The 20th Japanese Film Festival is about to hit Sydney, with Melbourne right behind. We caught up with Festival Program Coordinator Margarett Cortez to figure out how on earth to pick a film amongst all these amazing options and to get her advice on the best Japanese film snacks!

This year’s festival has the tagline “Discover Another World”. What does this mean for the festival?

There are so many fans of Japanese culture but each of us have a particular subculture that we’re interested in. You’ve got the anime fans, manga fans, fans of cult Japanese films. We are hoping that with this years program everyone will be able to discover another side of Japan that they haven’t seen yet.


This is also the 20th anniversary of JFF, how has the festival developed over the years?

It’s definitely a tremendous effort and a lot of it is because of the word of mouth, which is probably the biggest driver. The artistic director (and founder) Masafumi Konomi is still involved with the festival in Sydney with programming it and picking the films and giving advice. The festival just continues to grow in number and in reach. We’re now travelling to more cities and expanding our program with JFF Classics, which is all free. These are 16mm or 35mm films that we’re screening in Sydney and Melbourne. And this year we also have a mini program, which travelled to new locations like Broken Hill. We’ve received such a good response from people there- they love it. Even things as simple as the Samurai hairstyles. They all thought that was hilarious!

What goes into selecting the right festival program?

It’s always trial and error, and I don’t think we’ve perfected it yet- there’s still a lot to learn. We need to constantly keep up with trends in Japanese pop culture and at the same time keep an eye on whats happening at the international film festival circuit, where certain directors are more popular. Pop culture fans however you’re looking at films like the manga adaptations. So its balancing between the audience demands and at the same time being able to offer different films- films with unique storylines. This year an example of those would be more indie titles, like Seto & Utsumi- which is a great film and so different from the others. Firstly because its only 75mins long!


Do you find any genre more popular?

Interestingly the dramas and comedy are actually the most popular genres. That’s why in the program we do have a bias towards dramas. But there are many different subgenres under drama, like mystery, or detective dramas, or lighthearted family dramas. Comedy is also very popular, but we don’t get enough comedy films!

Do you have a personal favourite pick from this years?

Surprisingly my favourite is HK2: The Abnormal Crisis! Everyone in our team has different taste but we all thought that HK:2 was brilliant. It’s so bad it’s good!

Another favourite would be Samurai Hustle Returns. We’ve had people who are fans of arthouse films, so your Sydney Film Festival crowd, who have seen Samurai Hustle Returns and they loved it! I think its because the storyline is ridiculous. I think the impression people generally have of samurai is that they’re very noble and rich, but in this these Samurai are so poor that they have to run from one town to another. So they’re running from Tokyo (the capital) back to their hometown to try and save it, and then they get there and this evil guys wreaks havoc and it’s just a really fun film.


What would your advice be for people who are umming and ahhing about whether to come along and try a film?

With what to pick I would suggest going on our website, you can browse by genre but we’ve also created a way to pick a film based on an area of interest. So we’ve got more arthouse films, and then ones that are culture focused with traditional elements, or idol power films which feature Japanese and kpop idols. I think that’s a good way to browse for a film! Just pick one that sounds interesting to you and don’t think about it too much. Just go in there with an open mind!

Plans for next year’s festival?

We’ve already got our eye on some films!

And finally, do you have a favourite Japanese treat that’s perfect for snacking while watching?

In Sydney, Event Cinemas is right next to Regent Place and they’ve got a shop that sells shoestring fries with wasabi flavour. I think anything wasabi flavoured! Peas, rice crackers… anything!

The Japanese Film Festival will be in Sydney from the 17th-27th November before travelling to Melbourne from the 24th November – 4th December.

For more information and to book tickets visit http://japanesefilmfestival.net