WITH a more personal touch compared to previous film festivals, the annual Egai Sai, mounted by the Embassy of Japan through the Japan Foundation in Manila (JFM), will feature 16 films centered on the theme of “family” and how strength and unity helps them through the most difficult of situations.
According to festival organizers, the peoples of Japan and the Philippines have many similarities when it comes to family relations. Both nations also experienced natural disasters in very recent years, which they both struggled to over come, beginning with the resilience of the smallest unit of society.
These will be tackled in the films chosen for the 16th Egai Sai slated from July 4 to 13 at the Shangri-La Cineplex in Mandaluyong City.
“This year, we have chosen the theme of ‘family’ for Filipinos to become aware of the cultural similarities they have with the Japanese,” said JFM assistant director Yukie Mitomi at a press briefing on June 24. “We also believe that our countries share a tragic history of natural disasters, and we want to show that in this year’s Egai Sai.”
Referring to the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 2011—a deadly magnitude nine that unleashed a massive tsunami—Mitomi gave an overview of the films, which will be on view.
On top of the list is Reunion (Itai Asu e no tokakan), which presents the destruction suffered by the Tohoku prefecture, and how an old undertaker changed a high school gymnasium into a sacred morgue where hundreds of recovered bodies were brought and identified by their families.
Another heart-wrenching story is Homeland (Ieji), a feature film debut by director Kubota Nao that tells the story of a family whose members find each other after the earthquake in Fukushima. Included in the official selection of the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, Nao shared that his shift from documentaries to feature films was sparked by the frustration he felt after the earthquake struck his country.
Mitomi delivered Nao’s purpose for making Homeland at the briefing, and quoted, “After the accident, we are left with a question, ‘What should we do?’ Witnessing the destruction, we realize that we need to do something. There is a frustration deep inside the people’s hearts [that needs to be expressed].”
On its 16th outing, the Egai Sai prides itself this year for carrying the most number of movies, award-winning titles such as the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize Like Father, Like Son by director Kare-eda Hirokazu; the historical drama Fly, Dakota, Fly; and a 2012 Tokyo International Film Festival official selection A Story of Yonosuke; among many others.
While the selection is expected to showcase the distinct oriental culture and timid nature of the Japanese, Mitomi said that a “personal motivation and passion” to share these films with Filipinos were the basis of the chosen titles, especially since July celebrates Philippine-Japan Friendship Month.
Besides the heavy dramas, there will also be anime features including Wolf Children (Ookamikodomo no Ame to Yuki) by director Hosoda Mamoru, as well as the much-awaited screening of Hearts Together, a documentary on Grammy-winning keyboardist Bob James and Japanese pop singer Seiko Matsuda who mounted a charity concert for the Great East Japan Earthquake.
According to the JFM, Egai Sai 2013 successfully drew in 19,000 moviegoers, 50 percent of whom were students. With the number of attendees growing each year, Mitomi sees the arts as an effective means to further strengthen ties between two nations.
“The young generation is the future. It is through them that the relationship of two countries will develop, through mutual friendship and understanding,” she concluded.
For detailed screening schedules and inquiries, log on to JFM’s website www.jfmo.org.ph or call 811-6155 to 58.