Japan CUTS 2014 unsheathes a lineup of cutting edge films

 

Photo courtesy of 2013 “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” film partners

Photo courtesy of 2013 “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” film partners

Fans of Japanese film, clear your schedules for July 10-20 as you’ll undoubtedly want to attend the 8th annual Japan CUTS film festival held at the Japan Society in New York City.

For 10 days, the Japan Society will become a mecca for Japanese cinephiles as the Japan CUTS 2014 festival will screen 27 films from the Land of the Rising Sun – including works by such notable Japanese directors as Sion Sono, Takashi Miike, Katsuhito Ishii and Hideo Nakata.

Though often difficult to assemble, Programmer for Japan CUTS 2014 Joel Neville Anderson stressed the importance of having a diverse collection of films presented at the festival.

“Curating festivals of a national cinema is necessarily problematic, swinging between exhaustive cultural surveys or limited selections of titles with international arthouse appeal, between a lineup that is representative and one that is exceptional,” Anderson said in a press release issued by Japan Society.

Anderson said the “tactic” at Japan CUTS has always been to place a heavy emphasis on “diversity” in the films they curate.

“This is especially so this year,” he said.

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Film lineup for 16th annual Boston Underground Film Festival has been announced

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The fine folks at the Boston Underground Film Festival have announced the lineup for their 16th annual event (BUFF16) and fans of Asian underground cinema are in for several treats.

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News: The Independent Film Festival Boston winners have been announced

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

 

 

 

 

 

The winners of the 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston have been announced in an official press release given by the festival:

The 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) came to a close on Tuesday night, April 30th, with a screening of the film IN A WORLD…with writer/director/star Lake Bell in attendance. Roughly 100 guest filmmakers, celebrities, and special guests were in attendance at the festival including new festival Creative Advisor Casey Affleck, actor Fran Kranz, director Bobcat Goldthwait, director James Ponsoldt, Writer/Actor/Director Lake Bell, Governor Deval Patrick, First Lady Diane Patrick and numerous others. Films were shown in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville over a total of 9 screens. This was the festival’s 11th year.

The jury and audience award prizes have been announced and are as follows:

Narrative Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THIS IS MARTIN BONNER directed by Chad Hartigan
Special Jury Prize Winner: HOUSTON directed by Bastian Gunther
Audience Award Winner: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Joss Whedon

Documentary Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: DIRTY WARS directed by Richard Rowley
Special Jury Prize Winner: REMOTE AREA MEDICAL directed by Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
Audience Award Winner: BEST KEPT SECRET directed by Samantha Buck
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing: Francisco Bello for OUR NIXON

Short Film:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THE LAST ICE MERCHANT directed by Sandy Patch
Special Jury Prize Winner: SLOMO directed by Joshua Izenberg
Audience Award Winner: WORLD FAIR directed by Amanda Murray

The Narrative Feature Jury was comprised of. Writer/director/actor Jonathan Lisecki, actress Kate Lynn Sheil, and propmaster David Gulick. The Documentary Feature Jury was comprised of Ben Fowlie (Camden International Film Festival/ The DocYard), Rebecca Richman Cohen (War Don Don, Code of the West), and Tim Cawley (From Nothing, Something). The Short Film Jury was comprised of filmmaker Kris Avedisian (Donald Cried), professor Zak Lee (Fitchburg State University), and writer/director Jody Lambert (Of All The Things, People Like Us).

Prizes included a a $500 cash prize from the Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship (goes to Francisco Bello, OUR NIXON) and a choice of two of the following: HDCam, Blu-Ray for Projection, or DCP from Modulus Studios (goes to Sandy Patch, THE LAST ICE MERCHANT).

More information on the festival will be available shortly on the festival website at http://www.iffboston.org.

Why We Watch (Part 4) Conclusion – Let’s wrap up on what we learned with a little podcast

Above I’ve embedded a podcast where I discuss what I’ve learned by asking my fellow film bloggers why we do what we do. I want to thank the blogs http://www.genkinahito.wordpress.com and http://www.scumcinema.com for discussing their passion in global cinema with me and for telling me “Why we watch.”

