Eiga Sai Ph 2017: 20 Years of Japanese Cinema.

 

Despite failing to get a ticket last Saturday for the last Shang Cineplex screening of opening film, “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” I still have a chance to see it sans the director’s talk and not on the big screen but probably via projector since it will be playing on August 19 at the UP Film Institute for free.

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Atsuko Maeda is one lucky girl — she got to work with both of the Matsuda brothers — Ryuhei and Shota but she co-starred with Shota first in “Initiation Love” (2015). 
Even Akira Emoto, who plays Ryuhei’s dad in this film has co-starred with both brothers, first with Shota in “Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit” (2008). I love Ryuchan’s mom here, Masako Motai. She is simply adorable, she’s a darling. There’s something with her smile and her face that gives me the warm feeling inside. 
Yudai Chiba, as Koji, the younger brother is cute and funny but his hair is terrible. I know him from “Ao Haru Ride” as Toma Kikuchi.

On the other hand, I was successful this past Wednesday at catching my other priority film — “The Mohican Comes Home,” a dramedy about an ailing father and his long-absentee struggling punk musician son and their unusual family. Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Yudai Chiba, Akira Emoto, and Masako Motai.

One of the greatest pleasures of my fangirl life is being able to watch a high-bias actor on the big screen. That extreme euphoria of seeing Ryuhei again on the big screen, like he’s larger than life and that I have a maximum of 2 hours to ogle at him. I first saw him on the big screen at the 2015 Eiga Sai in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto.”

The Mohican Comes Home easily becomes one of my favorite Japanese movies now, and of course one of my favorite Ryuhei movies.There’s so much about this film that I can relate to, except the idea of being a punk rocker and the pregnant girlfriend.

Some of the subtle real-life moments of the film that I find really touching and relatable:

  • When Eikichi (Ryuhei Matsuda) takes over the conducting duties from his Dad Osamu (Akira Emoto) for the practice of the local school’s brass band of middle school students, in which Eikichi changes the tune that they usually play by taking the cue from the student drummer — he finds himself enjoying with the school band and ends up laughing altogether resulting to his Dad’s annoyance as he hears them over the phone;
  • When Eikichi asks his Dad to write his last wishes so that he can see if he can do something about them;
  • When Eikichi dresses up as Eikichi Yazawa, his Dad’s idol and Hiroshima’s Elvis because his Dad wrote he wants Yazawa to visit him;
  • When Eikichi simply walks behind his Dad not knowing where his Dad is going until they reach the graveyard;
  • When Eikichi tries his best to find that same pizza his Dad ate on his 60th birthday by ordering all kinds of pizza from (3) pizza chains and asking them to have it delivered to their place in Tobi Island, Hiroshima;
  • And the beach scene — that quiet conversation between Eikichi and his Dad and when he finds himself crying while trying to stop it in the middle of eating ‘onigiri.’

And this is why Eiga Sai is such a blessing because Japanese films are harder to find and if I do find them, there are no available English subs online. Even DVDs with subs are hard to come by.

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Since I’m still sad about missing last year’s Eiga Sai and my favorite “The Great Passage” (due to an overseas personal trip), I hope next year, I’d get to see another Ryuhei film, perhaps “My Uncle” which also premiered in Japan last November and crossing my fingers, “Before We Vanish” that had its international premiere at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and will premiere in Japan this September 9th.

It would also be nice if they’d (The Japan Foundation, Manila) get to include more old films and maybe stage a Studio Ghibli film festival because other countries are bringing back Ghibli films to the big screen like a film festival or at least include some Ghibli films next year.

Among the films, I’ve seen “Departures” before already and saw “In This Corner of the World” at a regular screening last week. I’m still looking to watch Sweet Bean on Sunday, closing day of Eiga Sai at Shang Cineplex and If Cats Disappeared From The World on August 17 – UP Film Institute.

