Row House Cinema will offer two weeks of great Japanese cinema with the third annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival (JFFPgh). The event strives to strengthen the general understanding of Japanese culture by providing audiences in Pittsburgh with cutting-edge, original films depicting authentic representations of Japan.
“The festival is growing so fast, we had to expand it to two weeks this year, making it one of the largest Japanese film festivals in the country,” festival director Brian Mendelssohn said in an official statement.
The festival opens on April 6 with the Pittsburgh premiere of Neko Atsume House. Based on the mobile game sensation Neko Atsume, it follows a struggling novelist who develops a special relationship with a cat that has an unusual way of easing his anxieties. VIP guests will get to cuddle kittens in the Bierport Tap Room before the film.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical – Le Mouvement Final (2018)
In this filmed version of the Japanese musical, Usagi Tsukino says farewell to Mamoru Chiba as he is set to leave for school in America. As Usagi says goodbye, she faints, and a super idol group called the Three Lights appear to catch her fall. Meanwhile, new groups calling themselves Sailor Guardians appear, but are they friend or foe?
The Day Of The Western Sunrise (2018)
A film expertly animated and produced by local Pittsburghers, The Day of the Western Sunrise tells a true story of a surprise atomic bomb test from the perspective of fishermen on the sea nearby – and in the path of danger.
Wandering samurai Sanjuro finds himself in a rough gambling town run by two warlords and their hired thugs. While Sanjuro sets out to rid the town of all these pestilences by playing the two warlords off against each other, his efforts are complicated by the arrival of the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver.
This sequel to Yojimbo draws wandering samurai Sanjuro into the local politics of a group of young men determined to clean up corruption in their town. However, the town’s evil Superintendent is determined to kill off anyone standing in his way, so it’s up to Sanjuro’s cunning and swordcraft to ensure that the Superintendent’s plan does not come to fruition.
Your Name (2016)
The fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the fifth highest-grossing non-English film worldwide tells the story of a high school girl in rural Japan and a high school boy in Tokyo who swap bodies. They build a connection by leaving notes for one another until they wish to finally meet, but something stronger than distance may keep them apart.
Director Sion Sono takes on the Japanese movie studio Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno (romantic pornography) works of the 1970s and 80s in this film-within-a-film. Fashion star Kioko is bored in her apartment, waiting for a meeting with Watanabe, a chief-editor who’s interviewing her. In the domination and humiliation game between her and her assistant, the roles will slowly invert. Unless it’s all fiction?
See the monster movie that spawned a multimedia franchise, including 32 feature films and that has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest-running film franchise in history. Created by the H-bomb, a 164-foot-tall dinosaur-like monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy Japan and the rest of the world. Can the monster be destroyed before it’s too late?
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
The third in a series of five films which depict a gang of vicious teenage schoolgirls who get their kicks from gang fights, street muggings, and rock and roll. This time Mako and her gang The Alleycats clash with racist macho pigs The Eagles after Mako starts dating an Afro-Japanese man. Row House will screen a new restoration of the film.
Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend (1989)
The precursor to the infamous genre of tentacle porn, this complicated horror/fantasy/erotica tells of parallel realms of demons and man-beasts and a 3000-year-old legend that foretells the coming of the Overfiend—a being of unimaginable power that will unite all three realms into a land of eternity.
* Please note that some films in the festival contain graphic sexual imagery or sexual violence and may not be suitable for everyone.
The Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival takes place from April 6-19 at Row House Cinema. Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 for matinees before 6 p.m. Opening night event tickets cost $15-30 and $10 for closing night. Discounts apply to college students, Lawrenceville residents, and guests who come in costume. You can also purchase a full festival pass for $36.
From April 7-13, Row House Cinema hosts the second annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival, the city’s only event dedicated solely to Japanese cinema. Presented in part by the Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society and the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, the festival features seven handpicked historically and culturally significant films from Japan, all representing different eras and genres.
See film descriptions and details below:
Opening Night Film – Samurai Cat (2015, Takeshi Watanabe/Yoshitaka Yamaguchi)
This action comedy follows a feared swordsman who gets caught between two warring gangs after he absconds with a warlord’s cat.
