The lovely Mon from Mon’s Adventure got in touch with me a few weeks ago about the Japanese Film Festival only a few days after getting back from Japan with an offer I couldn’t refuse – she’d been invited to attend an opening screening at the Japanese Film Festival but couldn’t attend, and very generously offered up her place at both the pre-screening cocktail party and the movie itself to me! Yes please and thank you!!
The pre-screening party, held in ACMI’s Lightwell space, was a good chance to mingle and nibble and drink; basically, a bit of time to unwind from the day and start to enjoy the evening! As one would expect of an event like this, the food was delicious (particularly those sliders), and when I realised the glasses being passed around were full of Choya Umeshu (a Japanese liqueur made from ume fruit, and a personal favourite of mine), I was a pretty happy little camper.
This year in Melbourne, the Japanese Film Festival was being supported by Washoku Lovers, an organisation/club/community that is promoting authentic Japanese culture and cuisine here in Australia (mostly Sydney at this stage, but they are trying to break through in Melbourne, yay!), so I have them to thank for the kind invitation extended to myself and my good friend JV for the night : ) After seeing the list of eateries they’re compiling for Sydney, I can’t wait to see the places that sign up for Melbourne – not only is it going to be a great little black book of dinner locations, you may get some discounts, too…
It all started back in 1997 with three little screenings; now, in it’s 19th year, the JFF is enjoying much bigger crowds (almost 32, 000 people attended last year), showcasing the unique nature of Japanese film (through genres as varied as anime, samurai, food, classics and drama) in comparison to the standard Hollywood stuff we usually see – on Thursday night, the screening we were invited to was for BAKUMAN, which is pretty popular in Japan! We also got to hear from JFF 2015 Cultural Ambassador Adam Liaw (of MasterChef fame) who spoke about his first link to Japan not being food, but film.
I’m going to be brutally honest here – the idea of seeing a movie about two teenage boys trying to become published manga artists didn’t really excite me much, but I found myself really getting into in 15 minutes into the film! Based on manga and publishing giant, Weekly Shonen Jump, the film tells of two kids who just want to be published (actually, now that I think about it, I should have been more into this movie from the start as an amateur writer who’d love to be published…) and the struggles it takes them to get there. The themes explored were friendship, struggle and triumph, and this film perfectly captured all three.
The festival is still running right around Australia until the 6th of December, so if you’d like to get a little taste of Japanese film, head to the website for tickets! I never thought I’d be sanctioning a film like this, but seriously, Bakuman – go and see it!
And a very big thank you to the Japan Foundation for having me as one of their guests, for opening my eyes a little more and giving me a little more appreciation for their culture beyond just their amazing food!