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This year, there are 20 films to celebrate the 20 years of Japanese cinema in the Philippines, and will also make the rounds this August until the 29th at the UP Film Institute, CCP, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

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The line-up this year includes (3) 20th anniversary features:

*Departures / Memories of You / Sting of Death

Besides Her Love Boils Bathwater and The Mohican Comes Home, other award-winning and critically-acclaimed contemporary films include:

*In This Corner of the World (In connection Manga Hokusai Manga Exhibit)

*Sweet Bean

*The Long Excuse

*The Magnificent Nine

*Creepy

*Chihayafuru Part I/II

*What A Wonderful Family

*If Cats Disappeared From The World

*Bakuman

*The Anthem of the Heart

*Tsukiji Wonderland

*Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections

*Poolsideman

*Sadako vs Kayako

For screening schedules, check Eiga Sai Ph official Facebook. 

‘Sleepless’ at the QCIFF

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Again, it’s another last minute post. I’ve been meaning to write about this since I saw the film last month at the 3rd QC International Film Festival but I haven’t gotten around to write on it. This is my 6th film festival of the year. The last is Cinema One Originals also last month where I saw Hou Hsiao-Shien’s “The Assassin” and an animated short film “Memorya” by Jovanni Tinapay.

2015 is definitely the year of the movies and I’m happy to know I was able to see that much this year, some were even free. It seems like I actually spent a lot on seeing movies this year more than anything else, even books, though I had some book purchases as well.

Like as mentioned in my previous posts, it has become a habit for me to attend and watch film festivals whether or not I’m going to write it for Pinoy Gazette, and I especially like to try the ones I haven’t attended before. This time, there’s Cine Europa which I had one movie and another one from the French Film Fest.

Another first for me this time is the 3rd QC International Film Festival. I actually really wanted to attend last year’s season but it coincided with Cinema One Originals. Luckily this time, they weren’t happening on the same dates.

I decided to watch one this romantic-comedy titled “Sleepless” starring Dominic Rocco and Glaiza De Castro from the direction of Prime Cruz and screenplay by Jen Chuansu, both former freelance writers from Star Cinema.

I was initially attracted to it when I read it’s about two insomniac and how these two different but similar people have come to form a connection during the hours while most people are asleep; talking about random matters from zombie apocalypse, to Facebook posts, superpowers, love, and all those in between.

And while I wasn’t particularly impressed with the chemistry, I can say that I’m very fond of the two characters’ simple interactions. Their conversations and at how they can almost talk about anything is one thing I really appreciate and that’s the core of real friendship.

I felt that there’s some sort of romantic spark going on but the film didn’t need to venture to that just so it can validate the value, realism and meaning of the film. I find that one thing particularly interesting.

Another highlight of the film is how beautifully it captured Manila by night and how the night becomes the witness to Gem (De Castro) and Barry’s (Rocco) nocturnal loneliness and the eventual development of their unique bonding and friendship. It’s part of the story, as if it’s breathing among them.

The way the film depicted Manila by night is something that affects anyone like them or even anyone who isn’t insomniac – the complete silence that it can almost break something and the things nocturnal people do at night.

To me, it’s like the night has become their home and their only solace from the life that they have to face during the day. I can relate to this a lot because I myself is someone who likes to be awake during the wee hours of the night. It simply has that unique calm and quiet feeling that the day doesn’t give.

I’d still give it 3/5 stars although it didn’t necessarily topped “That Thing Called Tadhana” by Antoinette Jadaone which I so love. But then again, the film has its own faults (cliche relationship of Gem to a married man or the awkward incorporation of animation) but it has its own distinct shining moments that any rom-com film doesn’t have.

‘A Second Chance’ : Love’s Lost Identities

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I wasn’t intending to read a review about A Second Chance this morning (Nov.29) but I read it anyway, though I’m not particularly influenced by reviews, from ClickTheCity by Philbert Dy. One important thing he mentioned was about the ending. And when Anna and I saw the movie today, I finally understood what he meant.

