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KIFF 2018 Daily Report Day 4, Sunday October 14

2018/10/14 Report

The fourth day of KIFF 2018 started with Yoshimoto Kogyo unveiling one of its latest efforts. The “Showjo Kagekidan Project” is a new all-female pop idol group that is about to start auditioning potential members.

The launch kicked off in the morning with a teaser video that introduced of some of the main concepts of the project, including “Live Entertainment that Grows with the Group” and “From the Kansai Region to the World”

The Yoshimoto comedy duo Gakutensoku MCed the launch event. One half of the group, Shuji Okuda, is a big fan of pop idols and was excited to be chosen to announce the project.

Yoshimoto Kogyo Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Osaki greeted members of the media who had gathered to cover the launch. Osaki explained that he was born in the city of Sakai in Osaka, and before he was born there was a theater there called the “Showjo Kagekidan” which translates as “young female musical theater.” Osaki said that years later he had the idea of creating a new project with that same name.

To make that idea a reality, Osaki contacted Oji Hiroi, a manga author and video game creator who has been involved in the government’s “Cool Japan” initiative. Together, they made the plan to recruit members of the group and work toward having a debut in Osaka sometime in the summer of 2019.

Yusuke Nomura from Yoshimoto Creative Agency, who is leading the project, announced that auditions will be held for potential members between the ages of 11 and 17 from November 1 till the end of the year. Nomura said the members will then go through training and rehearsals before debuting at a dedicated theater for the group in Osaka next year.

KIFF once again exhibited how it contributes to the community. One of the two “Workshop Collections” for children was held Sunday afternoon.

At Aeon Mall Kyoto’s Koto Hall a number of educational and fun workshops were held on both weekend days. In the “Yoshimoto Kids Creative Workshops” on Sunday, Yoshimoto Kogyo entertainers became teachers, helping the young visitors make balloon animals, book covers and other crafts.

For older kids, there were classes on computer programing and hacking a role-playing game to make it better fit what the user wants from the game.

The highlight of the workshops was a class on programming Pepper, a humanoid robot developed by Softbank Robotics. Yoshimoto entertainers Daisuke Toyama from the comedy unit Grunge and Runpumps led the class. But the center of attention was the robot itself, which the young participants were amazed to see respond to human gestures and commands.

The kids were then taught about the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are designed to help the planet, and everyone it. They worked on dividing actions towards those goals into steps, and they thought about how to use Pepper to teach others about SDGs.

KIFF has presented a number of silent film masterpieces at the 110-year-old theater Ooe Nougakudou. These ranged from Laurel and Hardy comedies to some of the earliest Japanese sword fighting movies. At a screening on Sunday afternoon, something happened that was not possible with the other silent films. The director came to watch along with the audience and speak about the film afterwards.

Kaizo Hayashi said, “the other directors shown here have all passed away. I am the only one who is alive, so that makes me feel somewhat special.” Hayashi did not make his film in the silent era. In fact, “To Sleep so as to Dream” was made in 1986. But it pays tribute to early Japanese film with its black and white photography, no dialogue, and titles in beautiful hand-written Japanese.

The story involves a detective who hired to find the kidnapped daughter of an elderly woman. After following a series of strange clues, he discovers that his client is Japan’s very first film actress, who started her career after a ban on showing films with women was lifted. Before that, as on Shakespeare’s stage, female roles were played by men. The aging actress is played by Fujiko Fukamizu, who really did work in pre-War Japanese film.

The tribute to the silent film era was completed by pianist Haruka Amamiya, who provided musical accompaniment, and Raiko Sakamoto, who narrated the film in the style that was popular nearly a century ago.

Finally the KIFF 2018 Closing Film was presented in the early evening. Sadao Nakajima was a strong presence at KIFF. He officially declared the festival had started at the opening ceremony. He was also honored with the talk event “The Chair: An Homage to Director Nakajima” at the Kyoto University of Arts and Crafts.

Thus it was only fitting that his latest film, “Love’s Twisting Path” (“Tajuro Jun Aiki”), closed the fest. The screening to a packed house at the Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu Theater was also the film’s world premiere.

After an absence of about 20 years, Nakajima returned to the genre that established his reputation as a master of Japanese cinema—the historical drama centered around sword fighting, called “Chambara.” Nakajima co-wrote the script with Keiko Tani. It centers on the penniless samurai drifter Tajuro Kiyokawa, who has left the world of violence behind and only wants to practice painting while leading a life of peace and quiet. But the battling factions loyal to the Shogun and the deposed Emperor, including his brother, force him to pick up his sword again. This leads up to a climatic sword fight in a bamboo forest.

Kengo Kora, who plays Tajuro, appeared with Nakajima after the screening to say that he is so happy to see the film get big applause in Kyoto, because the city is also the setting of the film. Ryo Kimura, who plays Tajuro’s younger brother, also joined the talk session and said that he was very thankful for the opportunity.

The crowd was wowed by the film and thankful to see gigantic Japanese stars like Kora live on stage afterward. In all, it was another memorable Kyoto International Film and Art Festival.

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