LOS ANGELES: EigaFest Gives Hollywood a Taste of Japan

DYLAN FIELDS WRITES – L.A. EigaFest 2014 hit the town last month, bringing fans of Japanese cinema from East to West to Hollywood’s main drag.

A mash-up of the Japanese word for film, eiga, and ‘festival,’ the annual gathering, now in its fourth year, showcases Japanese and Japanese-influenced films for American audiences. It has also become a way to introduce the local film industry to talent from Japan, and hopefully find ways for the two to do business together.

Presented by the Japan Film Society (JFS), the festival kicked off at the historic Egyptian Theatre, debuting the much anticipated Lupin III, a live-action adaptation of the classic manga series. Lupin’s red carpet premiere was sold out and the theater was packed with press and fans alike. The most exciting guests of the night were Lupin’s director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, The Midnight Meat Train), its producer Mataichiro “Mata” Yamamoto (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust; Azumi), and lead actress Meisa Kuroki.

After a brief Q & A with the guests of honor, Kitamura warned the audience: “Be prepared. It’s gonna be crazy.” And so it was, both onscreen and off, with the theater erupting in laughter and cheers throughout its runtime. It was EigaFest’s strongest opening night to date, and Asia Media International was lucky enough to land interviews with each of the three principals on hand.

Day 2 of LA EigaFest had a variety of exciting films including Samurai Hustle, Bilocation, and Ask This of Rikyu. There was even a special screening of the original Godzilla movie followed by its recent adaptation in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the beloved monster-movie franchise.

But Day 2’s true main event was a business panel presented by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) and JFS at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, which discussed “current trends, issues, and the future of the creative relationship between Hollywood and Japan, while discussing the challenges of adopting Japanese content and culture for an American audience.”

The most notable guests were Hollywood director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka, known for the sci-fi novel All You Need is Kill, which was adapted by Liman into the blockbuster summer film Edge of Tomorrow. Asia Media International was able to directly interview Mr. Sakurazaka that day.

The festival’s third and final day saw the premiere of several exciting films including A Tale of Samurai Cooking and Genome Hazard. There was also a showcase of several short films, each competing for the Golden Zipangu Awards. Director Yuji Kakizaki won the coveted award with his samurai drama, When the Sun Falls, while director Takeshi Yashiro won the Audience Award for the general audience’s favorite short film.

EigaFest ended with a bang with Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno. The sequel to the highly acclaimed live-action adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s renowned samurai manga, Kenshin was easily the most anticipated film of the festival. Tickets for its debut sold out and resulted in a full house.

The film’s screening ended with a thunderous applause, followed by a surprise video message from Kenshin’s lead actor Takeru Satoh as well as manga authors Buichi Terasawa (Cobra) and Tetsuya Chiba (Ashita no Joe). Hayato Mitsuishi, the president of the JFS and the ‘wizard behind the curtain’ of EigaFest, was clearly thrilled by this year’s success.

EigaFest 2014 came and delivered on a high note with two highly anticipated adaptations of classic manga, plenty of exciting guests from the Japanese film industry, and a variety of exciting feature length films. JFS has proven that it will continue to raise the bar in debuting Japanese films in the U.S., and we at Asia Media International can’t wait to see what happens next year.

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