Our theme for this festival edition explores the body and sensation. We are living through a time where words, facts and logic are increasingly ineffectual, powerless and absurd. As we attempt to make sense of the nonsensical, the most powerful form of expression is often what we feel. How we interact with other bodies and spaces around us, and how we express the unutterable become vital means of communication and connection.
Inspired by the 2020 (now 2021) Tokyo Olympics, our experiences in lockdown and our loss of words, we will present a line-up of features and shorts that examine the body triumphant, and the body in crisis, through dance, performance, sport, exercise, and more.
We invite you to experience JAEFF in your own bodies, and to reconnect to the world.
In partnership with the Japan Foundation.
Thursday 16 Sept, 6:00pm
An extremely rare 16mm screening of new wave master Susumu Hani’s endlessly inventive web of young love and seedy underworld forces. This screening features an introduction by Jennifer Coates.
JAEFF 2021: Bodies begins with a bang. A script penned by avant-garde god Shuji Terayama, Nanami: The Inferno of First Love is arguably Hani’s masterpiece. Ostensibly a tale of boy meets girl, young goldsmith Shun falls for nude model Nanami. But Hani’s film spirals ever deeper into a hallucinatory howl against a society that neglects, exploits, and abuses young bodies. A seamless mesh of Hani’s verité style with Terayama’s experimental exuberance, expect to be stunned, troubled, and scorched by the inferno.
Nanami: The Inferno of First Love is paired with Asuka Lin’s post-cyberpunk Super 8 film, A.I. Mama, featuring a young non-binary programmer who attempts to reconnect with their lost mother.
*Nanami: The Inferno of First Love will not be available online
Friday 17 Sept, 6:00pm
This screening features a video introduction by Michael Sakamoto
The first of our two screenings celebrating butoh co-founders Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno through wildly inventive and highly surreal cinematic works.
Our bodies are in crisis! This programme brings together Chiaki Nagano and Takahiko Iimura’s collaborations with butoh pioneers Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. JAEFF attempts to define a dance style which defies definition. Beginning with the first entry in Nagano’s Mr O trilogy, viewers will be plunged headfirst into the grotesque absurdities of a form which seeks to “resist fixity”. The unforgettable imagery of Portrait of Mr O is complemented by Iimura’s “cinedance” recordings of Hijikata’s early 1960s performances. Both Anma and Rose Color Dance are efforts to film choreography and to choreograph film.
Connecting these works to present-day conceptions of movement, society, and technology is Anne Verheij’s In Passing.
Saturday 18 Sept, 3:00pm
Featuring a video introduction by Michael Sakamoto
Chiaki Nagano and Kazuo Ohno’s trilogy reaches its bewildering and exhilarating conclusion in part two of JAEFF’s butoh screenings.
Mr O’s Book of the Dead is a stunning work of surrealism and choreography that evades written summary. Indeed, according to Ohno: “It is not important to understand what I am doing; perhaps it is better if they don't understand, but just respond to the dance.”
These classic dance films are complemented by Kioto Aoki’s Dual Enframe, which plays with different iterations of “the framing device,” using the camera, the body, the mirror, and a window space.
Saturday 18 Sept, 5:50pm
Barbican, Cinema 1
Featuring an introduction by Julian Ross.
Collapsing the line between mainstream sports drama and formal invention, avant-garde hero Shuji Terayama’s Boxer is arguably the greatest boxing film ever made.
Saturday night JAEFF Fight Night!
Former champ Hayato (Bunta Sugawara) is washed up and disillusioned. His shot at redemption arrives in the form of young boxer Henma (Kentarô Shimizu) seeking tutelage. While Boxer contains all the training montages required by the genre, the focus is always on the fluidity, punishment, and dedication of the fighting body.
Boxer is preceded by Yuri Muraoka’s kaleidoscopic portrait of the filmmaker and her daughters, Transparent, the world is. A short film depicting the relationship between being and society.
Sat 18 Sept, 8:30pm
Barbican, Cinema 1
Featuring a an introduction by Jasper Sharp
Smut or art? Join us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno series of pink films with Tatsumi Kumashiro’s existential shag-a-thon, Lovers are Wet.
Not out of place with the "angry young man" films by Nagisa Oshima and Shuji Terayama, Lovers are Wet depicts the return of a particularly nihilistic native to his seaside village. Working in a local softcore cinema, Katsu refuses to acknowledge his connection to the town, and begins a mission of cruel seduction. Kumashiro’s bleak and windswept vision is punctured by humour and depravity and serves as an angry broadside against censorship in Japan.
Sun 19 Sept, 11:00am
Barbican, Cinema 2/3 Beech Street
This panel discussion event brings together historians and academics to contextualise and explore the films and themes of the festival.
Join JAEFF producer and panel chair George Crosthwait, film theorist and anthropologist Lola Martinez, Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies Jennifer Coates, and others, as they discuss the legacy of the 1964 Olympics, the relationship between sport and the Japanese avant-garde, and physical gesture as a tool for cinematic expression.
Entry is free, but registration is essential.
Sun 22 Sept, 1:20pm
Barbican, Cinema 1
The logistical efforts of putting on the 1964 Olympics are pitted against the Sisyphean loneliness of a long-distance runner.
Our afternoon of Olympic themed screenings begins with an early documentary from Japanese counter-culture legend Toshio Matsumoto (Funeral parade of Roses). In collaboration with the Museum of Logistics, we present the UK premiere of Nippon Express. A showcase of the behind-the-scenes detail and labour required to host a mass sporting spectacle, Shinkichi Noda and Matsumoto’s poetic imagery is undercut by the upbeat promotional narration. In another UK first, we are delighted to screen Record of a Marathon Runner. Kazuo Kuroki documents the Olympic preparations of young athlete Kimihara Kenji, capturing the monotonous rhythms of training whilst pushing cinematic form into abstraction.
Nippon Express and Record of a Marathon Runner are paired with Hal Torii’s surrealist short: Tokyo Story.
Sun 19 Sept, 4:00pm
Barbican, Cinema 1
Featuring an introduction by Dolores Martinez
Kon Ichikawa tears up the documentary playbook for this thrilling cinematic record of the 1964 Summer Olympics.
JAEFF 2021: Bodies concludes with the spectacular 4K restoration of Tokyo Olympiad. Ichikawa’s masterpiece is a leap forward in both technical innovation and artistic experimentation. This is filmmaking on a grand scale; a paeon to the notion of global connection and the pursuit of sporting excellence that values humanity over results. Fittingly, JAEFF’s day of Olympic themed programming ends with the greatest sports film ever made.
Ichikawa’s elegant and impressionistic wide-screen poetry will be fused into your mind. And, it might just remind you why you love cinema and what a body (and a soul) can achieve.
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