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The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) announced the full lineup of films to be featured in the Japan Now Director in Focus: Shunji Iwai section. After his recent explorations into filmmaking in Hollywood and feature-length animation, Iwai returned this year with the much-talked-about A Bride for Rip Van Winkle. As he continues to move forward into the third decade of his career, this is a perfect time to look back at Iwai’s prolific body of work, and much-deserved international reputation.

In addition to English-subtitled screenings, the section will also feature talk sessions with the director and special guests.

Japan Now Director in Focus: Shunji Iwai Line-up:

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016/ Japan) Director/Screenplay/Original Story: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Haru Kuroki, Go Ayano, Cocco, Hideko Hara, Go Jibiki, Lily
Japanese Gone with the Wind, this Shunji Iwai’s long awaited return to live action filmmaking in Japan. It stars Silver Bear Award winner, Haru Kuroki.

Love Letter (1995/ Japan)
Director/Screenplay: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Miho Nakayama, Etsushi Toyokawa, Miki Sakai, Takashi Kashiwabara, Bunjaku Han
Two years after her fiancé’s death, Hiroko Watanabe tries to relieve her grief by mailing him a letter. It is delivered to a young woman in his hometown who has her fiancé’s name, Itsuki Fujii.

Swallowtail Butterfly (1996/ Japan)
Director: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Hiroshi Mikami, Chara, Ayumi Ito, Yosuke Eguchi, Andy Hui, Atsuro Watabe, Tomoko Yamaguchi
This is a story about foreign “Yen Thieves” who believe the Japanese yen will help their dreams come true. So they come to the “Yen Town” to fulfill their dreams.

Vampire (2011/ USA=Canada)
Screenplay/ Director/ Director of photography/ Music/ Editor/ Producer: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Yu Aoi, Adelaide Clemens
Simon, a teacher, lives with his sick mother but spends time looking at sites for suicidal women in search of blood. A genuine love gradually develops in a bizarre romantic story.

Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? (1993/ Japan) Director/Original Novel/Screenplay: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Yuta Yamasaki, Megumi Okina, Takayuki Handa, Randy Havens,
Kenji Kohashi, Kenji Sakuragi, Kuniko Asagi
Primary school pupils, Norimichi, Yusuke and Junichi wonder if fireworks look round or flat from the side, and they plan to go to a light house on fireworks night to find out.

Shunji Iwai

Shunji Iwai’s directing career began in 1988 with commercials, music videos and TV dramas, soon earning him acclaim for his cinematic style and vision, which came to be known as the “Iwai Aesthetic.” In 1995, he scored a huge hit across Asia with Love Letter and in 1996, PiCNiC won him a second consecutive award in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival, bringing him to even greater international attention. Swallowtail Butterfly (96) blazed a new trail in movie and music collaboration, and All About Lily Chou-Chou (01) won awards at Berlin and Shanghai. Other major works include Hana and Alice (04), a segment in the omnibus film New York, I Love You (09) and his first English-language film, Vampire (12), which played in competition at Sundance and in the Berlin Panorama section. Iwai’s first feature-length animated film, The Case of Hana & Alice, was invited to the 2015 Annecy Animation Festival. His latest film, A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (16), was released in Hong Kong and Taiwan prior to domestic release in Japan.

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