The Opening Night event includes a special screening of the Studio Ghibli short film Ghiblies: Episode 2. Tickets cost $15 and include admission to the screenings, Japanese snacks, special treats by bakery Yummyholic, and goodies from the Black Cat Market.
House (1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi)
Director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s bizarre fantasy horror film follows a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions.
Sailor Moon R: The Movie (1993, Kunihiko Ikuhara)
Long before Mamoru found his destiny with Usagi, he gave a single rose in thanks to a lonely boy who helped him recover from the crash that claimed his parents. This long-forgotten friend, Fiore, has been searching the galaxy for a flower worthy of that sweet gesture long ago. The mysterious flower he finds is beautiful, but has a dark side – it has the power to take over planets. To make matters worse, the strange plant is tied to an ominous new asteroid near Earth! Faced with an enemy blooming out of control, it’s up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians to band together, stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru.
Harakiri (1962, Masaki Kobayashi)
Following the collapse of his clan, an unemployed samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to be allowed to commit ritual suicide on the property. Iyi’s clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for a new position, try to force his hand and get him to eviscerate himself—but they have underestimated his beliefs and his personal brand of honor.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013, Sion Sono)
There’s a war going on, but that won’t stop Director Hirata and his inexperienced wannabe film crew from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And Hirata and his crew are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death.
Closing Night Film – Ghost in the Shell (1995, Mamoru Oshii)
Set in the year 2029, Oshii’s anime masterpiece follows a female government cyber agent and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of a “The Puppet Master,” a computer virus capable of invading cybernetic brains and altering its victim’s memory.
Check the Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival website for ticket prices and showtimes. The festival also includes performances by Pittsburgh Taiko, food and movie pairings with Blue Sparrow Food Truck, local vendor tables, and more.
From March 18th through March 24th, Row House Cinema will host its first annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival. Presented in part by the Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society and the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, the event will include four handpicked historically and culturally significant films from Japan, all representing different eras and genres. See film descriptions and details below:
Tokyo Tribe (2015)
In a futuristic Japan, territorial street gangs form opposing factions collectively known as the Tokyo Tribes. When one of the gang leaders breaks the fragile peace, it triggers a brutal street war for supremacy. Based on a popular Manga series and told almost entirely in rap verse, the latest film from director Sion Sono is an ingenious mash-up of Yakuza gang violence, martial arts action and hip-hop musical.
The PJFF Opening Night presentation and Pittsburgh Premiere of Tokyo Tribe will begin at 7 p.m. and includes admission to pre-screening ceremonies and entertainment, complimentary Japanese snacks, and special treats designed for the festival by the bakery Yummyholic. Available at the concession stand will be Ramune marble soda, and Atlas Bottleworks will be selling rare craft Japanese beers. Tickets are $15 and are available for purchase at the Row House website.
Late Spring (1949)
Director Yasujiro Ozu‘s classic Japanese drama focuses on a young woman who is being pressured by her family and loved ones to marry, but is content caring for her widowed father.
Only Yesterday (1991)
It’s 1982, and Taeko (Daisy Ridley) is 27 years old, unmarried, and has lived her whole life in Tokyo. She decides to visit her relatives in the countryside, and as the train travels through the night, memories flood back of her younger years: the first immature stirrings of romance, the onset of puberty, and the frustrations of math and boys. At the station she is met by young farmer Toshio (Dev Patel), and the encounters with him begin to reconnect her to forgotten longings. In lyrical switches between the present and the past, Taeko contemplates the arc of her life, and wonders if she has been true to the dreams of her childhood self.
From Oscar-nominated director Isao Takahata (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) and producer Hayao Miyazaki, Only Yesterday is a masterpiece of time and tone, rich with humor and stirring emotion, and beautifully animated by one of the world’s most revered animation studios. Critically acclaimed but never before released in North America, the film is receiving a national theatrical release in a new, Studio Ghibli-produced, English-language version in celebration of its 25th anniversary.
Based on the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear, the gorgeous final epic by influential director Akira Kurosawa features powerful landscapes and some of the best costume work in the history of film.
All showtimes and ticket prices are available on the Row House website. Late Spring and Ran will both be shown in new 4k restorations. The festival will also include special audience Q&As and other additional events.