Like the review, I’d give it 4*/5 because I was a little disappointed with the ending. I feel like the writers rushed it too much, that they had to force them to make amends with each other. If it were told the other way, it would have been a lot better.

If I were the writer, which I’m not, but I wanted Popoy to leave for London so he could reclaim himself, the talented engineer and the self-respect he lost from all the circumstances, and because it is also what Basha needs.

I wanted to see Popoy doing well in London and Basha happy managing the firm, that despite being away, they remain to be married and are gradually patching things up the long-distance way. They just need some time and distance apart to regain the identities they’ve lost and to come back to who they really were as individuals.

I can honestly say that I like this one better than the first because this time it isn’t only about petty quarrels, wanting for space, being controlled, breaking-up, getting back together. They’re dealing with matters of more weight this time, of matters they promised at the altar to face together.

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I honestly think Popoy and Basha rushed into things. For me, they didn’t really have to get married right away after getting back together. They could have continued on with their own separate careers as an engineer and an architect.

In the last scene from One More Chance, he did say he won’t be going away anymore but really that could change. It’s an honest to goodness opportunity that will benefit the two of them in the long run. He should have taken the London offer. And there’s also the idea of putting up their own firm, it was too soon. I felt like they didn’t think about it properly, like they just felt the need to put up their own because now they are married. Because let’s face it, when you work with your wife or husband, you’re definitely bound to get into big arguments combining that of personal matters. It’s a one big mess. At the end of all this, it was all because they love each other.

I also felt bad for Popoy. I get that part of the fault is his because he allowed matters escalate to its worst. But if there’s anyone who’s most disappointed, it’s him. He wanted to rush things, in two years, he would have already built the dream home that he promised to Basha, so he ended up taking too many projects. It was beyond him, and it wasn’t all his fault as well. He lied to her because he didn’t want to hurt her, but of course she’ll eventually find out and that will hurt her more.

Basha decided to stay with him and took matters in her hands, but everytime, she shoves it in his face without saying anything that she’s right, that she’s the one taking charge of everything now, that he should have listened to her all along. It’s like everyday, she’s making less of Popoy, of what’s little that’s remained of Popoy’s respect for himself from the events that happened.

But I’m also not dismissing the challenges Basha had to face, like the loss of their supposed first baby, how they’re trying to get pregnant again but it just won’t work, and how she keeps wondering why Popoy’s always in a hostile mood but she keeps trying to reach out to him.

I also find the calamity proof structure interesting. If one really thinks about it, Popoy has a good point of trying to get the idea out, pitching it to clients, and that one day someone is going to understand and believe in the idea. Because if he never tried to put it out, then it’ll feel like he’s already lost when he hasn’t started anything about it. Although I have to admit that the idea may be a little too advanced for some, or that Popoy is thinking too much beyond since it all depends on what they need or want.

They both had difficulties of their own despite being married, and because they’re shielding each other from the possible pain and anger, that very love that they’re holding onto is also what’s driving them apart. And as they grow more into strangers, they’re slowly losing how to trust each other and losing the identities of the people they originally married.

 

Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.

Film Festival Circuit 1: WPFF and 20th French Film Festival

I’ve been going around to many film festivals this past months of June and July – the 20th French Film Festival, the 2nd edition of World Premieres Film Festival and Eiga Sai 2015. It was my first time with WPFF and French Film Festival and my third year attending Eiga Sai. Eiga Sai has been a tradition to me, but the other two were a chance to see some other films.

A humorous story of a not so ordinary family 

I went to see La Famille Belier, the opening film at this year’s French Film Festival. With every film festival, I always go through each and every film to make a shortlist of the films I’d like to see. If the trailer is interesting for me, then that’s more than enough reason for me to see the film. I had two shortlisted films but had to just watch one because unlike Eiga Sai, it doesn’t come free.

