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Movie bash brings top anime filmmakers

Jan. 25, 2012 - 18:41 By Claire Lee
A scene from this year’s opener “Legend of the Millennium Dragon” (CJ CGV)
Eighth Japanese Film Festival features top works

This will be a thrilling week for Japanese movie buffs in Korea, as the annual J-cinema event returns to Seoul on Thursday, bringing with it some of the most celebrated Japanese anime filmmakers.

The 8th Japanese Film Festival, which is being hosted by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, along with Korea’s CJ CGV, Busan Cinema Center and Japan Image Council, features 18 films this year. Notably, a separate event will be held in Busan for the first time, after the wrap-up of the Seoul proceedings at the end of this month.

This year’s festival opens with director Hirotsugu Kawasaki’s 2010 fantasy epic “Legend of the Millennium Dragon.”

The movie portrays the adventurous journey of a shy middle school boy who happens to be transported 1,200 years into the past.

Some of the highly anticipated visiting filmmakers include anime director Hiroyuki Yamaga, who is the founding member of the leading Japanese animation studio Gainax. He is best known for producing the award-winning 1995 anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which was a huge hit in Korea. Yamaga is bringing his 1987 SF TV anime series, “Wings of Honneamise,” the first anime show produced by Gainax, to this year’s festival.

Independent Japanese animator Koji Yamamura, who is best known for his 2002 Academy-nominated anime film “Mt. Head,” is also attending. The award-winning director is bringing his latest work “Muybridge’s Strings.” The film will be showcased along with shorts by graduate students at Tokyo University of the Arts, where Yamamura is currently a professor.

Meanwhile, Takayuki Hirao is visiting with his 2008 fantasy drama “The Garden of Sinners,” and Masakazu Hashimoto is showcasing his 2009 work “Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva,” which features the famous Nintendo DS game character, professor Layton.
A scene from Yuya Ishii’s drama “Mitsuko Delivers” (CJ CGV)

The festival will also screen five non-anime films, including Yuya Yshii’s 2011 drama “Mitsuko Delivers.” A quirky portrait of a young single woman who is pregnant with her ex’s baby and nearly broke, the film premiered at last year’s BIFF as well as the BFI London Film Festival.

Other notable films in the non-anime section are director Yu Irie’s 2011 rock drama “Riding in Their Ears,” and Shotaro Kobayashi’s drama “Kaasan, Mom’s Life,” which is based on the autobiography of manga artist Reiko Saibara, whose husband is a recovering alcoholic.

The festival’s Seoul run is from Thursday to Jan. 30 at CGV Yongsan. The Busan event will kick off on Feb. 2 at Busan Cinema Center in Haeundae and wrap up on Feb. 6.

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By Claire Lee (