Press Release May 15, 2023
23rd Nippon Connection Film Festival – The Program is Complete!
June 6 – 11, 2023, Frankfurt am Main, Germany / Numerous premieres and guests / Award for festival director
The program of the 23rd Nippon Connection Film Festival is complete. From June 6 – 11, 2023 around 100 Japanese short and feature-length films will be shown in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The selection includes recent works by well-established directors, anime and independent films as well as documentaries — and 30 German, 10 European, 28 international and one world premiere. Many directors will personally present their works to the audience.
For the first time, the festival will award an outstanding newcomer of Japanese cinema with the Nippon Rising Star Award. Awardee and star guest of this year’s festival is the actress and singer Toko Miura, known for her performance in the Academy-Award-winning drama Drive My Car (2021) by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. The thematic focus of the 23rd Nippon Connection Film Festival, Cityscapes And Countryside – Contrasting Lives In Japan, is supported by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain. The programs presented as part of the focus deal with the contrast between lives in futuristic metropolises and rural regions of Japan. Furthermore, a retrospective invites the audience to discover the works of Keisuke Kinoshita. Nine analogue 16mm and 35mm prints of his films from the archive of the Japan Foundation Tokyo will be shown. Kinoshita is known for his delight in experimentation which paved the way for the Japanese New Wave, for positioning himself against war and for directing the first Japanese color film.
Beyond the screen, a supporting program includes more than 60 workshops, concerts, lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions and performances. Moreover, market stands offer a wide range of Japanese food and drinks, as well as Japanese handicrafts, films, books and much more.
The events take place at eight locations in Frankfurt am Main. Festival centers are Künstler*innenhaus Mousonturm and Produktionshaus NAXOS. Further locations include Eldorado Arthouse Kino, the Cinema at the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Mal Seh’n Kino, NaxosAtelier, Internationales Theater Frankfurt and the Ruby Louise Hotel.
The complete program and tickets are available on NipponConnection.com.
Festival director to receive decoration by Japanese government
The launch of the festival program is accompanied by the announcement of a special distinction. The Japanese government recently announced that the Nippon Connection festival director Marion Klomfass will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. This prestigious national order is given to awardees of non-Japanese origin for strengthening bilateral relations and promoting mutual understanding. The order honors the long-standing commitment to cultural exchange between Japan and Germany through Japanese film, which Marion Klomfass and her team have supported since the establishment of the festival in 2000. The official ceremony will take place at a later date.
Cinema highlights and genre gems
Nippon Connection presents current highlights from the Japanese cinematic landscape, such as Lesson In Murder by Kazuya Shiraishi, which is presented as a German premiere. In this psycho-thriller a manipulative serial killer and a young attorney play a cat-and-mouse game. With the German premiere of Masayuki Suzuki’s film Yudo, Nippon Connection screens an irresistible feel good-hit. A young man who discovers the joy of working in bathhouses is the center of this comedy full of slapstick flair, whimsical characters and perfect timing.
Japanese genre films are well represented in this year’s festival program, too. In the style of the 1960s Ultraman TV series, Shin Ultraman by Shinji Higuchi offers farcical camera angles and an imaginative screenplay by Hideaki Anno. The horror fairy-tale Scary Friend by Takara Mineo and Naohiro Takahashi is a real insider tip. They celebrate the European premiere of their low-budget debut telling the story of Nuiko, a girl whose friends are her self made stuffed animals. In Baby Assassins two teenage girls work as contract killers and are drawn into a spectacular battle for life and death against the Yakuza. Director Hugo Sakamoto will visit the festival for the German premiere of the film and bring the sequel as well: Baby Assassins: 2 Babies.
