Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival 2011

2011.2.24 (Thursday) - 2011.2.27 (Sunday)

The Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival (YIFF) celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and rather than resting on its laurels has decided to make its third decade count. It aims to broaden its appeal without losing what has made it such a distinct festival. The line-up this year has something for all tastes, ranging from the mainstream to film geek fodder. A wide selection of Japanese films, some of the festival big-hitters from around the world, a handful of intriguing Korean films, and some short films in the mix, too, have this looking like a vintage year. Film in Japan will be there every step of the way, with tweets, photos, reviews, and interviews.

The films break down into four sections -

  • Invited films: featuring the pick of the crop from this years international festival circuit.
  • The Off Theatre Competition: 9 films whittled down from over 347 entrants, personally selected by Yubari, will vie for the 2 million yen prize (about 24,000$).
  • The Forecast: A selection of 18 exciting and innovative films from film-makers to look out for in the future.
  • Yubari Choice: An array of Japanese and international films that offer locals a chance to catch films that would never be screened outside of Tokyo otherwise.
There are also events and discussions with film-makers throughout the festival.

Yubari has adopted a new philosophy to take it forwards, Yubarism. YIFF has always had a certain uniqueness being situated in a snowy, isolated mountain town on a ski resort in Japan's northern-most island, Hokkaido. The town is all about film, movie posters of yesteryear adorn the streets of the city and the festival is a massive part of the communities' identity. The central idea is to have a festival with fewer barriers between film-makers and film lovers, working at its own pace. Unlike the VIP treatment of most film events Yubari aims to make everything accessible, even the opening and closing parties are open to the public. Throughout the festival social events are held, like outdoor stone oven parties, fostering a far more intimate festival experience.Hence the term Yubarism, a mixture of the towns name, Yubari and rhythm.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the festival in recent years. In 2007 the event was cancelled for the first time since it began. The financial woes of the town brought proceedings to a halt. The festival, along with all other local government projects, was cut. Thankfully, the citizens of the town rescued it from the brink and now, it is run as a private enterprise with the help of commercial sponsorship. YIFF has had to adapt to circumstance and there has been a noticeable scaling down.The international prize, which saw film-makers of the caliber of the Coen brothers and Tarantino in Yubari, has had to make way. Tarantino, out here for Reservoir Dogs, managed to get Pulp Fiction written while locked away in his room at the events HQ, Hotel Shuparo. In 2004 he even gave the town its own trivia point, naming Kill Bill's psycho school-girl Gogo Yubari after the town.

The result is that Yubari works presently, as an opportunity for homegrown talent to get some much deserved recognition and credit.Yubari more than ever has found its place as a vantage point for new talent to make their mark on the Japanese industry. Among recent winners was Tsuki Inoue, who Film in Japan interviewed in Fukuoka last year, using the prize money to make her most recent work, Autumn Adagio.

Here are Film in Japan's picks of this years offerings:

I Saw The Devil

Korean revenge thriller from Ji-Woon Kim, of Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird fame. Tautly paced, shockingly violent, and terrifically acted by two powerhouses of Korean cinema, Min-Sik Choi, and Byung-Hun Lee.


What with all the revenge films and extreme violence in contemporary Korean cinema, you would be excused for thinking there was anything else. Three women dissect the relationship of Youn, a life model, and her ex-lover Kang, a pick- pocket.

Pink Subaru

To buy a car is the ultimate goal of sushi chef Elzobar, who works in Tel Aviv. Having realized his dream, in the form of a black Subaru, it is promptly stolen. His friends, family, and community begin the hunt for the stolen car.

Hell Driver

A splatter zombie film, with Romero-esque social commentary from Japanese gore maestro Nishimura, best known for Tokyo Gore Police. Filmed in Hokkaido, this is Yubari's local produce.

Polar Circle Presents: Unknown Creatures

An omnibus of Japanese short films that attempts to explore the boundaries of cinema, looking at humanity through unknown creatures. It could be very interesting.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Post-modernism is ramped up to the max in this adaptation of an indie graphic novel with a video-game structure. Michael Cera stars as Scott Pilgrim, 21st century super-hero.

Of Gods and Men

Winner of the Palme D'Or at last years Cannes festival, the story of the kidnapping of monks in Algeria in 1996 has attracted plaudits all over the world.

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