Japanese film internationally has an accessibility problem. Although the situation has definitely improved in recent years, with streaming services and niche distributors making it easier than ever to access Japanese films internationally, it is still incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to view such films in an actual cinema. Due to their nature as niche products, most of these films are relegated exclusively to film festivals such as Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival. These festivals usually host at least a couple of Japanese films for the broader public to watch. Some films not shown at such events can often be found at niche film festivals that specifically cater to fans of Japanese films, showcasing a wide range of Japanese movies both big and small for your viewing pleasure. One such festival is the UK Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, which hosts a variety of Japanese films and is currently about to enter its 17th year with its recently-announced 2020 touring programme.
The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme is a yearly event wherein select films from a wide-ranging lineup are shown at various venues throughout the UK over the course of a few months. Due to the more niche nature of the films often showcased, many of these screenings often end up being their UK or European premiere, and will often be the only chance for UK fans to see such films on the big screen. This year, a record-breaking 22 films have been announced for the festival ranging from adaptations of well-known manga such as My Love Story and Kakegurui to critical darlings such as Shadowfall. There’s even an anime film in the programme this year, Masaaki Yuasa’s latest creation, Ride Your Wave. Each year the Japan Foundation in the UK hosts this festival with the hope of promoting and expanding the reach and popularity of Japanese cinema, both old and new, with its variety of modern and classic screening. So far, considering the expanded lineup and venue availability, you’d have to argue they have succeeded at this goal so far.
Each year the films chosen often fit under a particular thematic idea with this year’s theme being ‘Happiness as a State of Mind. As described on the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme Website:
’Embracing the rich and complex spectrum of emotions that go hand in hand with this concept, the programme seeks to present the highs and lows experienced in pursuit of happiness in Japan, showcasing diverse cinematic voices as they shine a light on stories of love, social inclusion, the resilience of humankind through times of hardship, and non-conventional paths to achieving and maintaining joy.’
The festival will take place in the first few months of 2020 at various cinemas around the UK. You can find the full list of films and venues over at the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme official website.