Japanese Film Festival

On April 10, a couple of Japanese women and an American man stood waiting for the open hour in front Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex on 2nd street in Santa Monica. They came to see the Japanese film showing at 1 p.m. It was the opening day of the Japan Film Festival Los Angeles (JFFLA) 2009.

Japanese films played at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica from April 10-16, at Downtown Independent in Downtown L.A. from April 17-19, and will show at Starplex Cinema in Irvine from April 25-27. JFFLA provides films in various genres: drama, anime, action, fantasy, documentary and horror.

The first showing film of the event was a documentary called "Yokohama Mary" of a woman who lives as a prostitute for over 50 years in post-war Japan. Perhaps it was because of the time of day that there were few visitors. However, most of those visitors showed deep interest in Japanese film and culture.

Jeffrey Crum, who teaches some film classes in University Southern California and community colleges including Santa Monica College, studied Japanese film directors in undergraduate and enjoyed many Japanese films in his personal life.

"Japanese creative [work] contributes to Hollywood film," he said. He also visited JFFLA 2008 and evaluated the event as following: "I think it is excellent way to share Japanese culture in art community." He gained a new understanding of Japanese culture through a style of the Japanese prostitute in "Yokohama Mary", which is different from American culture.

On Friday and Saturday night, the theater was crowded with people who came to see Japanese movies such as anime movies "The Sky Crawlers" and "Evangelion", and an action movie "Ichii".

The JFFLA originally started in 2003 as the Chanoma Film Festival. Chanoma means "a family gathering place in the living room" in Japanese. The event provided films based on the theme of "chanoma". Those films represent the everyday life of a Japanese family. The festival has gradually developed to include a wider variety of genres for five years. Because of these changes, the name of the festival was changed in 2008 to Japan Film Festival Los Angeles.

JFFLA staff director Aki Mizuno said, "[the] main objectives of JFFLA are to convey Japanese culture to the U.S. and to eradicate the image that Japanese movie is equated with anime and horror by showcasing Japanese films of various genres."

Mizuno is a student majoring in film at UCLA extension and has been involved in JFFLA since last year. "Japanese visitors were more than American last year but the percentage of American is increasing this year," she said.

Many visitors buy an advanced voucher ticket, which is valid for three screenings and watching three films by themselves. She looked happy to have many repeaters in this event. Another welcome change had happened: the number of Americans in the volunteer staffs increased. According to Mizuno, in some cases, people who visited JFFLA 2008 joined as a staff this year.

The members of JFFLA also consist of film major students from USC, University California Los Angeles, SMC, Los Angeles Community College and more. JFFLA presents 21 young filmmakers included in their Submission Feature, Submission Short, Award-Winning Short and School Submission programs. In this point, it is significant that JFFLA takes place in L.A. JFFLA could provide new talent access to Hollywood as a capital of film industry. Mizuno said: "I hope JFFLA, the young creators and the staffs grow up together."