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Shinyuri Film Festival moves into new Kawasaki Art Center

by Edan Corkill

Most Japan Times readers will know the frustration of hearing from friends overseas about some wonderful new film, and then waiting — ultimately in vain — for it to turn up in Japanese cinemas or video stores.

Well, here is a chance to catch up on some of the films whose waves overseas barely make ripples here. The Shinyuri Film Festival, now in its 14th year, is shifting up a gear this time, moving its operations to the brand-new Kawasaki City-funded Kawasaki Art Center, a facility for film and performing arts.

Australian readers will want to catch “Beneath Clouds,” the film that won Aboriginal director Ivan Sen an award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002. This road movie set in the Australian outback tells the tale of a mixed-heritage woman and an Aboriginal boy out of prison.

Also exploring interracial and intergenerational relations is Indian-born, U.S.-based director Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” from 2006 — the story of a second-generation Indian- American struggling to juggle his heritage and the community around him.

One film that should — but probably won’t — receive wide distribution here is Australian director Brad Haynes’ “Broken Sun.” Released in Australia in April, it tells the story of a war veteran and a Japanese escapee from a POW camp in rural Australia during World War II. One hopes Haynes hasn’t got in over his head in trying to deal with the idea of honorable death and ritual suicide, although the trailer doesn’t inspire confidence.

The festival includes another 30-odd films, ranging from Japanese classics, such as Kaneto Shindo’s all-but-silent, anti-capitalist classic “Hadaka no Shima (The Island)” from 1960, and the controversial “Yasukuni,” Chinese director Li Ying’s studious look at the controversial Shinto shrine in Tokyo. “Yasukuni” will be introduced by its assistant director, Takayuki Nakamura.

“Beneath Clouds” and “Broken Sun” screen on Oct. 25; “The Namesake” is on Oct. 24, 28 and Nov. 1; “The Island” is on Oct. 13, 15 and 16. All these showings are at Kawasaki Art Center, while “Yasukuni” is at Warner Mycal Shinyurigaoka on Oct. 12. Both venues are in Shinyurigaoka, Kawasaki. The festival’s Web site is at www.siff.jp/siff2008/