Thursday marked the opening night of the Japanese Film Festival in Melbourne, with a ceremony of a few speeches and the screening of the opening film ‘Mumon: The Land of Stealth’. The Japan in Melbourne team is very grateful to have been invited to the opening night by the Japan Foundation Sydney.
The opening film was a thoroughly enjoyable action-packed comedy taking place during the historical Tensho Iga War, which is said to be the first and only battle between ninja and samurai. It is a fictional depiction of this historical epic, and pretty funny one at that. The action will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the comedic breaks are an absolute delight.
We were also lucky enough to have a phone interview with the Program Coordinator of the Japanese Film Festival, Margarett Cortez, who kindly took the time out of her day to answer some of our questions about the festival.
Is this your first time coordinating the program for the Japanese Film Festival? If not, for how long have you been coordinating it?
Margarett Cortez: I have been involved in the Japanese Film Festival since 2015, so this is my third time coordinating the festival as a part of the Japan Foundation Sydney. So, the Japanese Film Festival is run by the Japan Foundation Sydney’s Arts and Culture Department, and this is one of our biggest events.
What does your job within the Japanese Film Festival usually involve?
Cortez: It involves mainly marketing the festival, so coordinating the PR and marketing campaign, as well as curating the whole program.
So, does that mean that you pick the films yourself?
Cortez: Yes, the Arts and Culture team pick the films, so basically, the JFF has always been curated by an Artistic Director… but since 2016 it has been curated by the Arts and Culture team and the Japan Foundation Sydney.
What do you find most enjoyable about the job, and are there any difficulties?
Cortez: Like any other job, there are of course challenges and various deadlines to meet, but definitely being able to see the latest films out of Japan, and is one of the more exciting parts probably more so watching them than picking them. But of course, it’s interesting because you have to watch films that you don’t like as well because it is the Japanese Film festival, not the Margarett film festival [laughs].
Cortez: [That being said] it’s very hard for me to hate a film, if I could put it that way, so I tend to like quite a wide range of films. Picking the films and curating the festival is definitely one of the more exciting parts of the festival itself, as well as being able to see other people enjoying the films and seeing the films reach a new audience.
What would you be most looking forward to about the Japanese Film Festival this year?
Cortez: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the special guests in Sydney and Melbourne, and seeing them being able to interact with an Australian audience.
And finally, which film or films would you most like to recommend or are you most looking forward to Melbourne?
Cortez: Melbourne does get the full program with an edition of six classic film titles which are all presented for free. So, I would definitely recommend the Seijun Suzuki retrospective and in the main program, I think my top pick would be ‘Snow Woman’. ‘Snow Woman’ is based on the traditional folklore, the director Kiki Sugino puts a modern spin to it and instead of taking the horror film approach, it’s more of a romance and a film that looks into the human condition. It’s beautifully filmed and it debuted at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year.
Thank you so much for your time, we are very looking forward to the festival.
Cortez: Not a problem, thank you very much for featuring the Japanese Film Festival.
If you would like additional information about the Japanese Film Festival, as well as where to purchase tickets, you can do so by visiting the JFF website. The festival isn’t on for very long, so make sure you get in quick to see these amazing films!
We will be following up with more interviews over the next couple of weeks, with thanks to the Japanese Film Festival and the Japan Foundation Sydney.