La Famille Belier is a heart-warming and humorous story of a family whose parents and son are deaf and must cope with their non-deaf daughter Paula decision to leave for the big city. Paula is the family’s reliable interpreter and helps in running the family’s farm. Despite most of her family members being deaf, Paula and her family live normally just as everyone.

At a music class, her teacher discovers her singing talent and encourages her to join a prestigious competition. At first, Paula wasn’t so interested with the idea of singing but she eventually decided to take up after school lessons with her teacher and started enjoying it. She still continues with her normal day-to-day duties in the farm but hasn’t discussed with her family that she has been taking up singing lessons.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the plot and how her family members interact with each other and do things just like everyone does without the usual conversations, but instead, of actions and sign language.

I appreciate the patience and sincerity of Paula’s character that despite being different from the rest of her family, she doesn’t make them feel like she’s normal and they’re not. Instead, it’s her blending well with her parents and younger brother and tries to understand them in every way she can.

It’s a nice story of a family that’s just like everyone but not so ordinary. A heartwarming path to adulthood story of a teenage girl as she discovers in herself a talent that could be her lifelong dream and passion. It’s about pushing for your dreams even though it might not turn out for the best. And of parents overcoming their fears and apprehension and deciding to support their daughter in spite of so many uncertainties of what could happen to them after their interpreter daughter leaves the family temporarily and of her possible life in the big city.

A 30-something pressured to get married

In this year’s 2nd edition of WPFF, I’ve decided to watch an Indonesian film titled “Kapan Kawin?” (When Will You Get Married) under the ASEAN Skies category. The ASEAN Skies category covers films from 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

What attracted me to the film was that its lighthearted comedy approach to a serious issue, which is about women and getting married before they turn 30. It tells the story of Dinda, played by Adinia Wirasti, a successful 33-year-old hotel manager in the bustling city of Jakarta. But she’s a cut above the rest because she’s still single.

Her parents have been consistently badgering her to get married every year on her birthday, and it gets more troubling for her everytime she gets compared to her older sister who’s seemingly happy in her married life with a businessman and son William. This time, Dinda makes a serious decision and hires Satrio, a street actor to pretend as her boyfriend during the upcoming anniversary of her parents.

While it may not be a very original story, especially with the hiring someone to pretend to be this and that but in other sense, it’s still a different film.

According to producer/writer Robert Ronny who was gave a brief Q&A after the screening, it is a cultural phenomenon for women in Indonesia to be married before they reach 30. Although this social pressure is not heavily felt in the “megapole” Jakarta, but more in other places in Indonesia like Yogyakarta, which is also one of the reasons they decided to shoot the film there. It is considered as an important accomplishment in life for women and for some, being unmarried beyond 25 may even be considered a sin.

Ronny added that he believes in this kind of genre, the film is able to deliver the message of understanding this social pressure in an efficient combination of well-balanced lighthearted at serious elements not only in Indonesia, as well as in other cultures. It also gives light to the topic of following the parents’ wishes even though it may not necessarily be for the best of their children, as well as the parents being more open in accepting their own mistakes and the decisions of their children.

The story’s conclusion might be a little predictable but I highly appreciate the way the story panned out. It wasn’t made in a way that’s too serious or too comedic that it ends up being sloppy. Plus, the story of Dinda is someone anyone can easily relate to, whether you’re 30, 30-something or 20-something, where it also showed the effects of modern society to decisions being made by women of today in their search for happiness in family and marriage.

In any case, most women would have had that experience of being annoyingly asked when they’ll get married or when they’ll have a boyfriend though it may not exactly be culturally-rooted like Dinda’s situation.

The chemistry between the two leads Adinia Wirasti and Reza Rahadian is also one of the driving factors of the film. Most of the humorous scenes were from Rahadian in his interactions with Wirasti and succeeds in bringing out natural laughs from the audience. And not to forget, the film’s cinematography is another I highly appreciate. Since the location is a place I don’t really know much about, the film has wonderfully introduced the place to me in a way I wasn’t expecting. And yes, I really like the ending credits song but until now I still don’t know the title.

