Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Event review: CAMERA JAPAN Rotterdam 2019

For the 14th time CAMERA JAPAN brings Japan a bit closer with not only movies but also a small taste of Japanese culture. This year’s theme was Youth because with the rapidly ageing population and low birth rate some might wonder what the Youth is doing. No worries though, because Camera Japan has showed us they are doing a great job and need to be heard more!

Before going to this event a difficult decision has to be made, which movies are you going to see? So many interesting choices and not enough time, especially if you can’t attend every day. More people had this problem but sometimes you just have to make those choices and deal with it. Luckily you can make this choice before travelling to Lantaren Venster because the schedule was online for quite some time already. A thing you noticed when you walk in is that the atmosphere is completely different from your regular cinema. Quite some people were regular filmfestivals visitors and it’s no surprise why, people are here for the movies and not for the popcorn.

Although people didn’t eat popcorn there were plenty of ways to fill your tummy between all the movies, lectures and workshops. Lantaren Venster had a small restaurant and there was a small friendly Japanese themed market filled with taiyaki, sushi and delicious cake rolls. You knew exactly when movies ended, it got crowded and people had to line up for food. So be smart and buy your treat inbetween movies. Talking about movies, what’s a filmfestival review without reviewing a few movies? We went to 12 Suicidal Teens, Penguin Highway, I was born but.. and Short Shorts.

12 Suicidal Teens
Before the movie started the audience was greeted by a CJ staff member (which gives a very personal touch) with a short introduction: “This is one of the most scary titles CJ have ever showed but it is not that scary as you might think. Don’t let the title scare you.” This movie is about 12 teenagers gathering in an abandoned hospital to commit suicide but they stumble upon a dead body of a boy. This makes a total of 13 teenagers attending the gathering while that wasn’t the plan. Together they have to figure out what’s going on and who among them might be the murder before continuing their original plan. In almost 2 hours you’ll learn the reasons why they want to commite suicide, it lets you think together with the main characters to solve the mystery with some twists and you’ll learn that we all are in a way connected behind our masks. Like the staff member said, it wasn’t scary but it can be an emotional trigger for those who are sensitive like me, yet I really enjoyed the movie and its twists (especially the thing at the end)
Score: 7.5/10

Penguin Highway
My mouth went open from astonishment when I heard this movie was sold out and so were the CJ staff members: “We knew that cats are popular but penguins are too!” There also was an introduction given about Studio Colorido, a promosing new studio that might be on the same level as Studio Ghibli soon so we have to keep an eye on them. I can understand why they mentioned that, the animation is smooth and pretty to look at. But what is this movie about then? Well, one day, a group of penguins appeared in fourth-grader Aoyama’s neigbourhood. Everyone notices them and despite this rare occurance they are very cute. Aoyama is young, boob-obsessed whizz-kid. and wants to solve this mystery with rigorous scientific methods and principles. But what he doesn’t know is that he is in for a much larger adventure involving penguin eating monsters and a mysterious woman (which is his dentist he’s in love with). Overall the movie is very good, animation and soundtrack is of very good quality and there is a lot of modern humor in it. But I still have no idea what’s going despite that the mystery is solved so I guess you have to have a lot of fantasy…
Score: 8.0/10

Lecture: 47 ronin and expositions
Need a break from the movies? Luckily there were many other activities and one of them was a lecture about the famous 47 ronin story. The lecture started with a short summary of the story which then turned into an analysis of different version of the story. Some of those versions got translated into books and movies and we got to see a few examples. I was amazed by how many versions there were but sadly not all could be addressed since time was short. After the lecture I visited the 2 expositions which were spread through the building in places were a lot of people walk by. The Cosplay is Art exhibition wasn’t my cup of tea, maybe because I have seen too many cosplay photography, it just didn’t spark me. On the other hand the A Copy of Truth exhibition by Jelle Hooks was really good. The photos show alienated youths who want to stand out. Despite the photos being taken in black/white you could feel the colour, every teenager had their own story. His book was for sale during the event and he also still sells them on his website if you’re interested. What I did miss by both exhibitions was some kind of introduction or name of the work. You just walked by, took a quick look and that was it. They also had the popular MangaKissa where you can sit and read some manga’s and disconnect from the event for a little while and they also had a few art exhibitions and workshops. For the workshops you had to buy tickets seperately in advance. They had an origami workshop on friday, a bento workshop on Saturday and kids day and film brunch on Sunday. We’ve not seen kids day so packed however.

