Victoria Film Festival brings great selection of independent and foreign films to Victoria every year. I don’t have TV Japan at home, so this is a rare chance for me to enjoy Japanese films on the big screen. Starting one at the Vic Theatre this weekend, there are several great Japanese films available thanks to VFF – here are the details.

Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi)

Victoria Premiere

A different perspective on the life and creative legacy of the brilliant artist Katsushika Hokusai, as told through the eyes of his daughter. Nominated for a 2017 Annie Award.

I just saw this and loved it. My review here.

The Vic Theatre

January 6, 2017 (Fri) 7:00pm

January 7, 2017 (Sat) 4:00pm

January 8, 2017(Sun) 7:00pm Last show tonight! 

Ticket $11 +Victoria Film Festival Membership ($2+GST, Valid until August)

※This is a 19+ event.

Below are all available at Victoria Film Festival (February 3-12, 2017)

They all require VFF membership if you don’t have it already.

After the Storm (Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku)

Ryota Shinoda was once a successful and well-regarded writer. These days he’s a lot more like his shiftless father before him – Weekdays, he works as a sketchy detective and on weekends he tries to pawn his mother’s belongings when she’s not looking. She’s widowed though and doesn’t have much to lose anyway so she happily tolerates him.

Ryota is trying to mend bridges with his estranged wife so he can spend more time with his son. And he’s also trying to mend bridges with his sister, since he may have had a hand in her failed marriage. Unfortunately, neither of these women has much patience for him any more.

Then, on the evening a typhoon is due to make landfall, Ryota’s old family finds itself forced together for one more night in his mother’s tiny apartment. What follows is not what anyone expected, but it may be just what they need to move on.

Modern master Kore-eda (Our Little Sister, Like Father Like Son) returns to VFF once again with yet another great film. His insightful eye on the modern family shares the caring and sensitivity of his spiritual predecessor Yasujirô Ozu (Tokyo Story). Free of melodrama yet always marked by tenderness, Kore-eda never tries to fix the inevitable. Instead, he shows us the best moments within it.

Koreeda is my favourite director. I have enjoyed his “Like Father, Like Son” as well as “Our Little Sister” This film’s protagonist, Hiroshi Abe used to be a trendy fashion model but he is also a good actor. And I always enjoy seeing Kirin Kiki and Lily Frankie, both great actors and regulars on Korea films. Really looking forward to this.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 117 minutes

• Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda

• Genre: Drama

February 10, 2017 (Fri) 2017 9:00pm The Vic Theatre

Ticket $10.48 (You need VFF membership)

Suffering of Ninko (Ninko No Junan)

Canada Premiere

Long ago in Edo-era Japan, there was a temple called Enmei-ji. At this temple was very peculiar monk named Ninko. Ninko wanted most monks anywhere in the world wanted of his want of their religious studies – to live a pure and virtuous life and be an example to others. However, Ninko suffered. A lot.

It was all because he was fantastically irresistible to any woman he met. He could not go out to beg with the other monks since women would crowd around and throw themselves at him. He could not meet outsiders who came to the temple for fear of the same. In fact, he was in fact so irresistible that he even turned the heads of some men he shared the temple with. Every man’s fantasy was Ninko’s greatest burden. And so, he set out on a journey to “purify himself”. His road was to be more bizarre and unusual than he could have imagined.

This is a film with an abundance of on-screen tease. However, it’s far from sleaze. Director Niwatsukino Norhiro has gone to great lengths to incorporate many different artistic approaches to this cautionary tale. The director’s skill in some wonderfully illustrated animated sequences, pops this beyond indie budget expectations and yet neatly ties it all together too.

Despite the fact the director is virtually unknown, this film apparently was sold out at Vancouver Film Festival and had additional screenings. Trailer looks great for an independent film. I am looking forward to this.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 70 minutes

• Directed By: Niwatsukino Norhiro

• Genre: Drama

February 3, 2017 (Fri)  9:15pm Capitol 6

February 9, 2017(Thurs) 9:45pm Odeon 5

Ticket $10.48


Tatara Samurai

Canadian Premiere

In 16th century Japan, the village of Tatara in Izumo prefecture had already long been revered for its incredible steel. Gosuke is a young man born to be the next Murage or Master Blacksmith for this legendary town. However, this was the end of Japan’s Sengoku civil war period and a man named Oda Nobunaga was about to change the map of Japan forever.

When raiders run ruin in Tatara, Gosuke heads out to find the path of the Samurai for himself. Horrified by the experience of war in Nobunaga’s army, he returns home only to find that war has followed him home. This time, it is with a heavy demand for guns to end a tyranny of swords. Through trial and loss, Gosuke may soon learn that the true qualities of a samurai come with what they make, not just what they do.

Tatara Samurai is a movie steeped in history. This may be a fictionalized but it pays tribute to a legacy of craftsmanship and some of the most amazing steel man has ever forged. It also plays well to the best aspects of the Kurosawa samurai films, deftly combining sword-slicing action, drama and humanity for a thoroughly entertaining experience.

This film is starts very popular Japanese group EXILE’s actors. It also starts some great veteran actors. Also this is being released before Japan, which is interesting.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 135 minutes

• Directed By: Yoshinari Nishikôri

• Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, History

February 4, 2017 (Sat) 9:00pm The Vic Theatre

February 12, 2017 (Sun) 9:15pm Silvercity

Ticket $10.48


And finally, this is not a Japanese film per se, but a documentary by Japanese Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns.

Mixed Match

Canada is an incredibly diverse country. Multiculturalism is our watch-word and our ethnic backgrounds aren’t supposed to limit us. But sometimes they do. With the multiracial community becoming one of the fastest growing demographics in North America, being mixed race is no longer just about an identity, it can be a matter of life and death.

For any patients with blood cancer, finding a bone marrow donor match can be the key.But for mixed-race sufferers the search is even more incredibly hard and disheartening. Not only are ethnicities such as Asian or African under-represented in the available databases, mixed-race profiles are even rarer, making matches even rarer still.

There ARE happy endings. That’s because there are people making a difference by registering an increasing number of these elusive potential donors. Mixed Match is Jeff Chiba-Stearns’ own experience with some of those stories.

Mixed Match is Jeff’s follow-up to One Big Happa Family, where he looked at the cultural side of his own mixed-match family. Taking this look at the corresponding biological side, he finds once again that sharing what makes one unique can make a better world.

I’ve seen One Big Hapa Family few years ago at Victoria Film Festival and loved it. Loved it so much I bought the DVD. As a mother of “mixed-race” children, this topic is definitely close to heart. I am looking forward to seeing this.

  • Release Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Directed By: Jeff Chiba-Stearns
  • Genre: Animation, Documentary

February 3, 2017(Fri)    6:30pm Capitol 6

February 5, 2017 (Sun)  6:30pm Capitol 6

Ticket $10.48

Of course there are more films to check out at Victoria Film Festival. Is there any film you’re looking forward to? Anything I should see? Let me know if you have any recommendations!