An experience of sorts: Japanese Film Festival 2016 opening ceremony & 'After the Storm' thoughts

Hello, there! This time around, I'm giving a throwback of me saying things about what happened that I think matters to me: writing a long-ass post about it! And also, why not throw in a new banner for my blog, right? Oh yeah, those are totally characters from The Boy and the Beast, one of the films that will be screened at Japanese Film Festival Malaysia 2016, and I'm keeping it! It's not just a promotional thing! NARNIA is long gone!

Fret not though. I know this is supposed to be a blog dedicated to reviewing films (and other things). It's here because a film was indeed screened after the opening ceremony attended by PRESS members for this year's edition of Japanese Film Festival organised by Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur in association with Golden Screen Cinemas. A brief review of that film, titled After the Storm, will follow suit.

My gut-feeling as one of the few guests of honour
Which begs me to this question; how the HELL did this wild invitation appear in my inbox while I was doing my job? And why, oh why, did it have to clash with the screening for a free movie which I won tickets to thanks to Movie Addict? World is cruel.

The mysterious email in question. That person in the screenshot of this screenshot is Kiki Kilin, one of the actors for the film I watched that night, and she is KILIN' it with her role! More on that later. And sorry not sorry for the lame pun.

How the heck did he get my email? And how am I a press member now? What kind of credibility do I have? Is it because of THIS article?

My review is the third one. Not lying mah!
Yeah. One of my reviews got featured at The Daily Seni - AGAIN! This time around, it's sandwiched between THE Fadli al-Akiti (a renowned film critic and owner of TontonFilem) and New Straits Times' review excerpts, and it's for a film currently showing in local cinemas right now, Pekak. And yes, this is totally a legit article.

Whatever the case is, since I already went to a few screenings with the awesome group, I decided to give up my tickets and pass it to my siblings instead, so I can take up this invitation, to see where things would go from here. The unfortunate thing was, I was stuck in traffic when the press conference was commencing. It was then I would have the chance to maybe get closer to the aforementioned veteran actress whom I think was indeed very likeable both on-screen and off-screen judging from a video tribute played before her speech during the festival's opening ceremony and the speech itself, through the way she conveyed her message.

Here she is, straight from the red carpets draped under her feet just outside the theater hall. I was too hungry munching on the finger foods to even care about her, 'cause a brother's gotta eat. Gomenasai!

Photo by Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur.

While it was awkward and all, with me being just an ordinary guy being thrown into a world of press screenings (with this one being the totally official one), I guess it was a pleasant one, even if I talked to only very few of them, introducing myself like the amateur that I am (and I rue the day that I didn't get the chance to drop my non-existent contact card!). This occurrence might seem normal to some people, but for a socially awkward human like myself who just happens to write film reviews for fun, this is a huge deal. It gives people like me, the low self-esteem guy, a high purpose. Which means people still need guidance on what is or what is not a good film, and I am stamped as that kind of guy who does just that. And me getting recognised as an ACTUAL member of the press by being invited to this kind of event was kind of something. Ookay. Not much else I can say about the event. On with the film review.

Film review: After the Storm
All I can say is that, thank you for seeing value in my writings enough to invite me to this event to say something about it... or about one of the films that would also be in the list to be screened at the 13th Japanese Film Festival. It is a slice-of-life film about a family, and it is aptly called After the Storm, released earlier this year, and helmed by writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda.

Original title: 海よりもまだ深く (Umi yori mo Mada Fukaku)
Origin: Japan
· Language: Japanese
Director & writer: Hirokazu Koreeda

Genre: Drama · Release: May 21, 2016
Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Kiki Kilin

More info: IMDb 

This is one of those films that is heavy on dialogues and fueled by performances of the actors, while the mise-en-scene only supplements what the actors have to deal with. In this case, the film is about Ryota Shinoda (yay for bearing the Shinoda name, boo for his fate!) played by Hiroshi Abe. Ryota-san is desperate in regaining what he had lost throughout his life: a working relationship with his ex-wife Kyoko Shiraishi (Yoko Maki), his son Shingo Shiraishi (Taiyo Yoshizawa), his deceased father, and his money. Ironically, he got to fix most of it when nearing the titular actual storm (a typhoon to be exact, which struck parts of Japan in the film) and after it ended, all while receiving some sort of wisdom by Ryota's mother, Yoshiko (Kiki Kilin).

As I wrote the plot summary above, I just realized the intelligence behind the last scene of the film and the title itself. The framing was genius. Whatever it was that happened between Ryota and his family members, it was solved because of something that could destroy human kind. Which means to say that despite whatever that hits us (including a literal storm or typhoon), it's us who would have the final say. I really wanna explain the ending, but that would spoil it for everyone. So, I'm just gonna giggle to myself thinking how awesome the ending was.

Since this is a slice-of-life type of film, I can easily say that everyone was doing their part very well. Even the beautiful Yoko Maki acted like... she's human, because she just is. Kiki Kilin herself? Well, she's a joy to watch as the elderly mother of Ryota who was just terrifically funny and sarcastic due to her quite different take on accepting her son's predicaments and his husband's death. Hiroshi Abe's Ryota? Well, I feel miserable just thinking about him, which made his character serviceable for the plot.

On the filmmaking side, I can't touch on it that much, since it employed long takes atypical of many melodramatic Japanese films (I don't even watch Japanese film that much, so not sure if that helps). But I have to applaud the director for his ability to capture the actors' performance even in very tight spaces, which was accompanied by subtle lighting to highlight certain moods, particularly during the scene where Ryota and Shingo took a shelter at the playground in the middle of the typhoon. That was very memorable.

And that is all I could think of. Be sure to catch this film and more, starting from today (September 8, 2016) till September 14, 2016 for KL-ites at select Golden Screen Cinemas Outlets. For other states and list of films, be sure to check out THIS LINK for more information.

P/S: I really can't stress enough how honoured I am to have received such invitation. Thank you very much, Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur, for having me! Oh, those finger foods AND the dorayaki rock!

See? Happy face! Oh, there was brash film critic Hassan Muthalib as well. Whoopie!

Photo by Movie Addict

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