 

I was born but..
This black and white silent movie from 1932 by Yasujiro Ozu which was accompanied by a quartet who played music live to fit the movie. No matter how much I liked the music I felt like it didn’t really match the movie at all and I was missing some fun sound effects. But I enjoyed both a lot

The Yoshi family has just moved to the Tokyo suburbs, close to where the father Kennosuke’s (Tatsuo Saitō) direct boss, Iwasaki (Takeshi Sakamoto), is staying. Kennosuke’s two young sons Keiji and Ryoichi (Tomio Aoki and Hideo Sugawara) are supposed to be going to school, but owing to the threats of a group of neighborhood and school bullies, they decide to play truant. After the teacher speaks to their father, Keiji and Ryoichi have no choice but to go to school. They attempt to eat sparrow’s eggs to get stronger so that they can get back at the boys, but an older delivery boy Kozou (Shoichi Kofujita) decides to help them out to threaten the bullies, and they emerge as the top dogs amongst the gang.

One of the neighborhood kids is Taro (Seiichi Kato), whose father is Iwasaki himself. The boys argue amongst themselves who has the most powerful father. Not long after, they visit Taro’s home, where the office workers have gathered under Iwasaki, who screens some home movies for the amusement of the gathering. The two brothers witness on film how their father, who to them is stern and whom they look up to, plays the buffoon before his colleagues and boss.

Humiliated, they go home and decide that their father isn’t such an important person after all. They throw a massive tantrum, and confront their father asking him why he has to grovel under Taro’s father. Kennosuke answers that Taro’s father is richer and holds a higher position than he does. Dissatisfied with this answer, the two decide to hold a hunger strike. Ryoichi gets a spanking from his father, but after the children have gone to bed, the father confides in the wife that he does not enjoy doing what he does. Both wish for a better future for their children.

The next day, the children attempt a hunger strike during breakfast, but succumb to a dish of onigiri. Kennosuke manages a reconciliation with them. The children say they would like to be a lieutenant general and a general respectively. On their way to school, they see Taro’s father in a car, and they urge their father to go up and greet him. As Kennosuke takes a convenient car ride to work, the brothers walk to school with Taro and the rest of the gang.
Score: 7.0/10

 

Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia
As the titel depicts, this was a lot of shorts. it had movies of around 20 minutes or less. I’ll summorize them by movie.

  • Beard and Raincoat by YAWATA Kimi, 2018, 12 min
    This…generally weird. as the name predicts. It was about a girl who had a beard fetish and the bearded guy who had a raincoat fetish. The bearded guy however was the brother of the girls boyfriend who ended up finding out and they ran away together in the end but I’m not sure how it ended because it was kind of weird.
    Score: 5.0/10
  • MOON RABBIT by HO Kae, 2018, 15 min
    I feel like this movie wasn’t totally honest about the end.. I felt really conflicted in the end. The story starts with a mother coming to her family house with her two half japanese half american kids. The older brother and his cousin hang out and the young girl wants to hang out too while her mom tells her father that she and her husband broke up. The young girl comes out with her hair all messy and a shocked face. Ending in her telling her mom that her brother told her the Moon Rabbit doesn’t excist.
    Score: 6.0/10
  • No One But I Know by KAMIJO Daisuke, 2019, 25 min
    This movie really looks promising, It’s about a boy who’s stepdad gets murdered and his mother gets charged with it. In the end, he tried to protect his mother but fails in the end and protects the killer instead.
    Score: 8.0/10
  • What Meiling Decided by KUJIRAOKA Hironori, 25 min
    This had a good start but a weird ending, I’m interested into this becoming a full on movie.
    Score: 7.0/10
  • Lovers and Coffee by SHIRAO Ayuka, 2018, 5 min
    This was a really short one, playing in the future where coffee is banned from the world. A couple smuggles it and drinks one cup each month. However the worst ever cop shows up and leaves without making an arrest… It was funny and dumb at the same time
    Score: 5.0/10
  • Blue Hands by YAMANAKA Yu, 2019, 20 min
    I absolutely loved this, Blue hands is about a son talking about his father who carried on his fathers legacy with an indigo dying company. His hands, over time have stained the indigo blue. It tells the story of how his father lost his wife to death, then almost his company due to other companies and his son due to neglect and endangerment. But it shows the fathers pure love for his son and the sons pure love for the father. It was absolutely beautiful and I saw many people around me wipe away their tears.  It was shot perfectly and would love to see it again.
    Score: 10/10

Camera Japan
This event will hold their 15th anniversary next year and every year they’re looking for volunteers. The most important thing when you apply for a volunteer is to remember to stay professional, follow the guidelines and make sure every visitor has a great experience. The group of volunteers every year is amazing and being part of such a group is truly an honor.
If you would be interested in joining the coming year make sure to continue checking out their website and facebook page so you can be in time and sign up.

 

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