Finally it is this time of the year again. The Japanese Film Festival (the festival) in Melbourne is back to the city best known for embracing multiculturalism.
First started in 1997, the festival presented three movies to approximately seven hundred audiences in Melbourne. Now in its fifteenth year, the festival had expanded its repertoire to thirty-five movies, which is twice the amount of last year. In addition, this year’s audience number broke the record with sixteen thousand in Melbourne and Sydney alone. Melbourne has officially replaced Sydney and has become the largest stage of the festival.
The opening ceremony of the festival was held last night in the ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) VIP lounge, situated in the heart of Melbourne, the Federation Square. VIPs attended the ceremony as honored guests, including the Deputy Consul-General Hisaharu Chiba from the Consulate General of Japan in Melbourne, Hon. Tim Holding MP (the Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Industry), the Manager of Hoyts Cinema in Melbourne Central, the Manager of ACMI, Japanese media in Melbourne, the sponsors of the festival, and the ex-mayor of Melbourne John So JP with his son Alex.
David Freeman, the organizer of the festival from the Japan Foundation held the MC. He introduced the highlights of the festival in Melbourne this year, which includes the recent blockbusters in Japan cinemas. These included the latest Studio Ghibli film Arrietty and Osamu Tezuka’s original story Buddha: the Great Departure. Also included were timely documentaries such as Yamakoshi: the Recovery of a Tiny Japanese Village and The Town’s Children, which record the recovery from The Great Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004 and The Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, respectively. For both of these documentaries, there are special events being held for Melbourne audiences. Hirotaka Matsune, cinematographer of Yamakoshi, Tsuyoshi Inoue, director of The Town’s Children, Mitsuhiro Kyota, producer of The Town’s Children will be joined by Andrew Cornell – a local Melbourne moderator for a panel discussion – on 30th Nov after the screening of The Town’s Children in Hoyts. Receipts from the box office for these two documentaries will be donated to charity to support the school lunch program in the affected area of The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.
A warm welcome speech was also delivered by Hon. Hisaharu Chiba, Deputy Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne. In his speech, he thanked Melbourne for the tremendous support the festival has been receiving throughout the years, and stated his belief that Japan will be active again on the international stage even though the recovery will be long and difficult. He invited the people of Melbourne to join him in this year’s festival and enjoy films that cover all genres from comedy to documentaries. Hon. Tim Holding MP also gave a speech on behalf of the host city and its people to welcome the festival and guests from Japan. He believes events such as the festival could reinforce the solidarity between Japan and Australia, especially in hard periods like the recovery after natural disaster.
The 15th Japanese Film Festival commenced on the 29th November and will close on 6th December, 2011. The venues of the festival are ACMI in Federation Square and Hoyts in Melbourne Central. Click here for more information about the program of the festival.
Story by Sherry Chen
Photo by Asuka Itami