So that’s about it for my first time at the French Film Fest and World Premieres Film Festival.

Dia Internacional del Libro: Commemorates Don Quijote’s 400th year publication

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I haven’t had any special reason to visit Instituto Cervantes before, until I found out about the 10th edition of Dia Internacional del Libro (International Book Day). I specially got interested to attend because of the special activities laid out for attendees, in accordance to the commemoration of the 400th year of publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ second volume of “Don Quijote de La Mancha” (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha).

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Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s cultural center in the country has made the 10th edition of Dia Internacional more exciting this time and totally a different kind of book fair with La Noche de los Libros (The Night of Books), which was a whole evening of free entertainment that includes Spanish food games, jazz concert, poetry recitals, free Spanish classes, book market, and photo contest.

The Tradition of Books and Roses

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Internacional del Libro also happened to be on the 23rd of April, which is famous as St. George’s Day in Spain. During this day, people go to festive markets at the town center, particularly in Barcelona to purchase books and roses and give these to their loved ones. It also coincides with other cultural and literary activities, such as book signings and readings of Spanish literature.

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In tradition, men offer roses to important women in their lives, while women give books in return. And in honor of this tradition, the first 100 visitors that day received roses upon entrance at the center. Every purchase of books at the book market also came with a free rose and a free book of their choice, as well as participants of the night’s different activities.

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Re-Writing of Don Quijote

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the first 100 visitors but then again I was lucky to be part of the Escribo el Quijote (Re-Writing of Don Quijote), wherein 500 book-lover volunteers took part in what they call the “Quixotic” endeavour – that is to hand-write Cervantes’ immortal novel, Don Quijote de La Mancha that is considered to be one of the world’s greatest novels ever written. Each volunteer had two minutes to copy few sentences of the novel that started from 4PM to 11PM. The final hand-written book was deposited at the Library Miguel Hernandez at Instituto Cervantes.

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This is where I got two roses, two roses because my turn was supposed to be at 8PM but it was already 9PM when I got to it. A senior official was kind enough to give me two in exchange of my patience and dedication to wait for my turn, though it was past the time it should have been.

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In part of the celebration for Don Quijote de La Mancha’s 400th year publication, a special set menu, the La Cocina del Quijote was prepared by Chef Juan Carlos de Terry that is based on some of the dishes and wines mentioned in the novel on April 17th at Terry’s Pasong Tamo, Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati.

I took home two books as well from Anvil Publishing (Confessions of a Volcano by Eric Gamalinda and Reading Korea: 12 Contemporary Stories), which entitled me to another rose. I have yet to start reading them though, as I’m still occupied with another book.

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That day’s buddy was my cultural events buddy Myleen. I initially planned to go by myself but I invited her to come along and good thing she was free. We didn’t get the chance to check out the library though, which is something I should come back to.

We both had fun being part of the Don Quijote re-writing activity while listening to jazz music in the background, discovering new books to journey in, watching groups of people and friends chatting, and just simply wandering around the place.

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I forgot to mention it was held outdoors, and they have this garden with a well at the center surrounded with trees, and it was simply picturesque at night. We even found a tree with flowers that’s like cherry blossoms, though we aren’t sure if it is a Sakura tree.

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Instituto Cervantes also held a film series on migration last month featuring films such as “Edna” (2014) starring Irma Adlawan, directed by Ronnie Lazaro about real and imagined fears of overseas Filipino workers; “El tren de la memoria” (2005) by Marta Arribas y Ana Pérez about migrant Spaniards leaving the country to different destinations; “Extranjeras” (Foreign Women) (2003) by Helena Taberna about migrant women in Madrid; “Flores de otro mundo” (Flowers From Another World) (1999) by Iciar Bolain about a group of women in search of stability and companionship and men in search of wives in a small town in central Spain.