Many more filmmakers will personally present their works in Frankfurt. Takeshi Fukunaga will celebrate the European premiere of Mountain Woman. The mystical period drama depicts a young woman leaving her village as a social outcast to live in the mountains. Daishi Matsunaga will attend the German premiere of his multiple-award-winning film Egoist – a melancholic drama about two young men’s love. Mondays: See You “This” Week! will be screened as a German premiere as well. In this fast-paced comedy, office employees relive the same work week over and over again. Together they try to escape the time looop. Director Ryo Takebayashi will be attending the screenings. Kah Wai Lim will also present the German premiere of his indie comedy Your Lovely Smile. In this road movie, an independent filmmaker travels through Japan during the pandemic to find venues for his unorthodox films. Mizuko Yamaoka is both director and protagonist of Maelstrom, a self-portrait about dealing with her disability after a dramatic cycling accident. The documentary will be screened as a German premiere with the director attending.
New animated films from Japan
Japan is known for its extraordinary animated films. In the section Nippon Animation, the audience can watch current feature films, independent short films and classics. Gold Kingdom And Water Kingdom, an imaginative twist on the Romeo-and-Juliet-story, is the directorial debut of Kotono Watanabe, who will presented her film as a German premiere. Poupelle Of Chimney Town is another directorial debut. Based on a popular children’s book, Yusuke Hirota created a wonderfully animated fairy-tale full of charming details and highly likable outcasts. Two short film programs present Japanese independent animation. Besides recent graduation films by students of the Tokyo University of the Arts, new short films of the renowned independent director Naoyuki Niiya will be screened. For the first time, the first three episodes of the 1978 series Future Boy Conan can be seen with German subtitles, as well as in a German dubbed version for children – the series is the first directorial work of the now world-famous director Hayao Miyazaki.
Critical voices: Freedom of speech, precarious working conditions and refugee policy in Japan
The festival program also offers the opportunity to take a critical look at Japanese politics and society. Fumiari Hyuga, who received last year’s Nippon Docs Award will visit this year’s festival and present his new documentary I Am A Comedian as an international premiere. In his film, Hyuga portraits the comedian Daisuke Muramoto who caused a stir with his political stand-up programs in Japan. In Tokyo Uber Blues, director Taku Aoyagi documents how he worked as a delivery man for Uber Eats after graduating from university. He shows precarious working conditions and how the pandemic affected independent filmmakers in Japan. The director will travel to the festival for the German premiere of his film. The drama My Small Land focuses on the life of 17-year-old Sarya, whose whole world falls apart after her family loses refugee status in Japan. In her film, Emma Kawada, who will also attend the festival, connects coming-of-age motives with a portrait of the Kurdish community, which is subject to a restrictive refugee policy in Japan. In Soup and Ideology, director Yonghi Yang turns to the life of her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and whose suppressed memories of war times and her flight from Korea she processes in the film.
Okinawa: Focus on Japan’s southernmost prefecture
This year, many films and events focus on the Okinawa archipelago in southern Japan. Daniel López’s documentary UMUI– Guardians of Traditions is dedicated to the rich tradition of Okinawa’s culture. The director shows how century-old customs and crafts are handed down from one generation to the next in the village Umui. In addition to the director Daniel Lopéz, the producer Tomoya Ogoshi will also be present for the German premiere of the film. In his social drama A Far Shore, Masaaki Kudo shows the contradictions of everyday life in Okinawa, featuring the outstanding lead actress Kotone Hanase: Images of dreamlike Pacific beaches clash with a bleak reality which the film shows unadorned. Kudo will personally introduce his film’s German premiere. Additionally, the Nippon Film Breakfast features Nabbie's Love by Yuji Nakae – the romance shot in Okinawa opened the first edition of the Nippon Connection Film Festival in 2000.
A dance group from Okinawa will present the traditional Lion Dance Shishimai which is performed at big festivities with impressive lion costumes and wooden masks to fend off evil spirits. Additionally, a concert will feature musicians from the association Shamisen Berlin, including the well-known solo artist Su Bunjamin, who will play captivating Music From Okinawa with shamisen and sanshin instruments.
