The tenth annual Japanese Film Festival is the fourth that I’ve attended, and it’s certainly grown since I first attended, one month out of high school. Featuring 19 films instead of the customary 8-10, this is the first time I’ve not been able to see all of them.
The opening night, at the Festival’s new Greater Union George Street location and open to the general public for the first time, was introduced by Japan’s Consulate General to Sydney. He spoke of the appeal of Japan’s films lying in that they are made specifically for Japanese people, as opposed to the determined worldwide demographics of Hollywood.
This is not solely the domain of Japan, of course; films where the characters truly belong to their surroundings have long been favourites of mine. That’s why a lot of independent films work: Little Miss Sunshine, despite featuring an Australian actress as one of its leads, had a quintessentially American feel. I’m a fan of the milieu film, and Japan has no shortage of those.
Always happens to exist in one of my favourite subgenres of Japanese film: nostalgic pieces about post-war Japan, presented in a fashion so romantic that it may never have even existed. This is a subject that I have managed to touch on with semi-frequency on Anime Pilgrimage.
Like many Japanese films, it’s extreme in its sentimentality. I don’t quite understand why “sentimental” became a negative adjective, because when the sentimentality isn’t false it can tug at your heart without making you feel manipulated (that manipulation of emotion was precisely why I couldn’t stand Finding Nemo).
It’s a film of broad characters, but of the variety that have become known and beloved all throughout Japan. Like so many of the films that they show at these festivals, I had the beginnings of tears in my eyes at the end. We call that a victory.