It was followed by the film cycle, Great Books on Screen in all Saturdays of June. It included films adapted from novels: “La Colmena” (The Beehive/1982) about stories of people in Madrid 1942, post-Spanish civil war; “La Lengua De Las Mariposas” (Butterfly Tongues/1999) about an extraordinary relationship of a shy boy to his compassionate teacher; “Obaba” (2005) about a woman and her journey to Obaba, a small town in the Basque Country; and “Soldados De Salamina” (Soldiers of Salamina/2003) about a young novelist who has lost inspiration and became a journalist to investigate a true story that took place at the end of the Civil War and involving an infamous writer and an anonymous young soldier.

To know more about Instituto Cervantes, check out their website at manila.cervantes.es, facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila and @ICervantesMnila.

5 Centimeters Per Second: Of Distance and Time

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“Hey. They say it’s five centimeters per second…the speed of falling cherry blossom petals is five centimeters per second…” – Akari

I was greeted by this very phrase from the first few minutes of the movie. I haven’t seen any real cherry blossoms but it made me wonder if they really do fall at the speed of five centimeters per second. I find it a lovely backdrop and a perfect catalyst to start the story of love of Tohno Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who started as little kids who grew closer during elementary school.

It was recommended to me by a work colleague but I had only gotten around to watch it recently. It was like a new venture for me to take on a Japanese animated film that is non-Ghibli and non-Hayao Miyazaki made; so I didn’t really know what to expect. In one of these past few days, I just had this sudden urge to see it and other Japanese films that were recommended to me.

The movie is divided into three acts: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms, Cosmonaut and 5 Centimeters Per Second. The style is a new take in my opinion in tackling an animated romantic drama. I specifically like how the different stages of Takaki and Akari’s life are depicted in three sections, but definitely with more focus on Takaki’s perspective. The style makes it highly introspective and allows a deep exploration to the characters, especially Takaki. But I must agree at some point that the story runs a little slow. But since I’m the kind of person who likes introspection, so I take the introspective part a positive one.

Act 1: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms

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In act one, this is where I see them as little kids who seem to be a bit out of the ordinary. Sharing similar interests and almost the same personality, they instantly became the subject of tease among their classmates for always being together. Back to the first scene, Takaki and Akari are watching the cherry blossoms fall when she suddenly runs to the  other side of a train crossing. After the train has passed, Akari tells him that she hopes they could watch the cherry blossoms once again. And that is the beginning of real life for them.

The animation from this very scene alone is simply indescribably beautiful for me.

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Akari had to transfer school and that’s when Takaki is left behind. They were kids, they didn’t make their own choices back then and it struck Takaki as he couldn’t do anything for her, knowing that she didn’t want it to happen either. When it was time for Takaki to transfer, they decided to finally see each other. Now 13, it was the first time for Takaki to be travelling so far to a place he’d never been to just to see Akari.

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When they had set the date, March 4; it was supposed to be Spring and Akari was looking forward to seeing Takaki and hoping that the cherry blossoms would fall on that day. However, just as life had started for them when they were kids, it’s nature this time that’s somehow hindering them. It rained then it snowed hard, and when that happens, one should know what to expect. But despite the worry that she might have gone home, there was no going back for Takaki.

It felt so nerve-wracking to see Takaki as he waits for every extended train stop due to the weather, as if every passing hour is killing him. His mind filled with thoughts of losing the chance to ever see Akari again.

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It was like against all odds. I was half expecting that she wouldn’t be there for what seemed like forever waiting for Takaki to appear. This is by far, one of the best moments and one of my favorite scenes. It made me happy that they were able to share this moment with each other, after that separation and their deep longing to see each other again.

