AFI FEST, the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers, will include four works from Japan.
Venues include the Chinese 6 Theatres, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., and the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., both in Hollywood. Following are descriptions of each film by festival staff.
The latest animated wonder from Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of the legendary Studio Ghibli, is the master’s first directorial effort in five years, and may well be his last. Eschewing his typically fictional characters ensconced in a fantasy world, the skilled animator instead brings to life the story of Jiro Horikoshi, visionary designer of one of history’s most beautiful airplanes – the prototype for the Zero World War II fighter – in a fictionalized story based on real figures who lived and loved in troubled times. Adapted from Miyazaki’s own serialized manga, which was inspired by Tatsuo Hori’s 1937 story of the same name, this epic tale of love, invention and hope spans decades, sweeping through great moments of 20th-century Japan.
Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli productions are icons of animation, setting standards for imaginative design and human drama. Such films as “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo” have delighted audiences worldwide.
Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year for this touching drama, the story of two families who learn that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth. One of the fathers is an affluent architect who exacts strict academic and cultural discipline on his son, while the other father is a repairman of small appliances; he is poor, but unlike the architect, he actually spends time with his son and family. There is a sharp class divide that separates the approach that each family has taken toward nurturing their sons, but now both fathers find themselves equally desperate to gain the trust of their biological sons, and prove their capacity for unconditional love.
Kore-eda is a leading filmmaker in Japan, known for contemplative 1990s dramas such as “Maborosi” and “After Life” and his unusual sensitivity to children in “Nobody Knows” and “I Wish.” His 2008 family portrait, “Still Walking,” was a moving tribute to rituals and relationships.
Takafumi Katayama is a single father who signs up for an exclusive new bondage club that offers a service where the dominatrix will surprise the customer at work, at home or even in the street and subject him to the pleasures of pain. When the line is crossed and he tries to leave the club, things only escalate. As this story of extreme sexual adventures unfolds, it is interspersed with scenes of a film director who at age 100 is making the film we are watching. A meta-textual leap, the twist disorients the viewer of this epic installment in Japanese shock cinema.
One of the most prominent and successful comedians in Japan, director Hitoshi Matsumoto has been a leading figure in the Japanese television industry since he made his 1982 debut as part of the popular comedy duo Downtown. His directing credits include “Big Man Japan,” “Symbol” and “Scabbard Samurai.”
Using footage captured by hidden cameras on the streets of Tokyo, Nicolas Provost constructs a narrative set to the conventions of Hollywood mysteries in the thrilling conclusion to his “Plot Point” trilogy.
AFI FEST runs from Nov. 7 to 14. Tickets are free but reservations are required. For more information, call (866) AFI FEST, email AFIFEST@AFI.com or visit http://afi.com/afifest/. To reach a staff member directly, call the AFI operator at (323) 856-7600.