Why We Watch: A Lost in the Miso Exclusive (Part 3) – Chatting with S.C.U.M. Cinema’s Monkey Fist, Topo Sanchez and Mountain Monkey

The Why We Watch interviews conclude with a chat with Monkey Fist, Topo Sanchez and Mountain Monkey – the creators of the blog and film society S.C.U.M. Cinema.

Editor’s Note: I conducted my interview with these three men via email. Some questions were answered individually and some answered as a whole. “S.C.U.M. (all)” denotes that the answer was given by all three interviewees.

First conceived in 2007 by Monkey Fist as simply S.C.U.M., S.C.U.M.’s main objective was to hold “regular public screenings of non-mainstream films for like-minded folks in Singapore.” Due to issues with “obtaining screening rights from copyright holders,” S.C.U.M. would collapse but would eventually resurface as S.C.U.M. Cinema and this time, Monkey Fist had his friends Mountain Monkey and Topo Sanchez by his side. Together, these three men have created a blog where they review cult films from around the world, new and old, and continue to work towards their ultimate goal of holding film screenings in Singapore.

I talked to them about why we watch films that are, as they say, “weird and the bizarre.” The answers they gave are interesting and quite humorous. They are undoubtedly extremely knowledgeable in cult film and I walked away from the interview with at least ten movies I’ve never heard of before that  I need to get copies of and watch!

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Why We Watch: A Lost in the Miso Exclusive (Part 2) – An interview with Genkinahito’s Jason M.

I begin my series of Why We Watch interviews with Jason M. from Genkinahito.

Jason, a blogger since 2009, tells of how he first get a taste for foreign films (spoiler: a heaping helping of Hong Kong Jackie Chan films and the diverse programming on UK television gave him the bug for global cinema) and what, in his opinion, are the best foreign film distribution companies at the moment. Jason also gives his opinion on the ethics of fan subtitled movies and whether he thinks his studying of the Japanese language has helped him understand Japanese films on a deeper level.

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Takashi Miike’s ‘Shield of Straw’ to compete at Cannes Film Festival

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"Shield of Straw" teaser poster

“Shield of Straw” teaser poster

For a third year in a row, Japanese director Takashi Miike will have one of his films screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Miike’s latest film, Shield of Straw, will screen at the 66th Cannes Film Festival which runs from May 15-26.

Miike saw his films, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and For Love’s Sake, screen previously at Cannes in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

This is a must see for Japanese film fans as it is not only a Miike directed film but it stars the wonderful Fujiwara Tatsuya (Battle Royale, Death Note).

According to Variety.com, the film synopsis is as follows:

The pic is based on Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s eponymous best-seller about cops transporting a confessed killer across country. They must evade bounty hunters out to collect the $12 million price on the murderer’s head offered by the victim’s rich grandfather.

Head on over to the always awesome Twitchfilm to catch a glimpse of the Shield of Straw teaser trailer!

A quick chat with ‘Are We Not Cats’ director Xander Robi’

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

As the lights dimmed inside the Brattle Theater, filmmaker Xander Robin had a huge smile plastered across his young face, as he was about to share his latest short film Are We Not Cats with an audience of strangers for the first time.

I caught up with Xander, who came to the Boston Underground Film Festival with Are We Not Cats actress Kelsea Dakota, a few days after the screening to get his thoughts on premiering a movie in front of a crowd, technical difficulties, his plans on making a feature length film, just how important the last few seconds of Are We Not Cats are, and of course, how he felt winning the Director’s Choice Award of Best Short Film at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

LostintheMiso: So how does it feel to know that your peers chose your film for Best Short?

Xander Robin: I am ecstatic especially because I love all of the other films that were chosen for awards.

LostintheMiso: How did you go about being chosen by BUFF this year? This was Are We Not Cats‘ world premiere, yes? Describe your feelings as the film began to screen.

Xander Robin: I submitted a work in progress. Before BUFF, the largest amount of people that had seen it at once was five dudes in a room. Before and during the screening there was an inevitable anxiety.

LostintheMiso: There was an awkward moment when the film stopped due to a technical issue, that must have been heart-stopping. What was going through your head?

Xander Robin: I’ve seen many technical problems at various festivals so it’s never a jaw dropping surprise. I also had a couple drinks before the screening to calm my nerves, which my heart was thankful for in that moment. I’m glad that they rewound [the film] to a logical point and let the film build again. Hopefully everyone gave it the benefit of the doubt.

