The Sacramento Japanese Film Festival is one of only four Japanese film festivals in US – and it’s returning Friday.
The festival will feature seven movies over the course of three days, including “The Ito Sisters: An American Story,” a documentary detailing a Japanese family’s experience living in Sacramento through major historical events dating back to the Great Depression.
In addition to movies, the festival will feature a selection of Japanese foods and drinks.
Although she says every one of the film festival committee members shares a passion for Japanese films, chairperson Barbara Kado says each has their own motivation for helping plan the event. Kado said her own reason for helping plan this event is to connect people through the power of cinema and to help bring awareness to world films.
“There’s something that’s irreplaceable about the big screen – because it’s a group experience, there’s nothing like being in a theater,” Kado said. “Without saying a word, we’re all experiencing something together. You can feel that tension in the audience, i think it’s irreplaceable and it’s part of the experience of watching a movie.”
Kado said that many Japanese – and films from other countries, for that matter – have important messages that often don’t get distributed in the United States due to the language barrier. She said her goal is to bring more awareness to Japanese filmmakers through the festival.
“It’s the best time capsule you can have,” Kado said. “When all of us are gone, these films will be here, and there will be a sense of immediacy the viewer will feel no matter what epoch or time period they’re from.”
Friday, July 20
7:30 p.m.: “Mumon: The Land of Stealth,” directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura
Set in 1600, this film follows ninja and samurai warriors as they engage in the famous Battle of Sekigahara. Murmon, a great ninja warrior, spends time training intensively in warfare techniques in order to make good on a promise to his fiance.
Saturday, July 21
11:30 a.m.: “Sisters of the Gion,” directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
This film examines societal norms for women in Japan as it follows two sisters who are Geishas living in the Gion district of Kyoto before WWII. This film helped Mizoguchi become a prominent filmmaker in Japan.
2:00 p.m.: “In This Corner of the World,” directed by Sunao Katabuchi
This award-winning anime follows Suzu Urano, an 18-year-old bride of a Japanese soldier living near Hiroshima during WWII. Urano must rely on her art to get her through air raids and food rations in war-stricken Japan.
4:30 p.m.: “Oh! Lucy,” directed by Sunao Katabuchi
The film festival’s only comedy follows Setuko, a middle-aged woman who meets an American English teacher, who she falls in love with. The teacher moves back to Los Angeles and Setsuko follows him, all while wearing a curly blonde wig and calling herself Lucy.
7:45 p.m.: “After the Storm,” directed by Hirokazu Kore’eda
Another one of the festival’s award winning films, After the Storm follows a washed up novelist and gambler as he struggles to get his life together. He quietly observes passengers on busses and trains in order to get ideas for his next novel.
Sunday, July 22
2:00 p.m.: “Tokyo Family,” directed by Yoji Yamada
Tokyo Family follows an old married couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their children. Through ups and downs, this film examines one family’s dynamic without judgement.
5:00 p.m.: “The Ito Sisters: An American Story,” directed by Antonia Grace Glenn
This documentary follows a family of Japanese sisters who were born in the Sacramento area through major US events, dating back to the Great Depression.
Kado, who grew up in Sacramento, said that most members of the Japanese community “certainly knew an Ito” if they grew up in Sacramento.
If you go
Sacramento Japanese Film Festival
Where: Crest Theater, 1013 K St.
Tickets: Three-day passes cost $40, and single day tickets cost $10.
More information: sacjapanesefilmfestival.net