Japan Society’s Film Festival Begins Thursday with Buddha and a Band

If you love Japanese cinema, the next two weeks are for you. Japan Cuts 2011: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema kicks off its 32-film showcase on Thursday, July 7 with the animated version of Osamu Tezuka’s manga epic about Buddha.

Buddha ©2011 "Osamu Tezuka's Buddha" production committee 13

Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure

Thursday, July 7 at 6:45 p.m. (also showing Sunday, July 10 at 12:30 p.m.) ~ Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival. North American premiere.

2011. 111 min. Directed by Kozo Morishita. With the voices of Sayuri Yoshinaga, Masato Sakai, Kiyokazu Kanze, Hidetaka Yoshioka. In Japanese with English subtitles.

The father of manga and the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka created the graphic novel series Buddha, which follows the life of Prince Siddhartha on his enlightening journey from birth to childhood. One of the last works of Tezuka, who died in 1989, the series was originally written in the 1970s, and the film was much anticipated before its May release.


Fumi Nikaido. Ringing in Their Ears ©"Ringing in Their Ears" production committee

Ringing in Their Ears

Thursday, July 7 at 9:00 p.m. International premiere.

2011. 89 min. Directed by Yu Irie. With Fumi Nikaido, Kurumi Morishita, Shinsei Kamattechan. In Japanese with English subtitles.

The second film of opening night of Japan Cuts is Ringing in Their Ears (actual Japanese title: Gekijouban Shinsei Kamattechan Rokkun Roru wa Nariyamanai), also co-presented with NYAFF.

A 30-year-old single mom who moonlights as an exotic dancer to make ends meet, her 5-year-old son with laptop separation anxiety, and a teenage shogi champion who wants to forgo college to pursue a professional career in the ancient sport of Japanese chess are just a few of the characters entwined by the concert of Shinsei Kamattechan, a unique alternative rock/punk band that formed online and uses the Internet to connect with obsessed fans.

One of those fans is Ryota, the 5-year-old who can’t put down his laptop and the live running commentary by Noko, the band’s reclusive but Internet-chat-friendly lead singer/guitarist. Ryota gets into hot water with the school principal after he teaches his fellow kindergarteners the somewhat disturbing lyrics to one of Kamattechan’s songs: “I want to die, I want to live. Either way is fine.”

Meanwhile, the manager of the band struggles with the record label’s idea of turning the band, which has achieved indie cult status, into a vehicle for mainstream, feel-good tunes. A record label executive, who has more than 30 years of experience in the business, pressures the manager to turn the band’s lyrics into more positive messages for all of the shut-ins in Japan. In doing so, he says, the band could make millions and one day play a gig at the iconic Budokan.

The events in the movie are fictitious, but Shinsei Kamattechan is an actual band. The band members play themselves, as does the manager, Mikito Tsurugi, who agonizes about his boss’s proposal during the days leading up to the concert, wondering if he should compromise the integrity of the band.

It’s a quick (89 minutes) and light-hearted film that’s worth seeing on opening night. And with a name like Gekijouban Shinsei Kamattechan Rokkun Roru wa Nariyamanai, it has to be good.

Tickets for each screening are $12/$9 Japan Society members, students, and seniors; and $16/$12 for the July 8 and July 15 screenings with after parties (Into the White Night‘s screening/closing party is regular price). Tickets can be purchased in person at the Japan Society at 333 East 47th Street, through the box office at 212.715.1258, or online at www.japansociety.org. The price for the Gantz double-feature special is $20/$14 for both films, available only in person or by calling the box office. Those purchasing more than five tickets for at least five different films receive $2 off each ticket, but you must call the box office or make your purchase in person.


Japan Cuts 2011 schedule:

Thursday, July 7

  • 6:45 – Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure
  • 9:00 – Ringing in Their Ears


Friday, July 8

  • 7:00 – Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano
  • 9:15 – Battle Royale


Saturday, July 9

  • 12:30 – Gantz: The Movie, Part 1
  • 3:00 – Gantz, Part II: Perfect Answer
  • 6:00 – Ninja Kids!!!
  • 8:15 – Yakuza Weapon with Q&A and After Party


Sunday, July 10

  • 12:30 – Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure
  • 2:45 – Heaven’s Story
  • 8:00 – Milocrorze: A Love Story with Q&A


Tuesday, July 12

  • 6:30 – Sword of Desperation
  • 9:00 – The Last Ronin


Wednesday, July 13

  • 6:30 – Rinco’s Restaurant
  • 9:00 – Birthright (a.k.a. Umbilical Cord)


Thursday, July 14

  • 6:30 – Rail Truck
  • 9:00 – Yuki and Nina


Friday, July 15

  • 6:15 – Toilet
  • 8:30 – Three☆Points with Q&A and After Party


Saturday, July 16

  • 2:30 – Love Addiction
  • 4:30 – The Seaside Motel with Q&A
  • 7:15 – A Liar and a Broken Girl with Q&A
  • 10:30 – Love and Treachery


Sunday, July 17

  • 2:30 – The Knot
  • 4:00 – Torso
  • 6:15 – Strangers in the City
  • 9:00 – A Night in Nude: Salvation


Tuesday, July 19

  • 6:30 – Sketches of Kaitan City
  • 9:30 – Control Tower


Wednesday, July 20

  • 7:00 – Haru’s Journey with Q&A and reception


Thursday, July 21

  • 7:00 – Vengeance Can Wait
  • 9:00 – Wandering Home


Friday, July 22

  • 7:00 – Into the White Night with Closing Party (Location TBA)