LostintheMiso: How did Are We Not Cats‘ story come about? The hair eating is obviously an unsettling component to the young couple’s relationship and yet theres a tenderness to their love. Where did the inspiration for the hair eating come from?

Xander Robin: The hair pulling/hair eating relationship is something I had been developing into a feature, drawn from both personal experiences and observations. Myself and my director of photography/co-producer Matt Clegg didn’t want to rush into production on a feature after we had moved to NYC [Editor’s Note: Xander graduated from Florida State University College of Motion Picture Art with a BFA and now lives in Brooklyn, NY] so I used an alternate situation and scouted some locations and we produced the short based on a treatment.

LostintheMiso: In many ways Are We Not Cats hinges upon the last eight seconds of the film. It could have turned out cheesy but was very well done. How long did that scene take to film?

Xander Robin: The very end took no more than two hours to prepare and shoot on location. The prop(s) took about a week to make. The take used was the first take; her [Actress Kelsea Dakota] expressions of going through that motion could not be replicated after it had been experienced for the first time. It is true, the entire film was made for the last 8 seconds.

LostintheMiso: Where can people see Are We Not Cats and your previous work The Virgin Herod and Kodachrome 2012?

Xander Robin: Are We Not Cats can be viewed online but it is password protected for now. I would like for it to screen a few more times before making it publicly viewable later this year. If anyone would like to see it, send me an email at info@xanderrobin.com. My other films can be seen on that website or on vimeo.com/xanderrobin.

LostintheMiso: Finally, do you have any interest in doing a full-length film?

Xander Robin: This short has helped me figure a few things out regarding this concept and have since rewritten my feature. I’m working on making that happen early next year.

I’d like to thank Xander Robin for taking the time to answer a few questions and whenever his feature film debuts, I’ll be one of the first in line.

BUFF15 Coverage: ‘Are We Not Cats’ Review

Photo Courtesy of www.xanderrobin.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.xanderrobin.com

One of the highlights of the 15th annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF15) this year was the short film Are We Not Cats.

Written, produced, directed and edited by Xander Robin, an up-and-comer from Brooklyn, New York, who graduated from Florida State University with a BFA in Motion Picture Arts, Are We Not Cats delighted the Brattle Theater audience it was screened before.

Xander makes great use of his 12 minute runtime and quickly sets up the films simple premise – a young couple are on a road trip when the young man (played by Michael Patrick) discovers his girlfriend (the beautiful Kelsea Dakota) has been compulsively eating his hair while he sleeps.

Patrick and Dakota work well together and the latter gives a daring performance that should be commended.

With such a short runtime, it’d be impossible to discuss what occurs within the film without spoiling the ending (and boy what an ending it is).

The final eight seconds of the film make the movie, a fact which Xander admits to in his interview with me (to be posted later). To give away this brilliantly quirky film’s ending would be a disservice to Xander and those who have yet to see it.

I wasn’t the only one who really dug this movie as it won “Director’s Choice Award for Short Film.”

This is a little movie with a big heart and it definitely stood out at this year’s festival.

Sion Sono’s ‘Guilty of Romance’ is coming to the Boston Underground Film Festival!

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Photo Courtesy of www.fareastfilms.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.fareastfilms.com

It’s March everyone, and that means the BUFF (Boston Underground Film Festival) is gearing up to showcase another stellar collection of bizarre, wacky and visceral films from around the world!

The big news for us who are obsessed with Japanese cinema? Well, Japanese auteur Sion Sono will have his 2011 film Guilty of Romance screened at this year’s BUFF event.

The festivals website, http://www.bostonunderground.org, describes Guilty of Romance as, “an eerie, boundary-pushing thriller from one of Japan’s masters of suspense. Always unorthodox, this acclaimed international gem starts off with a bang, as a dead body leads investigators to a demure housewife, leading a secret life as a nude model.”

Photo Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment

Photo Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment

Sono’s been on a bit of a roll as of late. His 2008 film Love Exposure drew rave reviews from around the world and made it on many best of the year lists. The four-hour film is one of my personal favorites.

Sono then released the macabre, somewhat-based-on-true-life events film Cold Fish, which continued to raise the director’s international profile.

 

For more information about BUFF, go check out their website: http://bostonunderground.org/ and make sure to support them.