Retrospective: Keisuke Kinoshita
This year, the festival’s retrospective is dedicated to the work of the important director Keisuke Kinoshita (1912–1998), who has often been overlooked abroad. Kinoshita, whose films are known for their humanist message and their formal experiments, worked in numerous genres – from film noir to war films, comedies and melodramas. With Carmen Comes Home, a comedy about the conflict between the urban and rural citizens, he shot the first Japanese color film in 1951. Perhaps his best-known film, Twenty-Four Eyes, impressively shows how the fate of a young teacher and her twelve students is increasingly shaped by war propaganda and militarism. With the romantic drama She Was Like A Wild Chrysanthemum, Kinoshita proved his extraordinary talent for approaching melodramatic material. The nine films of the retrospective are screened as analogue film prints from the archive of the Japan Foundation Tokyo in the Cinema at the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum.
The supporting program Nippon Culture
The supporting program Nippon Culture offers more than 60 exciting events this year. Nine concerts present traditional and contemporary music from Japan. Yoshiaki Okawa aka kotomen plays J-pop, anime and traditional Japanese tunes on the string instrument koto. The legendary female punk rock trio TsuShiMaMiRe moves between hardcore and indie rock with a touch of disco funk and pop sentimentality. The folk fusion band Mitsune visits from Berlin and presents an exciting mix of reinterpreted Japanese folk songs and own compositions influenced by blues, jazz and rock. The Japanese audio brand Audio-Technica organized the first listening parties in Tokyo over 60 years ago and presents a unique film experience at Nippon Connection: cinema without a screen. The audience can enjoy selected Japanese soundtracks in crystal clear vinyl quality.
Lectures and talks will further explore this year’s thematic focus “Cityscapes And Countryside”, and address interesting aspects of Japanese culture and society. The tradition of swordsmithing is a topic as much as contemporary Japanese literature, futuristic architectural concepts in anime, Shinto faith, Japanese performance art, and the portrayal of US Americans in postwar Japan. In workshops, the audience can draw a mangas, try the Japanese wood printing technique Mokuhanga or calligraphy and much more.
For the first time, the Nippon Filmmakers’ Night takes place, with filmmakers presenting their works in a casual atmosphere. It wouldn’t be Nippon Connection without the legendary Nippon Heimkino event. Trash film experts Marcus Stiglegger and Kai Naumann will accompany a surprise film with a live-commentary on stage. At the Nintendo Tournament, visitors can try their luck competing in the paint shooter “Splatoon 3” or the racing-game bestseller “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”.
The culinary program offers a tea ceremony, workshops on Japanese sweets or the seasoning shio koji, tastings of sake cocktails or whisky, and more. Between screenings and events, the festival centers at Künstler*innenhaus Mousonturm and Produktionshaus Naxos offer more than 30 market booths with delicious Japanese food and drinks as well as a variety of handicrafts, accessories, films, books and more. Access to the festival site is free of charge.
Nippon Kids: A colorful program for the youngest visitors
The Nippon Kids section features a diverse program for the youngest visitors. In various workshops, they can try Japanese wood printing, draw cute characters or prepare Japanese sweets. A reading of the children’s book “Das Tomatenfest” takes place in attendance of its author Satomi Ichikawa and with a translation to German Sign Language. Moreover, three screenings of animated films are held in German versions for children. Poupelle of Chimney Town and Future Boy Conan will be screened in German dubbing. The charming anime Sumikkorugashi: The Little Wizard In The Blue Moonlight will celebrate its European premiere at the festival. Actor Yuki Iwamoto will provide live-dubbing in the cinema. In the animation workshop with Sayaka Murata, lecturer at the institute for animation of the Tokyo University of the Arts, children can create their own animated film with plasticine figures.
The Japanese Film Festival Nippon Connection is organized by the 70-member, largely voluntary team of the non-profit association Nippon Connection e. V. It is under the patronage of Angela Dorn (Hessian Minister for Science and Art), Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg (Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main) and the Consulate General of Japan in Frankfurt am Main. Since its founding in 2000, Nippon Connection has become one of the world’s largest platforms for Japanese cinema and the most popular film festival in Hesse with more than 17,000 visitors in 2019.