“In that moment, I felt like I knew where eternity, our hearts and our souls all lay. I felt as though we had shared all the experiences of my 13 years. And then in the next moment, I was suddenly filled with an insufferable sadness. Akari’s warmth and her soul… How could I take them in, and where could I bring them? I felt that sad because I didn’t have those answers. I clearly knew from that point on, we wouldn’t be together forever. The overwhelming weight of our lives to come and the uncertainty of time hung over us.” – Takaki 

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From the very start, everything was just so scenically beautiful for me. The cherry blossoms, the bullet train, and the snow. But then again, despite how everything seems to be beautiful; life knocks you over back to reality.

Act 2 – Cosmonaut

The dream

The dream

“It must really be a lonelier journey that anyone could imagine. To just press forward through the true pitch darkness. Barely encountering even a single hydrogen atom. Wholeheartedly believing you’ll come closer to discovering the secrets of the universe within the unfathomable abyss of space. I wonder how far we should go. How far can we go?” – Takaki 

The cosmonaut

The cosmonaut

In act two, there was no presence of Akari at all in Takaki’s life, not even those exchange of letters. Instead, Sumida Kanae, a surfer girl who’s in the same class as Takaki is often seen with him after school. Despite how noticeable that Kanae has feelings for Takaki, she even waits for him so they can go home together; Takaki remains oblivious about her feelings.

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There were scenes in the film that Takaki was seen writing messages. I instantly assumed that since it’s the era of the mobile phones, communication between them has become easier. But there’s always a catch to it, he never actually sends them to anyone. He writes on his mobile a brief story about a dream he had with a girl in another planet walking in a field, but he says he can’t make out her face. Of course, that’s how dreams are but as a viewer, I clearly know that it was a dream with Akari. And the fact the even in his subconscious, Akari’s presence is largely everywhere; it tells me that he’s been stuck there. He may have been doing things in life normally but inside him ever since that day, everything had no real weight for him anymore. He stopped having strong emotions, no special memories, no happiness neither sorrow, not even scars.

This stage of Takaki’s life reminds me of Tsukuru from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Like him, Tsukuru had been distraught by a rejection he suffered from four of his best friends, to the point that he deliberately started wandering from life. And while Takaki and Tsukuru’s experiences are not in the exact manner, they share one thing: the shadows of the past. For both Takaki and Tsukuru, it’s those mixed memories of the past that’s been bogging them down, affecting their relationships with other people without them even having to say it.

Act 3 – 5 Centimeters Per Second

“Then one day I realized that my heart was withering, and in it there was nothing but pain.” – Takaki

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On a day when cherry blossoms start to fall, Takaki was walking at a train crossing and passes by a girl. He looks back to see if it was Akari just when the train passes by, stopping them to confirm each other’s identity.

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In this final act, it shows how different the lives Takaki and Akari pursued. At first glance, it could be said that Akari had very well moved on and seemed to be content with her life. It is heartbreaking to see how there will always be that one person who had moved on, who seemed to have found that line where life and love get along well. Although still having those memories, she carries it with her as only things that remind her of a blissful past that will no longer affect her present.

Between Takaki and Akari, for me it was more difficult for Takaki. Having to bear and feeling helpless with the growing distance between them that’s setting them apart, and eventually having to go on with his path with those feelings from when they were kids still clinging to him like a shadow.

Despite having promised to write to each other, at some point one of them got tired and stopped writing letters or rather both of them had been weakened in the process; by then the ever growing distance and life’s unpredictability had caught up to break them.

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But then again, had they gathered up their courage to say what they wanted before saying goodbye here; things could have been different. And the letters that were meant to be read with words they wanted to tell each other were forever left in the past.

FotorCreatedThe film is something for people looking for introspective realism in animated films, without the fluff and common romantic drama themes. I highly recognize the creative use of metaphors, with the train that connects people but also sets them apart, the cosmonaut that Takaki indirectly likens to people’s lives and at how life can be so indefinite and unpredictable, and the cherry blossoms that represent the impermanence of people’s relationships; at how humans often come together and slowly drift apart and the sluggishness of life.

But then again, I would have wanted them to have experienced all those memories as adults rather than as kids.