During a speech to mark his receipt of The Japan Foundation Award for Arts and Culture late last year, there was one point that the widely respected film critic Tadao Sato was especially keen to convey to his Tokyo audience.
“The city of Fukuoka has one of the most important collections of contemporary Asian film in the world,” he announced. “It is a priceless asset.”
The reason, he continued, to a largely baffled audience, is that since 1991, the southern city has hosted the Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival, which has not only screened 421 mostly brand new films from across Asia as of 2009, but has given most of those films their first English-language subtitles and, crucially, paved the way for the archive rights of over three-quarters of them to be purchased by the Fukuoka City Public Library.
Fukuoka, it turns out, is gradually positioning itself as an Asian film hub. And that laudable effort continues this year, with the 22nd festival being held at T-Joy Hakata and elsewhere in central Fukuoka from Sept. 16 through Sept. 25.
Directed by film and theater researcher Yasuhiro Hariki (Sato himself held the reins through 2006), this year’s event will feature 32 films from 13 countries and regions. Fifteen of those will be having their Japanese premieres.
The festival will open with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s “Nader and Simin, A Separation,” a tale of a middle aged couple at odds over whether they should leave their country or not. The film won the Golden Bear for the Best Film at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.
Other highlights will be “The Fate of A Songstress in Thang Long,” an ambitious Vietnamese historical love tragedy featuring a musically gifted young woman, and “The Sun Beaten Path,” a Mandarin- and Tibetan-language Chinese film depicting a guilt-ridden youth’s journey of contrition through the Gobi Desert.
The event will also feature Japanese films, including director Koji Fukada’s “Hospitalite,” a black comedy about an eccentric Japanese man and his purportedly Brazilian wife imposing themselves on a dysfunctional suburban Japanese family. Japan Times critic Mark Schilling, who reviewed the film earlier this year, thought it was “funny in smart, original ways.” You might too.
Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival takes place Sept. 16-25. For more information, see the festival website at www.focus-on-asia.com.