Daily Report Day 3 October 15
The Kyoto International Film and Art Festival saw the Japan premiere of Kenji Kanetaka’s Warner’s List, a wonderful historical documentary that focuses on men who made great efforts to protect Japanese cultural properties before and during WWII. Including interviews with academic figures, reenactments, and historical footage, the film delves deep into Japan’s history from the turn of the century to the post-WWII era. Despite it’s educational nature the work is highly entertaining.
The received historical understanding has been that Langdon Warner (1881-1955), and American archeologist and art historian, played a great role in saving Japanese cultural artifacts, especially Kyoto and the surrounding areas, by advising the American government not to bomb them. The titular list is one of culturally important places that Warner created for the US government and it no doubt played a role in sparing those locales during the war. But the film investigates deeper to reveal that many had a voice in influencing the government and Warner’s role may have been overstated at times. Warner himself suggested that he was part of a team that spearheaded the efforts to save the treasures, though some scholars attribute the statement to the man’s modesty. The film shines a light on a crucial corner of Japanese history.
But the Festival is not all movies, with weekend visitors descending on the city Saturday, the public art exhibitions that form a vital part of the Kyoto International Film and Arts Festival drew significant attention.
A car theme runs throughout the exhibitions this year, no better presented than at Kyoto City Hall Square, where a huge exhibit by Hideo Nagai titled “B-Project ‘Heso de Nageru’” depicts an actual life-size car being back-dropped in a suplex by a giant model wrestler. The creation is the brainchild of Hideo Nagai, and “represents with humor the mental strength of people as they try to be strong amidst the various challenges that they face throughout life.”
Through all four days of the festival this year “Kintoki” cars (shiny vehicles with neon lights) are touring the city. Selling baked sweet potatoes, the cars are the idea of Art Unit Yotta, previous winners of the Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art.
The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts held three events on Saturday. Live painters Boss Hiko and Sayoko Hirano teamed up with musicians and dancers for an event titled “Dawn.” Hosei Tsukitei presented the art of rakugo in traditional costume. And several workshops teaching the skills of local artisans were held throughout the day.
At Nishi Hongan-ji temple, the monk training facility which is usually closed to the public, has been opened to hold seven exhibitions. Shinsuke Kawahara’s “Planet of Rabbits” is a series he created using cardboard boxes, folding screens, balloons and animated movies. French artist Jean-Luc Vilmouth’s “Dark Science” installation will be on show at the venue too. Set to Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday,” the installation features 20 light bulbs synchronized to increase in brightness as Holiday sings.
KIFF also screened Yuji Nakae’s classic film Nabbie’s Love. A longtime Japanese favorite, the work was originally released in 1999 and it picked up a slew of prizes. These include the prestigious NETPAC Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Best Director for Nakae at the Japan Professional Move Awards, and a special award for producer Shiro Sasaki at the Hochi Film Festival, not to mention a slew of acting awards.
The haunting soundtrack was much praised as well. It also received awards and much international attention as both Kenichiro Isoda and renowned Hollywood composer Michael Nyman, working separately, scored it.
The film set among the tropical islands of Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. It starts with Nanako (Naomi Nishida) quitting her job in Tokyo and moving back to the southern shores to be with her family. Soon she inadvertently discovers that buried in the simplicity of these peaceful islands her grandmother Nabbie (Tomi Taira) had a forbidden love affair with Sanra (Susumu Taira) 60 years earlier. Their love still washes over Nabbie like waves on the shore.
The Kyoto audiences were moved once again by this evergreen love story, one of the modern favorites from the extensive canon of Japanese films.