50 years of Japanese film centred on the framework of youth

Your Friends'Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme
Your Friends'Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme

East Side Stories, a week-long season at the Showroom, offers an introduction to Japanese cinema through the framework of youth.

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme includes work from both established and up-and-coming directors and spans more than 50 years from Sixties classics to present day favourites.

Japan, with its vibrant youth culture, is the perfect context to illustrate the changing face of cinema across the decades.

Among the 11 films which will be shown from Friday to next Thursday is Your Friends, released in 2008.

Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, it retrospectively recounts the life-long friendship between two schoolgirls, Emi and Yuka, forged through their similar disabilities.

Using photographs of clouds taken throughout their years of friendship, the pair recall their memories; how their shared troubles affected their school years and beyond.

The simple camera movements add to the narrative focus and allow the actors to express emotion without interference. The ‘real time’ pace adds to this, giving authenticity to the memories.

For lovers of anime there is Keiichi Hara’s 2010 film, Colourful. A spirit, trapped in a world between life and death is given a second chance at life when he gets placed in the body of 14-year-old Makato, a troubled young boy who has just attempted suicide.

The spirit struggles with the boy’s emotions and begins to isolate himself from the life he has been given.

The film beautifully explores the power of second chances and the importance of forgiveness.

Rarely screened outside Japan, 18 Who Caused a Storm, is a 1963 film by prolific director Yoshishige Yoshida, a neo-realist account of the conditions faced by Japanese temporary manual laborers in the Sixties. This is an exceptional opportunity to see a classic of Japanese New Wave cinema.

The past is also explored in Shuichi Okita’s The Story of Yonosuke (2012). Flash back to 1987, a naïve young man travels to Tokyo for university and is overwhelmed by the thriving city and struggles to make friends.

However, as the years progress, his gentle, optimistic nature touches many lives, as seen when the film jumps forward 20 years. There are stories of tender and funny courtships, friendships and encounters, including inserts of characters reflecting on their time with the unassuming protagonist. Life questions are addressed with gentility, a friend comforts Yonosuke with a joke when he asks, “When I die, would anyone cry?”

Warm hearted and hopeful, the film teaches us to see the beauty within, the beauty that will be remembered.

With stories of love, loss, youth and ambition, there is something for everyone in this great introduction to Japanese cinema and a chance for established fans to see great new work.