MANILA, Philippines — The Japanese Film Festival (JFF), formerly known as Eiga Sai, is having its second online edition that features 20 films this year. It is currently streaming for free until February 27. 

The second online edition of the Japanese Film Festival is beefed up with a classic Akira Kurosawa masterpiece. The line-up also boasts of visual masterpieces that paint a Japan from different era and seasons with the added bonus of mouthwatering Japanese culinary fares. 

Kurosawa gem

Any cinephile knows that an Akira Kurosawa film is hard to come by even in this age of streaming. Being able to cross even one of his 30 films in one’s must-watch list will already be an accomplishment.

One of his masterpieces is “Rashomon,” winner of both the Italian Critics Award and Golden Lion Award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. Ever heard of the “Rashomon effect”? This is that film that the popular writing and cinematic device was named after. 

“Rashomon” explores how “truth” is perceived through the eyes of four witnesses who have different accounts on the rape of a woman and the murder of her husband. 

The 1950 classic is considered one of the most important films of all time in different polls. It is one of the two Kurosawa films, the other “Seven Samurai” (1954), that appeared in various editions of the directors’ poll of “Sights & Sounds” published by the British Film Institute. 

Mouthwatering binge-watch session

Japan is also known as a culinary destination. The Japanese are known to eat with their eyes with their meticulous plating, that it almost makes it regrettable to destroy a piece of art in a plate. 

This year’s JFF have two culinary films, and two more that feature delectable dishes. 

The Japan Foundation Manila director Ben Suzuki recommends “Bread of Happiness” for its aesthetics. It is set in picturesque Hokkaido with its four seasons and features a variety of breads and dishes made with seasonal ingredients. 

If humor and good food is one’s cup of tea, then “The Chef of South Polar” is the pick. What makes it even enjoyable is the merry bunch of men living in the cold, faraway Antarctic who copes with the isolation with good food. 

Though primarily a story about the unlikely friendship between two women during the Edo period, “Mio’s Cookbook” features delicious dishes whipped up by one of the story’s protagonists as she tries to survive with her cooking skills and winning dishes. 

Those who love their bowl of tsukemen (cold noodle with dipping sauce), “The God of Ramen” will help them know about their favorite noodle. The 2013 documentary film details the success of Kazuo Yamagishi, often referred as the “God of Ramen”, who successfully manned a legendary ramen shop in Tokyo. 

2D anime reigns supreme

This year, the JFF chose to put the spotlight on writer and director Yasuhiro Yoshiura. Two of his animated films are featured. 

The multi-awarded “Time of Eve” is science-fiction anime set in a future where androids have become common. A boy suddenly finds that his home android begins to act differently and traces her movement leading him to a cafe called Time of Eve.

“Time of Eve” was originally released as a six-episode web animation streamed from 2008 to 2009 but was re-edited and made into a film with all-new additional scenes in 2010. 
Yoshiura’s other science-fiction animation “Patema Inverted” centers on the friendship of two teenagers who literally exists in an “upside-down” world after the world’s scientists failed experiment on Earth’s gravity.  

If it’s ikemen (handsome men), high school, and love story one is inclined to watch, then “ReLife” is a kawaii pick. This is an adaptation of the popular webtoon/manga about a 27-year-old unemployed man who undergoes an experiment to make him look younger and sees himself enrolling in a high school. 

Of samurais and yakuzas

These groups of people will always be legend when it comes to Japanese pop culture. Often seen as larger-than-life figures, the yakuza and the samurai have been the subject of countless films and TV series even outside of its native Japan. 

This year’s JFF also features films that feature these enduring figures. 

“It’s A Summer Film!” is a relatable movie about a girl obssessed with samurai films who decides to make one with the help of her friends and a mystery guy. It’s a coming-of-age flick sprinkled with a bit of science-fiction dashed with a healthy dose of romance. 

“The Floating Castle” is a historical spectacle that highlights the code and dignity of a samurai. It tells the story of Sengoku (Warring States) Period warlord Narita Nagachika, who fought back against a 20,000-strong enemy force with an army of 500 in the late 16th century. 

“Under the Open Sky” is a more humanistic view of the yakuza. The film tells about a former yakuza’s struggles reinstating himself in society after spending most of his life in prison. The movie is said to be based on the award-winning nobel “Mibuncho” by Saki Ryuzo.

More exciting, varied line-up

The line-up also features a psychological thriller, a workplace comedy, and a film on artificial intelligence and gaming.  

A psycho wearing a clown mask goes berserk on a hospital one evening in “Masked Ward.” The movie stars two of Japan’s leading young actors, Kentaro Sakaguchi and Mei Nagano, as the on-duty doctor and injured university student who try to outwit their masked and deadly intruder. The film is an adaptation of a bestselling book written by a real-life doctor.

For gamers and gaming enthusiasts, “Awake” is an interesting pick. This is a coming-of-age film inspired from a true story. It tells about a young man’s fixation on shogi (Japanese chess) and how he would eventually make an AI-based shogi computer program. 

“Ito” tells the story of the eponymous  girl who decides to work in a “maid cafe” to overcome her shyness. A talented shamisen (three-stringed musical instrument) player, Ito meets new people while discovering her new self and continuing her passion for music. 

“SUMODO-The Successors” offers a rare access into Japan’s national sport, sumo. It is a documentary that features the behind-the-scenes lives of famous sumo wrestlers. 

For those who like their drama fix, three titles are included in the line-up. “Aristocrats” finds two women — a country girl and a rich girl — navigating life, friendship, and concerns regarding marriage and major life decisions.
“Her Love Boils Bathwater” is an award-winning family drama about a strong-willed mother trying to keep her family together amid a husband who went missing and young daughter trying to deal with bullying. 

Life and death is examined in “Until The Break of Dawn.” A young man serves as the “connector” who is able to connect the living with their departed loved ones for one last time. It is based on the novel of the same name by Tsujimura Mizuki.

Two films are set in a workplace with a merry group of interesting characters. 

“Ozland” is a humorous take on workplace drama involving a group of people working in an amusement park while “Happy Flight” puts the spotlight on on-the-ground staff, cabin attendants and pilots in action told with a sprinkling of humor and suspense. 

To watch and view the full list of featured films, visit Viewers can watch the films through their smart TV, computer, mobile phone or similar gadgets with access to the Internet. Follow the official JFM and JFF Philippines Facebook pages and social media accounts for more information. The movies can only be watched once and within 48 hours.

RELATED: EIGASAI is now Japanese Film Festival 2020: Here’s everything you need to know

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