by Chris MaGee
This week has seen a barrage of horrifying stories from an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan, and now the threat of a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has compounded the grief and fear. Because of this this week hasn't yielded much in the way of film news, and for obvious reasons. Eventually film will help the Japanese to either forget or work through this trauma they are enduring, but as of this moment it's hard to think of make believe while reality is so monstrous. Therefore the majority of film news from Japan so far this week has been regarding celebrities and film-makers who have been reacting to this historic crisis.
A big event, Shinjuku Outlaw: 13 Films By Takashi Miike, that had been planned for this weekend at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, will be going on as planned... just without the guest of honour Takashi Miike. The visit by the director of "13 Assassins" and "Ichi the Killer" has been cancelled as Miike felt he couldn't leave family and friends in Japan at such an uncertain time. Very understandable decision, but New Yorkers can still catch a great line up of programme of Miike films. If you're in the New York City area click here for details.
Not all Japanese film and culture events have been cancelled in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami and now nuclear crisis though. At home in Tokyo the annual Tokyo Anima animation festival has announced that they will go ahead with their programme running at the Roppongi Hills Art Center from March 26th to 27th despite fears of continued aftershocks and radioactive fallout being released from Fukushima Dai-ichi. Check out their amazing website here.
A little further afield the organizers of the Frankfurt-based Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival have, after much deliberation, decided to go ahead with the 11th offering of the fest next month. A statement posted on their official website last night states that "Now more than ever, it is important to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship by a deeper understanding, by bringing the Japanese culture closer to the public mind in all its richness.". We can't agree more. With Nippon Connection normally chock full of special guests from across Japan it will be interesting to see who and how many will make it to Germany between April 27th and May 1st. Here's hoping at least a few.
Lastly, and most importantly, this weekend has seen a number of celebrities set up relief funds of their own to help their fellow countrymen and women. Tokyograph is reporting that actor and singer Gackt (above) has established his own relief fund, Show Your Heart, in tandem with gaming company Hangame. Gackt has been joined by the members of girl super group AKB48 who have set up a bank account where donations can be made for the Japanese Red Cross.
One voice has not jumped to the assistance of their fellow Japanese, but has instead inflamed controversy. Tokyo Governer Shintaro Ishihara was quoted as saying "The identity of the Japanese people is selfishness. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami as means of washing away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment. ". Ishihara, who rose to fame in his 20's as the author of the 1955 novel "Season of the Sun" and who subsequently has been an outspoken right wing politician, has since apologized for this remark, but for many this comes too late. Yutaka Yamamoto, the director behind the popular "Haruhi Suzumiya" anime series, blasted Ishihara in a statement, "To apply 'divine punishment' indiscriminately to innocent people is absolutely ridiculous. Ishihara, you who can't speak Japanese properly, have no right to place that identity on others." Amen.