8 Films From Tokyo Film Festival 2018 That Everyone Will Soon Be Talking About

A Few Of The Many Great Screen Works You don't want to miss this year

By Jessica Esa
October 22, 2018
Art & Culture, Upcoming Events

This year's lineup begins with "A Star Is Born" and ends with "Godzilla: The Planet Eater." Here's the best of what's in between.

This year marks Tokyo Film Festival’s 31st anniversary. With an additional venue added this year, starting from October 25th, for about a week you can enjoy dozens of films at Hibiya Step Square along with the usual Roppongi Hills and EXTheatre Roppongi screenings.

With Bradley Cooper’s (and Lady Gaga’s) masterpiece A Star Is Born as an opening movie and an impressive lineup that covers the entire globe (a few times), this year’s show has raised everyone’s expectations higher than ever. And while, indeed, the lineup for 2018 is awe-worthy, the three categories to keep an eye on this year (according to our modest opinion) are: the Asian Future category, which features up-and-coming directors from around Asia; Japan Splash, which contains the best of this year’s Japanese releases; and the World Features category which showcases award-winning films from around the world that haven’t had a general release in Japan.

Here is a selection of movies from these categories you will soon hear people talking about, so use your chance, grab some popcorn and be among the first to see them all. All of the films have English subtitles and many are shown in Japan for the first time.

1. Cold Sweat (Iran)

Focusing on women’s rights, with Handmaid’s Tale vibes abounding, this is the story of the team captain of a female futsal team who find themselves in the final, based in Malaysia. The captain suddenly finds herself trapped when her husband decides he doesn’t want to sign the release form for her to leave Iran. She sets about to work out her rights as a woman in a frustrating race before the final. Painful to watch at times, this is a powerful and very important film that shows a reality many professional women are still facing across the globe — regardless of what their career is.

Language: Persian with English and Japanese subtitles

2. Miss Baek (Korea)

From the director of The Age of Shadows and A Tale of Two Sisters, Lee Ji-won returns with this equally gripping drama based on a true story. Playing a tough ex-convict, Han Ji-Min (Miss Baek) struggles with her past as a child abused by her family and jailed in self-defense. When she meets a girl on the street who is being abused by her father, Miss Baek sees herself in the child and struggles to save her. Very uncomfortable at times, this film delivers some hard-hitting messages and delivers them well.

Language: Korean with English and Japanese subtitles

3. The Manga Master (Japan)

In this much-anticipated biopic, Issey Ogata plays the role of Rakuten Kitazawa, Japan’s first professional manga artist, and first to use the term “manga” as we now know it. Famous for drawing editorial cartoons and comic strips during the late Meiji era through to Showa era, his story, as well as the stories of those around him during his life, make for an amazing story you don’t want to miss.

Language: Japanese with English subtitles

4. Long Time no Sea (Taiwan)

Aboriginal culture in Taiwan is something very few people outside Taiwan know much about, but this beautifully-shot film does a lot to change that. This moving film from new director Tsui Yunh-hui is a true story based on his experiences and involvement with the Little Flying Fish Cultural Exhibition Dance Troupe, and the Yami people. The film casts local islanders and is set on Lanyu Island, one of Taiwan’s most beautiful spots, focusing on themes of cultural identity, family and loss as the dance troupe competes for a dance competition in Kaohsiung with their new teacher.

Language: Chinese with English and Japanese subtitles

5. The Tap Box (Vietnam)

This classical, high-art film focuses on Vietnamese opera, called Cai Luong. At heart, it’s a hardcore drama: the main actor from a Cai-Luong company meets a cold debt collector who has come to take pretty much everything from his family. Fights and drama galore, as the story evolves, the two men discover that they are kindred spirits. Set in Saigon in the 1980s, this lavish film gets to the heart of Vietnamese opera culture while offering a gripping storyline and believable characters. Wildly successful in Vietnam, this film is sure to be a hit.

Language: Vietnamese with English and Japanese subtitles

6. The Gun (Japan)

From the director of 100 Yen Love (shown at the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival), Masaharu Take’s latest feature adapts the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel (Fuminori Nakamura 2002) about Toru Nishikawa who slowly becomes obsessed with a gun he’s found at the riverside. Dealing with his attraction to a lady who attends his university and hiding the gun, Toru finds himself backed into a corner by a detective. Filmed almost entirely in black and white, this noir type thriller will surely keep you on the edge of your seats.

Language: Japanese with English subtitles

7. Ramen Teh (Japan, France, Singapore)

If you’re missing those Crazy Rich Asian vibes — or the Singapore street-food vibes — this film is definitely for you. Ramen Teh tells the story of Masato, a Japanese chef who, wanting to learn more about his deceased parents, goes back to his roots and visits Singapore. In the evolving heart-warming story, Masato uncovers a lot more in Singapore than he imagined. With gorgeous food scenes abound showcasing some of Singapore and Japan’s most classic dishes, make sure you eat before going to see this one.

Language: English, Japanese, Mandarin with English and Japanese subtitles

8. The Travelling Cat Chronicles (Japan)

This heartwarming adaptation of the highly successful book by Hiro Arikawa with the same title (recently translated into English by Philip Gabriel), this is a story about a man and his cat that is guaranteed to leave you in tears. As our two protagonists begin a long road trip to visit old friends and relatives in search of a potential caretaker for our furry buddy (called Nana, by the way), we get to see some of Japan’s most splendid countryside sights.

What could have been a cheesy film about a cat in the hands of the wrong director turned up to become a beautiful tale of friendship, loyalty, and love in this production. The feline actor of Nana puts on an incredible show and is supposed to be featured at the Q and A session, too. Another must-see for sure!

Language: Japanese with English subtitles

Bonus: This year’s TIFF specials

In addition to A Star is Born, this year’s Tokyo Film Festival also features two other special opening and closing screenings which are available via a pre-order lottery. Watch A Star is Born by all means and then move to Where the Mermaid Sleeps, a family drama about a couple who save their dying daughter in an out of the ordinary way. 

The closing film is the Godzilla animated trilogy-Godzilla: The Planet Eater.  

Tokyo Film Festival runs from October 25 through November 3, 2018. For more information on other films and screening schedule, see here. To buy tickets, see here

What movies from this list (and those that aren’t mentioned in this article) would you like to see the most? Let us know in the comments.

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