget, “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” is generally unknown worldwide and even in Japan. The film is the epitome of a cult classic, rediscovered and digitally restored 30 years later and ready to grace the screen.
Screenings: Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m. | Nov. 17, 8:45 p.m.
SECTION: SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA
“WISH YOU WERE HERE” | North American Premiere | Japan, China | 2018 | Japanese, Mandarin w/ English subtitles | 113 min.
Director: Kenneth Bi
A successful businesswoman in Beijing is visited by a mysterious young Japanese woman, sparking her journey back to Hokkaidö to re-examine the choices she made 20 years earlier when she moved to a small town for her husband. “Wish You Were Here” is a look at a woman traversing through modernity and tradition; China and Japan; youth and maturity. Her journey back to Hokkaidö makes her face her deepest fear.
Screenings: Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. | Nov. 15, 3:30 p.m.
SECTION: MADE IN HAWAI‘I
“VOICES BEHIND BARBED WIRE” | Hawai‘i Premiere | U.S. | 2018 | English | 110 min.
Director: Ryan Kawamoto
While the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans on the U.S. continent during World War II is relatively well documented, new information about the sites and untold stories of Hawai‘i Japanese Americans are continuing to emerge. “Voices Behind Barbed Wire” is a series of four short films that explore the personal stories of Japanese Americans living on O‘ahu, in Maui County, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island. Each episode chronicles the initial detention of Japanese Americans on that island, their transfer and interrogation at the U.S. Immigration Station and their incarceration at Sand Island, Honouliuli and to faraway places like New Mexico, Arkansas and Arizona. The films also include updated information on the Honouliuli National Monument with a focus on the modern-day relevance of civil liberties and an archaeological journey through the former World War II prison sites on O‘ahu.
“Voices Behind Barbed Wire” was produced by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i and was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.
Screenings: Nov. 12, 3 p.m. | Nov. 18, 1 p.m. Waimea Theater | Dec. 2, 2:45 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater
“AUGUST AT AKIKO’S | Hawai‘i Premiere | U.S. | 2018 | English | 75 min.
Director: Christopher Makoto Yogi
Cosmopolitan musician Alex Zhang Hungtai (of Dirty Beaches) returns to Hawai‘i after many years away. While searching for his missing grandmother, he forms a bond with local elder Akiko, who teaches him to connect with the spirit of home that he carries within.
Interweaving reality and fiction with characters performing a version of themselves, Hawai‘i-raised director/writer Christopher Yogi invites us along on Alex’s spiritual odyssey of self-realization and finding inner peace.
Exuding the moody cool of a traditional bluesman with the subdued flair of an indie rocker, Alex lands in a small rural town on Hawai‘i Island, hoping to learn the fate of his grandparents’ final days and inquire about his long-lost extended family. He discovers the meaning of “home” through the wise counsel and friendship of Akiko, who runs a Buddhist bed and breakfast that he boards at while on sabbatical from the road. Under her gentle influence, he learns the virtues of slowing down and smelling the flowers.
Returning to one’s home to honor ancestors, often a perfunctory act, takes on significance as the living discover how the deceased are very much present and always guiding us into the light.
The power of place activates memories of both past and present. Using minimalist dialogue and amplifying the sounds of nature orchestrated in concert with Alex’s jazz compositions, Yogi ushers viewers into the primordial presence of earthly delights where there is music in silence and movement in stillness.
“August at Akiko’s” has been nominated for the Kau Ka Hökü Award, HIFF’s new emerging filmmaker award.
Screenings: Nov. 14, 8 p.m. | Nov. 16, 4 p.m. | Dec. 1, 5:30 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater
SECTION: CLOSING NIGHT FILM
“MOANANUIÄKEA: ONE OCEAN. ONE PEOPLE. ONE CANOE.” | World Premiere | U.S. | 2018 | English | 148 min.
Director: Na‘alehu Anthony
In 1976, the Polynesian voyaging canoe Höküle‘a sparked a cultural revival that quickly spread throughout Polynesia, breathing life into ancient myths and legends. More than four decades later, Höküle‘a continues to inspire new generations of navigators and voyagers to gather their courage and sail beyond the horizon of the Pacific.
“Moananuiäkea: One Ocean. One People. One Canoe.” celebrates the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s historic Worldwide Voyage that connected countless individuals and communities from around the globe. The voyage also represented the fulfillment of the vision of master navigator Nainoa Thompson and his contemporaries — the passing of the torch to the next generation of känaka maoli who will retain the skills of their ancestors and perpetuate this tradition for generations to come.
Screenings: Nov. 15, 6:30 p.m., Waimea Theater | Nov. 18, 6:30 p.m., Hawaii Theatre | Nov. 29, 6:30 p.m., Hilo Palace Theater | Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m., Maui Arts & Cultural Center