June 10, 2016
Toronto Japanese Film Festival: Though Japan’s prolific film industry produces no shortage of sober-minded dramas, handsomely mounted period pieces and heartwarming anime features, it’s got a reputation for delivering wilder and weirder thrills, too.
Sure enough, the diverse selection at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival — which runs for the next two weeks at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre — includes several examples of the freakier brand of entertainment for which the nation is renowned. Making its Canadian premiere at the TJFF on June 10, The Inerasable is a supernatural thriller about a woman who’s right to be alarmed about the strange noises she hears in her apartment. It’s followed by the international premiere of Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation, the “spiritual sequel” to a 1981 cult fave about a schoolgirl who discovers her bad self when she takes control of her late father’s yakuza clan.
The TJFF further sates the blood lust of genre fans by presenting the two sequels to Rurouni Kenshin, the smash-hit 2012 screen adaptation of a popular manga about samurai assassins causing maximum mayhem in late-19th-century Japan. They play June 18 in a double feature that’s followed by Parasyte — another recent manga adaptation — and a demo by that film’s sound designer Goro Koyama. Other visitors to the TJFF include Cellin Gluck, who presents his film Persona Non Grata — a historical drama about a Japanese diplomat’s little-known efforts to get Jewish refugees out of Nazi-occupied Poland — on June 12.
Gluck’s film is also one of many TJFF selections that do not feature ghosts, yakuzas or swordfights but are still highly worthy of your attention. Named the best Japanese film of 2015 in Kinema Junpo’s annual critics’ poll, Three Stories of Love is a three-part romantic drama by director Ryosuke Hashiguchi (All Around Us) — it plays June 14. The fest also supplies family fare like Chibi Maruko-Chan: The Boy From Italy, an anime about a cross-cultural friendship between a Japanese boy and his Italian visitor — it plays a matinee screening on June 12.
The TJFF runs to June 23 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Court).
Italian Contemporary Film Festival: Well-timed for Italian Heritage Month and generally fine weather, the Italian Contemporary Film Festival returns for its fourth edition of events that take place in an impressively wide swath of the country. Montreal, Quebec City, Hamilton and the Niagara Region all boast screenings, though GTA viewers are most likely to gravitate toward TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Colossus in Vaughan. The ICFF’s opening weekend includes such recent Italian movies as The Stuff of Dreams, director Gianfranco Cabiddu’s modern spin on The Tempest, and The Correspondence, a new romantic drama by Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore starring Olga Kurylenko and Jeremy Irons. Arguably the special-est of the fest’s special guests is Claudia Cardinale, the legendary star of The Leopard, 8 1/2 and a good many other classics. She’s in town to receive the ICFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award and present her latest film, All Roads Lead to Rome, a rom-com co-starring Sarah Jessica Parker that plays June 15 at the Colossus and June 16 at the Lightbox. The ICFF runs to June 19.
Robert Minervini: Though he’s hardly the first European filmmaker to train an inquisitive eye on America, Robert Minervini is a remarkably astute practitioner of the tradition. Born and bred in Italy, he eventually ended up in Texas, where he’s created a stunning body of unusual documentary portraits of poor and marginal citizens of the American South. Minervini visits TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend for The Other Side, a retrospective named after the most recent film he made about people at society’s fringes — it plays June 10. The series also includes Low Tide (June 11), an extraordinary doc-fiction hybrid about a young boy living rough in a rural Texan town. Besides introducing his own films, he presents The Margin, a 1967 Brazilian doc that had a big influence on Minervini’s challenging esthetic. It plays June 10.
Vita Activa The Spirit of Hannah Arendt : Though most famous for her writings on the “banality of evil” as demonstrated by Nazis like Adolf Eichmann, German-Jewish writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt engaged with her times in innumerable ways. That much is made clear by Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt,a thorough new biographical documentary at the Bloor this week. The best-doc winner at the Santa Barbara film fest last year, this film by Israeli director Ada Ushpiz plays June 10-16.
Breakthroughs Film Festival: Billed as the country’s only film festival dedicated to short works by new-generation female filmmakers, the http://www.breakthroughsfilmfestival.com/2016-festival-program/ Breakthroughs Film FestivalEND looks to showcase fresh talent at the Royal this weekend with two evening programs that include terrific new shorts from directors in Canada and abroad. Canadian highlights include two strong tales of teenagers by filmmakers from Quebec: Emilie Mannering’s Star and Elisabeth Desbiens’ Once Upon a Beast. As for the international fare, Edmond is a delightful animated work by the U.K.’s Nina Gantz, and Sunday Lunch is a similarly wry ’toon by France’s Celine Devaux. The BFF runs June 10 and 11.