From a glitzy murder mystery with an ensemble cast of Japanese screen stars, to a sun-drenched romance from the animation genius behind cult hit Night is Short, Walk on Girl, the Japanese Film Festival (16 October – 1 December) returns with a brand new program jam-packed with the very best in contemporary Japanese cinema.

In 2018, more than 30,000 moviegoers attended JFF screenings nationally, enjoying a variety of cinematic delights, from the hottest newly-released feature titles alongside cult, anime, drama, documentaries and much more.

The 2019 Festival will screen 29 feature films and one captivating documentary Sydney (14-24 November), with carefully curated programming by The Japan Foundation, Sydney.

The Festival has announced Sydney guest appearances and post-screening audience Q&As from two talented up-and-coming directors: Yuko Hakota, in support of her award-winning directorial debut Blue Hour; and Shinzo Katayama for his solo directorial debut Siblings of the Cape. .

The Festival opens with glitzy murder mystery Masquerade Hotel, featuring iconic actor Takuya Kimura (Howl’s Moving Castle) and Japanese Academy Award-winner Masami Nagasawa (Your Name). Adapted from Keigo Higashino’s bestselling novel, the film follows a detective who must go undercover at a high-end Tokyo hotel to solve a series of seemingly unconnected murders.

Closing the festival in Sydney and Melbourne is A Girl Missing, a gripping psychological crime-drama about the mysterious disappearance of a family’s youngest granddaughter. The film reunites director Koji Fukada with actress Mariko Tsutsui after their Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize-winning collaboration Harmonium.

There is also Dance With Me, starring former Japanese idol Ayaka Miyoshi (of J-Pop group Sakura Gakuin). Miyoshi delivers a stellar performance in this light-hearted musical-comedy about a successful businesswoman who must rid herself of a mysterious curse that forces her to dance whenever she hears music.

International award winners include: winner of Best Animated Feature at the Fantasia Film Festival Ride Your Wave, a vibrant anime-romance from critically-acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa (Night is Short, Walk on Girl – JFF 2018); poignant drama Blue Hour, which won Best Film at the Shanghai International Film Festival; and winner of Best Director at the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival Melancholic, a visceral thriller about a university graduate who unknowingly takes a job at a yakuza kill-house.

As always, this year’s program features adaptations of beloved manga stories including: queer steampunk romantic comedy Fly Me to the Saitama featuring pop rock legend GACKT and Fumi Nikaido (winner of the Venice Film Festival Marcello Mastroianni Award for Himizu), based off Mineo Maya’s 1982 shojo manga; and quirky comedy SAINT☆YOUNG MEN 2nd Century, which poses the question: what if Jesus Christ and Buddha were housemates in the suburbs of Tokyo?

The program also shines a light on up-and-coming Japanese filmmakers: from Harika Abe’s breathtaking slice-of-life directorial debut Moonless Dawn, featuring three existential youths who connect through music; to rising star Momoko Fukuda’s offbeat dramedy My Father, the Bride, about a woman who returns home and is shocked to find her father in a dress.

The full Festival program can be found at the website.

JFF, 2019 is 14 - 24 November at Event Cinemas George Street. Early bird tickets available from September 26. Keep up to date at the Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Over the next few weeks we will be reviewing films from the festival to help you choose. See here for our review of A Girl Missing which we gave 4 stars.

Image from: SAINT☆YOUNG MEN 2nd Century

With thanks to JFF we have a double pass giveaway to a screening of your choice during the festival. Enter here, using the subject line JFF_COMPETITION (competitions.reviewsbyjudith@outlook.com).

The competition will be drawn after Midnight on Friday October 4, 2019. Only the winner will be notified and the pass will be posted by RbJ after receipt from the promoter..