Brillante Mendoza featured in 20th Eiga Sai Japanese Film Fest 2017

by Sharline Bareng
Jul 6, 2017
Brillante Mendoza (left) directed Shiniuma Dead Horse, which stars Lou Veloso. This project will be screened as part of Eiga Sai 2017. 

Eiga Sai, the Japanese film festival organized by Japan Foundation, celebrates its 20th year with a ten-day run from July 6 to 16, 2017 at the Shangri-La Cineplex.

Every year, we head to the festival for our regular dose of films that range from feel-good, heartwarming dramas to nail-biting suspense and thrillers, from period dramas that take us through Japan's long and rich history, to animated films that transport us to different worlds. This year is no different, but there are also more things to look forward to in this year's festival.

  1. It serves a healthy dose of nostalgia.

For its milestone anniversary, Eiga Sai is offering a retrospective of memorable films that were shown in previous festivals.

At Shang Cineplex, there will be two encore screenings of Departures (2008), which was shown at Eiga Sai in 2011. This film is about an encoffiner who prepares the bodies of dead people for funerals. It won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards, was also one of the popular films at the festival. Departures will be screened first on July 11 at 7:30 PM, and on July 15, also at 7:30 PM.

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  1. There are plenty of quality Japanese films from recent years.

Japanese films that have made the rounds at international festivals and earned rave reviews are all the hype in this year’s festival, especially Her Love Boils Bathwater, which tells the story of a terminally ill woman who reconciles her family and sets her daughter on the path to independence in the remaining weeks of her life. The film stars Japan Academy Award winner for Best Actress Rie Miyazawa, and made waves at the 2016 Tokyo Film Festival, the 2016 Busan International Film Festival, and the 2016 Montreal World Film Festival.

There’s also the documentary Tsukiji Wonderland which chronicles the iconic Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, and would be interesting for moviegoers who want to see what really goes on at the center of Japanese food culture. The documentary won Culinary Cinema awards at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival and the 2016 San Sebastian International Film Festival.

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Food is also at the center of Sweet Bean, which won in the Un Certain Regard category of the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. This drama is about a dorayaki shop owner who meets an elderly woman who has her own special recipe for the red bean pancake snack.

Japanese family films are also quite known for skillfully handling humor and drama, and it is best seen in films like What a Wonderful Family, about an elderly couple who suddenly decides to end their 50-year marriage and sends their family into a panic. The film won in the Officially Recommended category at the 2016 Shanghai International Film festival and the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival. There’s also The Long Excuse, starring Departures' Motoki Masahiro, as a man who cheats on his wife just before she dies and has to put on a fake performance as the bereaved husband.

  1. There are new animated films that’ll hopefully help cure your Your Name obsession.
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Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name from last year is apparently one of the most popular animated movies in Japanese now, along with the Hayao Miyazaki classics. This year, Katabuchi Sunao’s In This Corner of the World, which tells the story of a young girl who married into a family in Hiroshima during the war, also presents a challenge. The animated film won accolades at the Japan Academy Awards, the Hiroshima International Film Festival, and has been selected for Annecy 2017 and the LA Film Festival 2017.

The Anthem of the Heart from 2015, meanwhile, shows the discovery of the magic of music and friendship after a young girl, Jun, loses her ability to speak because of a traumatic incident in her childhood.

  1. There are two (yes, two!) films starring Rurouni Kenshin star Takeru Sato.

Thanks to the live action adaptation of the Rurouni Kenshin films, Japanese actor Takeru Sato now has a solid following in the Philippines. Fans and moviegoers are in for a treat as two of the actor’s films from 2015 and 2016 have been translated to Tagalog and will be shown for free on July 14.

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First, there’s If Cats Disappeared From the World, in which Sato takes on the role of a postman who gets a visit from the devil after he discovers that he is dying from a brain tumor. The film will be shown at 4:30 PM.

On the same day, at 7:30 PM, there will also be Bakuman, the story of how high school student Moritaka (Sato) teams up with wannabe manga writer Akito, played by Kamiki Ryunosuke, who was also with Sato in two of the Kenshin films. Together, the two friends set out to become successful manga creators.

  1. There’s something for fans of horror films and thrillers.

Who wouldn’t say no to a face-off between two of the biggest horror characters in Japanese cinema? Sadako of The Ring series and Kayako of The Ju-On series meet in Sadako vs. Kayako, where a university student gets hold of a cursed video, while a high school student enters the cursed house where people have gone missing. The horror crossover is part of the Tagalized lineup on July 14, and it will be shown at 1:30 PM.

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The film adaptation of Maekawa Yutaka’s mystery thriller novel Creepy, meanwhile, follows criminal psychologist Takakura as he analyzes a missing family case from six years ago as he and his wife Yukako also try to figure out their strange new neighbor. The thriller film directed by Japanese horror master Kiyoshi Kurasawa was a prominent feature at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Udine Far East Film Festival, and the New York Asian Film Festival in 2016.

  1. Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza is part of it.

Internationally acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza is one of the filmmakers of Reflections: Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016, a collection of three short films featuring three countries: the Philippines, Japan, and Cambodia.

Direk Brillante's Shiniuma Dead Horse, which stars Lou Veloso, tells the story of an illegal Filipino immigrant in Japan who is deported back to the Philippines.

For Japan, Isao Yukisada directs Pigeon, the story of an elderly Japanese man who chooses to live in solitude in a Malaysian estate, where he forms a bond with his caretaker. Beyond the Bridge by Sotho Kulikar explores the love story between a Japanese architect and a Cambodian woman at the time of the Cambodian civil war.

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Reflections will be shown only once on July 10, Monday, at 7:30 PM.

Eiga Sai will run from July 6 to 16 at Shang Cineplex, and tickets will be sold for P100 each, except on July 14 when Tagalog-dubbed films will be screened for free. Tickets will be available at the Shang Cineplex seven days prior to the screening date.

The festival will also make its rounds at the CCP, FDCP cinematheques in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Bacolod, and Iloilo, and the UP Film Institute in UP Diliman from August 16 to August 19, 2017.

For a complete schedule of this year's run at Shang Cineplex, visit:

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Brillante Mendoza (left) directed Shiniuma Dead Horse, which stars Lou Veloso. This project will be screened as part of Eiga Sai 2017. 
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