JAPAN CUTS 2017: A Note from the Programmers

Every year in preparation for JAPAN CUTS we keep a vigilant eye on filmmaking in Japan, as well as projects by Japanese filmmakers abroad, to select a lineup that provides access to the breadth and depth of contemporary Japanese cinema. We balance independent productions with blockbusters, narrative and documentary with experimental approaches, features with shorts, live-action with animation, and the brand-new with newly restored or rediscovered older titles. What results is a snapshot of a vital film culture, brought to life by rare in-person access to creators of the work through Q&As and parties that allow connections beyond the screen.

As a regionally and culturally specific festival, there is a temptation to interpret the lineup as a lens through which to view Japanese society as a whole. While the selection aims to represent the true diversity of a culture that is often rife with projected misconceptions of homogeneity, no yearly festival can fully capture its complex, layered dimensions. Cinema emerging from a specific region is tied to its traditions of cultural identity, artistic creation and modes of production, yet moving images are fluid and circumvent borders, revealing a tension between insurgent film culture and a fixed idea of national cinema during precarious moments of change.

This eleventh edition of JAPAN CUTS reveals a cinema contending with crisis and breaking boundaries of form and content, complicating traditional gender roles and sexuality, addressing traumas of war and racism, uncovering buried histories and revealing the potential for social resistance. Throughout the different programming sections—the wildly varying genres of the FEATURE SLATE, new visions from the past in CLASSICS, records of contemporary life in DOCUMENTARY FOCUS, innovative formal approaches in EXPERIMENTAL SPOTLIGHT and utterly refreshing pieces in the SHORTS SHOWCASE—these themes appear in multiple, thought-provoking ways as struggles for individual expression and artistic freedom.

This summer you’ll find spirits crossing life and death through giant silvered copper plates and mysterious woods, lovestruck loners wandering Tokyo streets and consumed by creative passion in Parisian cafes, behind-the-scenes machinations of a women’s theater troupe and political battles of an all-boys high school. Along with a rebel ninja epic, super cute cat game adaptation, and life-affirming pacifist anime, there’s something for everyone in the lineup. Highlighting artistic achievement as well as featuring works that catch the zeitgeist of the global cultural moment and the state of cinema in and around Japan, JAPAN CUTS offers a dynamic venue to discuss art and culture, inviting festival participants to come away inspired to create what’s next.

—A / K / J

Images: West North West © West North West ; FOUJITA © 2015 Foujita Production Committee. Eurowide Film Production.
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