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Japanese Film Festival highlights nations culture and heritage

Its A Beautiful LifeW

In "It's a Beautiful Life" a young man convinces senior citizen women to sell wild greenery for food garnishes to restaurants and box lunch makers. In spite of a non-supportive husbands and disbelieving local farmers, the business takes off beyond their wildest dreams. Showgate/Courtesy photo

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From page A7 | July 10, 2014 |

Spirits, samurai, shoguns: Enter a separate and transformative world for the Sacramento Japanese Film Festival and experience the shifting Japanese culture from the 17th century to present day.

The festival is at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K St. in Sacramento, and will feature seven Japanese films screening from Friday, July 18, to Sunday, July 20. Single tickets are $10, while all-festival passes are $35.

This is the 10th anniversary of the film festival, which remains one of the only four film festivals in the United States to dedicate itself singularly to Japanese cinema.

The festival opens with the critically acclaimed “Rebirth,” playing at 7:30 p.m. July 18. Winner of 11 Japanese Academy Awards, the drama follows the journey of an abducted baby named Erina. Taken by her father’s lover, Kiwako, she is raised apart from her parents for four years until Kiwako is arrested.

After returning to her original home, Erina remains unsettled and unable to find peace. As the movie progresses, Erina finds herself entangled in extramarital affairs and shocking plot twists.

Exploring Japanese-American culture in full brutal honesty, “Sake Bomb” portrays a modern aspect of Japanese immigrant life. Shown at 11:55 a.m. on July 19, the film illustrates the awkward — yet intense — bond between ambitious young Sebastian and his clueless unassimilated cousin Naoti. This Japanese-American duo blunder their way through California, depicted on screen by director Junya Sakino.

Traveling back in time to the World War II era, director Vincent Amorin transports viewers to the political entrapments of Japanese and Brazilian history. “Dirty Hearts” will be played at 1:40 p.m. on July 19, bringing to life the dark side of politics in this historical drama.

To give festivalgoers a diverse peek at Japanese culture, committee members chose the celebrated anime “Colorful,” describing a dead soul that enters the body of a teenage boy. Playing at 3:40 p.m. on July 19, the movie develops with suspense, all the while conveying messages and themes of love and friendship.

Set in 1630, “Harakiri” contrasts the hypocritical side of the Japanese feudal system with samurai traditions of honor and duty. Winner of the 1963 Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Award, the film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on July 19. Director Masaki Kobayashi explores the hidden boundaries and constrictions of 17th century shoguns and rogues.

On July 20, kicking off the last day is “Irodori — It’s a Beautiful Life” at 1:30 p.m. Directed by Osamu Minorikawa, this artistic and fresh look into rural Japan follows the makings of a small-town business. Ambitious Eda hopes to sell vegetable leaves in exchange for food, and although at first discouraged by friends and family, soon becomes successful with the help of several town members who work together in unity.

The final film —a mere 54 minutes long —documents the life and works of a young musician. Shown at 3:45 p.m. on July 20, “Jake Shimabukuro — Life on Four Strings” reveals the thoughts, dreams and products of Shimabukuro, all caught on film by documentarian Tad Nakamura.

Subtle yet dramatic, this documentary effectively wraps up the event, bringing the festival across its final stretch for a full 360-degree look into Japanese culture and heritage.

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