Tears were not on the agenda when we attended the Eiga Sai press screening for what we thought would be a happy Japanese film. Its promo poster showed a barefoot woman in a Hello-Kitty-shade-of-red apron holding a deck scrub aloft under the positively quirky title “Her Love Boils Bathwater.”
But therein lies the magic of Eiga Sai, or the annual Japanese film festival—there’s always something more than meets the eye. In its 20th year, the film fest will be held in several venues in Metro Manila and five other cities. Talkback sessions present two daring filmmakers. There’s a manga (graphic novel) exhibit and lectures by experts.
This is the second year of the Japanese film festival’s partnership with the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
Here are 10 films to catch:
1 “Her Love Boils Bathwater” (directed by Ryota Nakano; drama)—How to settle your affairs when diagnosed with a terminal illness? That is the premise of the film starring Rie Miyazawa.
2 “Departures” (Yojiro Takita; drama)—The 2008 Oscar Best Foreign Language Film is about a cellist who unwittingly lands a job as encoffiner—one who prepares the dead for a traditional funeral.
3 “In This Corner of the World” (Sunao Katabuchi; animé, drama—This hand-drawn animé follows the journey of a young artist who marries a naval officer and finds ingenious ways to survive the war in Japan.
4 “The Sting of Death,” (Kohei Oguri; drama)—A couple survives the Pacific War but the relationship would be challenged by the husband’s philandering.
5 Reflections: “Shiniuma Dead Horse,” “Pigeon” and “Beyond the Bridge” (by Brillante Mendoza, Isao Yukisada, Sotho Kulikar; drama) —This omnibus film by acclaimed Asian directors was made for the Asian Three-Fold Mirror, a filmmaking project coproduced by Japan Foundation Asia Center and Tokyo International Film Festival.
6 “Poolsideman” (Hirobumi Watanabe; thriller, drama)— Shot entirely in black and white, the film shows a bleak image of modern Japan as it follows the “life-less” loner Yusuke Mizuhara, a pool lifeguard.
7 “The Anthem of the Heart” (Tatsuyuki Nagai; family-friendly animation) —The power of words and expressing oneself literally and figuratively are at the center of this film whose protagonist magically loses her voice.
8 “The Magnificent Nine” (Yoshihiro Nakamura; jidaigeki)—The film is inspired by true events from the Edo period. Residents of a poor town create business scheme to deal with the high taxes imposed on them.
9 “If Cats Disappeared from the World” (Akira Nagai; drama) —A postman with a brain tumor gets an offer from the devil: He lives an extra day every time he allows the devil to remove something from the world.
10 “Sadako vs Kayako” (Koji Shiraishi; suspense, horror)— The crossover film pits two of Japan’s well-known horror figures—Sadako of “The Ring” films and Kayako from the “Ju-on” franchise.
The 20th Eiga Sai’s grand opening is on July 6, 7:30 p.m., at Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex, Mandaluyong City. The festival runs July 1-Aug. 29 in Metro Manila and in Davao, Cebu, Baguio, Bacolod, Iloilo. Visit eigasaiPH on Facebook.