Soho prepares for Zipangu

A different take on Japanese film.

by Owen Van Spall

The third Zipangu Festival was inaugurated today at a press event at Tonkatsu ramen bar in Soho, where guests were able to see sneak previews of some of the live action and animated films and shorts that will be playing at the actual festival

Zipangu can certainly claim to be one of the more unusual film festivals in the UK. Zipangu Fest, a UK registered non profit organisation, is devoted to appreciating Japanese films new and old, with a particular focus on getting films unseen by mainstream UK film audiences onto screens. This means something different from Studio Ghibli or martial arts films.

The 2012 edition of Zipangu Festival will take place on 14-16 September at The Cinema Museum, aka Lambeth Workhouse (a one time childhood residence of Charlie Chaplin). The Cinema Museum, a registered charity, is based in Kennington, London, and houses a unique collection of cinema artefacts, memorabilia and equipment from the 1890s to the present day.

Festival Director and Chief Curator Jasper Sharp was on hand to introduce the screenings and explain the themes and venue choice for this year's festival. Key to Zipangu is a different approach every year and the 2012 venue itself, with its focus on preservation and education, was influential in the choice of direction for this year's programme. Key to the 2012 line up will be the Reel Zipangu strand, a tribute to the legacy of celluloid in a rapidly digitalising world, and highly relevant given the discussion in Japan filmmaking right now as to the future of physical film. The majority of the screenings in Zipangu 2012 will thus be from actual 16mm or 35mm film.

Guests were allowed to see previews of a select few films from across the various strands of the festival. The short experimental film Planet Z (playing in the Spirit Made Flesh strand) from director Momoko Seto, showcases a strange series of biological lifeforms evolving across a planetoid surface. From the Beyond Anime strand, Midori – KO, a dark and very odd animated fantasy tale from director Keita Kurosaka, is crafted in a rich hand-drawn animated style very different from conventional anime and took the director ten years to complete. As part of the Melting Pot Japan strand, Saudade, from director Katsuya Tomita, is a live action drama that explores the community of the rural town of Kofu (the director's hometown), taking in the local Japanese-Brazilian immigrant community, hip hop and a mix of small town dreams and prejudices.

Other highlights at Zipangu will include a 1997 Japanese-North Korean collaborative martial arts production, Somi - The Taekwon-Do Woman, receiving what will be only its third screening anywhere, and Crossways, a silent film from 1928 which was one of the first Japanese films ever seen in the West and which will play with a new live score from Minima.

Check back here for more from Zipangu 2012.

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