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Avoid “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and seek out the Japanese Film Festival

It’s the week after a major holiday, so there’s nothing of any merit opening at the multiplexes.  And if you point out that "Ice Age: Continental Drift" is opening, I’ll counter by repeating that nothing of any merit is opening at the multiplexes.  This is a film that isn’t only not-educational, it’s uneducational in the sense that it has the potential to cause your kids to know less by the end than they knew when they walked in.  It reminds me of 1998 when both "Antz" and A Bug’s Life" opened and we had competing films about anthropomorphic insects.  However, where "Antz" featured ants with six legs, the correct number,  "A Bug’s Life" starred four-legged ants – causing one to wonder why anybody would ever want to convince a generation of kids of something so wrong-headed when another production was demonstrating how easy it was to get it right.

It’s similarly hard to know what’s going on with the writers and producers of the "Ice Age" franchise, other than that it’s another attempt to cash in on past success.  The film even makes fun of its own predecessors by pointing out how ridiculous the last script was.  It’s as if there was some desperate attempt not to risk excluding any potential audience members by not siding with the idea of an earth that’s billions of years old or one that’s merely thousands of years old.  It does this by allowing for the existence of such phenomena as evolution and the movement of tectonic plates, but basing a plot and story details on the idea that these things happened over days rather than eons.  Whether the primary goal is to accommodate short attentions spans or young earth creationists, the outcome is awful.  The kids may dig it but you’re not doing yourself any favors by distracting them this way.

But all is not lost as the 8th Annual Sacramento Japanese Film Festival opens today and runs through Sunday at the Crest Theatre.  This has been a consistently excellent event over the years and this year’s seven screening program includes the typical mix of both recent and classic films.

This year’s Sacramento Japanese Film Festival schedule (with synopses from the Festival’s website):

Friday, July 13, 2012, 8:00 PM

A famous photographer, Shunseke, has the marriage blahs. His wife, Sakura, suggests that they take a holiday to a seaside resort and that Shunseke commemorate their marriage by taking photographs of her.
Director: Isao Yukisada
2009, 128 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Saturday, July 14, 2012, 1:00 PM

The unsung treasure from Miyazaki nestles a tale of morality and identify inside a soaring airborne adventure – a tribute to early aviation and the reckless flyboys whose home was the open sky.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
1982, 94 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Saturday, July 14, 2012, 3:00 PM

A hard working mom and her son see a man dress in Samurai garb outside their Tokyo supermarket. She thinks it’s an advertising promotion. It’s a 1800’s Edo period Samurai caught in a time warp.
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
2010, 109 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Saturday, July 14, 2012, 5:10 PM

The PBS documentary on Chinue Sugihara, diplomat of Imperial Japan, who saved over 2000 Jews from the Holocaust. Archival film; interviews with survivors, and Sugihara family members.
Director: Robert Kirk
2005, 82 minutes
In English and Japanese

Saturday, July 14, 2012, 8:00PM

Jonen is a young Buddhist priest, father, and husband, who has a meltdown. He rediscovers life and himself through his love of rock and roll.
Director: Naoki Kato
2010, 113 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Sunday, July 15, 2012, 1:00 PM
KABEI: Our Mother

Yoji Yamada’s tribute to Japanese women during WWII. The story of a hard working young mother and her two daughters when their father is put into prison.
Director: Yoji Yamada
2008, 133 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Sunday, July 15, 2012, 3:00 PM

Lucy Walker’s Oscar nominated documentary on the tsunami and its aftermath. The cell phone films and the survivors speak for themselves.
Director: Lucy Walker
2011, 40 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles

Combined screening with:

The difficulties of an American Jewish boy, David, and a Palestinian boy, Kamal, who try to become friends in Jerusalem. Co-presented with the Sacramento Jewish Film Festival.
Director: Kikuo Kawasaki
2011, 78 minutes
In English, Hebrew, and Arabic with English subtitles

More information about the festival, including film screenshots and ticketing options, can be found at the Festival website.


About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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