Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nippon 2014!

            A hyperactive man-child with an obsession for the Dogeza, the traditional Japanese form for apologizing.  A proud and self-conscious businessman, forced to reevaluate his deep-seated beliefs on what it means to be a father.  Horses used for important cultural events, forcibly abandoned after the disaster at Fukushima.   An ex-samurai, seeking redemption by renouncing his violent past.  A smart but indecisive college graduate, unwilling to think about life beyond the next meal.  A girl who passes through a mysterious portal, and finds herself in a world where everything is, quite literally, upside down. 

            These were the cinematic experiences I had the privilege of enjoying at Nippon Connection this year, the annual Japanese film festival held in Frankfurt am Main.  From May 27th through June 1st, dozens upon of dozens of film premiers, retrospectives, specials, and cultural events took place at the three primary hubs of the festival- the Mousonturm, the Naxoshalle, and, for the second showings of certain films, the Mal Seh’n Kino. 

            When at Nippon, the word of the week is always pink.  All various shades of pink, mixed with the occasional white, or brown.  Shining through paper-covered lights or globes hanging from the ceiling, set upon the origami table in the middle of the front hall, plastered on the sides of the food and merchandise stands, or striking the eye from the banners and posters on the walls.  Pink on the bags and t-shirts that I absurdly love walking away with.  Follow the pink, and you can’t possibly get lost. 

             Given that the festival coincided with another one of Frankfurt’s innumerable street festivals, I was rather glad to see so many people present, and a great many of the viewings I attended were shown to full houses.  If I were to use one word to describe the scene at the Mousonturm hub, it would be heartening.  Heartening to see so many different people from countless walks of life coming together to enjoy good food, good music, good conversation (hopefully), and, when there’s time left over, good film. 

            An undertaking like Nippon is a trying task, but as always, the volunteer crews that make the festival function were up to the task.  A special shout-out to everyone who gave of their time, energy, and, inevitably, their mental well-being to make Nippon a great experience for all the guests, including my freeloading self.  

            Yesterday, the website for the festival officially posted the winners of the four award categories up for grabs this time around.  They are as follows:

Nippon Cinema Award: Pecoross’ Mother And Her Days (Azuma Morisaki)
Nippon Visions Award: Antonym (Natsuka Kusano)
Nippon Visions Audience Award: Tale of a Butcher Shop (Aya Hanabusa)
VGF Nippon In Motion Award: Onigiri No Origami (Christine Mai & David Clausmeier)

            As for me, over the next few weeks, I will be posting my reviews of the 6 movies that I had the time to see at the festival, none of which I would call a disappointment, and a few of which that, like last year, could very well end up on my Top 10 list for the year come next January.  All are movies I fully recommend to anyone open to sampling something new in their cinematic palate.  Stay tuned. 

-Noah Franc  

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