Zipangu Japanese film festival this weekend

September 11th, 2012

If, like us, you love Japanese cinema then you’ll want to get yourself to London this weekend (14-16 September) to check out the innovative Zipangu Fest. Now in its third year and in its new venue of the Cinema Museum in Kennington Zipangu Fest celebrates Japan’s rich cinematic heritage with retrospective screenings of some unseen gems alongside a host of newer titles, with a large proportion of the programme screened from film. Here’s a little taster of what you can expect.

To Sleep So as to Dream

The Reel Zipangu section includes Kaiz? Hayashi’s critically-regarded 1986 homage to Japan’s silent era, To Sleep So As To Dream, and a long overdue revival of Teinosuke Kinugasa’s avant-garde masterpiece from 1928 and one of the first Japanese films ever screened in the West, Crossways. A samurai drama filmed in the style of German Expressionism, the film will be presented with an illustrated lecture by Festival Director Jasper Sharp before its screening with a specially-commissioned score by Minima, one of the leading bands accompanying silent film in Europe.

Spirit Made Flesh is an experimental programme that explores the very materiality of the medium and includes the work of three filmmakers, Momoko Seto, Shinkan Tamaki and the latest film from Takashi Makino, invited guest at Zipangu Fest 2011, where he presented the Enter the Cosmos programme. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion ‘Is There Still a Need for Film in a Digitising World?’

The Great Rabbit

Fukushima 8, a compilation of 8mm home movie treasures from the 1930s onwards filmed by the families of the disaster-struck region will be screened on the Opening Night, alongside Atsushi Wada’s animation The Great Rabbit, recipient of the Silver Bear Award at Berlinale 2012. The centrepiece of this opening evening is the first ever screening in the West of the 1997 Japanese- DPKR co-production, Somi – The Taekwon-do Woman. Tickets are available in advance from Crowdfunder, which is effectively the same as booking them in advance – although tickets will also be available at the door.

Animation will also be represented with the return of our popular Beyond Anime section. In Midori-ko, a university researcher protects a human/vegetable hybrid in a dystopic fantasy drawn completely by hand that took its director Keita Kurosaka ten years to complete, while the live-action doll drama Encounters similarly showcases the one-man bedroom auteur aesthetic. Its director, Takashi Iitsuka, will be present to introduce the film. Anime fans will also be riveted by Masanori Tominaga’s enlightening and surprisingly moving documentary The Echo of Astro Boy’s Footsteps about the mysterious double life of the pioneering animation sound designer Matsuo Ohno.

The Echo of Astro Boy’s Footsteps

The Melting Pot Japan section features two works that look at Brazilian immigrant populations in Japan, Kimihiro Tsumura and Mayu Nakamura’s documentary Lonely Swallows: Living as Children of Migrant Workers, and the Closing Film, Katsuya Tomita’s vivacious portrait of small-town dreams and prejudices in provincial Kofu, Saudade. One of the most exciting figures in indie filmmaking in Japan, Tomita will be present at the festival as a guest with his scriptwriter Toranosuke Aizawa.

As with previous years, parts of the programme will be touring to selected venues across the UK, beginning with the King Kong vs Godzilla & Matango Triple Creature Double Feature, which will tour to the following venues between September and November:
The Star & Shadow, Newcastle (20 & 23 September)
The Watershed, Bristol (6 October)
Derby QUAD Theatre (12 October)
Glasgow Film Theatre (21 October)
The National Media Museum, Bradford (26 October)
Leeds International Film Festival (3 November)

Festival Director and Chief Curator, Jasper Sharp, comments: “With digital projection set to become the norm for the global film industry, it seems fitting that the title of our Closing Film, Saudade, translates roughly to nostalgia, or longing. Like many of our films, it was made to be shown on 35mm, and as such, will find a perfect home at the Cinema Museum, a veritable shrine to this magical art-form. I hope this year’s programme, which was curated very much with this amazing venue in mind, will intrigue, move and inform people about the many forms of cinema in Japan, but above all, the key word is ‘fun’, and I look forward to sharing these images with audiences.”

The 3rd Zipangu Fest is set to take place at The Cinema Museum in Kennington, South London from September 14th to 16th 2012.
For more details, visit the official website at

Tickets can be booked online through the Zipangu Fest website, with most films a very reasonable £7.50 (£6.50 concs), although it will cost a quid extra on the doorThe Opening Night feat. Somi The Taekwon-do Woman and the Crossways + Minima event is £10 (£8.50)

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