EIFF Announces Retrospective of "Neglected" Japanese Director

Submitted by edg on Wed, 11 Apr '12 6.48pm

This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival (20 June to 1 July) will screen a Retrospective of Japanese director Shinji Somai.

The films of Somai (1948-2001) are little known outside of Japan and many of the films showing in the retrospective will be having their first UK screening. Several will be having European premieres at the EIFF.

Shinji Somai is one of the most personal and original Japanese filmmakers, and a master whose work has been almost completely neglected outside Japan," said Chris Fujiwara, who was previously a university lecturer and journalist in Tokyo.

Fujiwara added: "Just over ten years after his passing, I believe the time is right for Somai. Audiences and critics will be amazed by what they discover in this body of work, which I’m delighted to bring to the UK.”

The Somai retrospective, which is being held in collaboration with TOKYO FILMeX, is the first major programming strand announced for the EIFF. The festival also recently announced the EIFF's closing film will be Scotland-set, Pixar animation Brave.

The films of Shinji Somai span the 1980s and 1990s, a period in Japanese film history that remains little explored by Western film scholars and largely inaccessible to Western audiences.

However, the Somai retrospective aims to give Edinburgh audiences a better understanding of this period, and the transition from the golden age of Japanese studio filmmaking to the recent explosion of personal, independent filmmaking in Japan.

In November, TOKYO FILMeX held a full retrospective of Shinji Somai’s films at the 10th anniversary of his passing.

Kanako Hayashi, director of TOKYO FILMeX said Somai "was one of the most important filmmakers in Japan at the end of the 20th century, and his films should be introduced all over the world at present, just as if he were continuing to make films today."

Among the films to screen at EIFF will be possibly Somai's best-known film outside of Japan, coming-of-age drama Typhoon Club or Taifu Club (1985), where a group of teens are thrust together at school during a typhoon. The New York Times likened the film to a "more solemn version of John Hughes's Breakfast Club" which had its world premiere in the same year.

Taifu Club / Typhoon Club video clip.

Other titles in the retrospective include:

  • Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)
  • P.P. Rider (1983)
  • The Catch (1983)
  • Moving (1993)
  • The Friends (1994)
  • Wait and See (1998).

Further Retrospective titles will be announced at a later date.