Hooray! I survived the 20th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. I'll be updating the blog over the next week to relate my experience at the show.
Things started off shaky. Rushed off early to Haneda airport only to find that there were severe fog conditions up in Hokkaido and that all flights to Japan's northern region were grounded. Luckily I was traveling with one of my staff members, Mie Kurokawa, and so had someone to pass the wait with. A pain, for sure, and the airport got insanely crowded, but it was no ones fault. Four hours later we were airborne and headed for the Northern part of Japan.
Even though the flight from Tokyo to Hokkaido takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, the bus from the airport to the small town of Yubari takes about 2 hours. Nothing to do but look out at snow covered landscapes or sleep. I did a little of both.
We guests arrived at Yubari hours late and so were rushed to the opening ceremony where there was a long line of non-guests waving to us as our bus pulled in. Stepping off the bus, we were greeted by a row of old ladies handing out potato balls and warm milk. As actor Ryo Ishibashi noted later on: The milk was amazing!
The first order of the Yubari Film Fest is the ceremony, which is held in the town's lone movie theater. A bit run down with seats fitted for Japanese of a previous generation, the theater isn't the best around, but it has a certain flavor. One by one, each film was spotlighted on the screen while the guest(s) connected to it were introduced. When my film, "It's All Good," was announced, Mie and I stood and waved around the place.
This was my second time at Yubari. I was there in 2008 when my film, The iDol, was in the competition. This time my film was just enjoying a normal screening. I prefer this as I hate competitions. All in all, the ceremony was the usual Yubari fare. First up were some people playing shamisens. Then the town's mayor made a speech. Then the judges of the competition made speeches. Then other people made speeches. I grew sleepy--and hungry! Why do Japanese love speeches so?
Following this was the premiere of the film "Someday Surely." I have to say that this was one of the worst films I have ever seen. Sometimes it's just a matter of taste whether one likes something or not. Make no mistake about it, there was no choice in the matter here - this was crappy filmmaking at its highest level! I couldn't agree with ANY choices the director made! As Mie said later, all film students should watch this as an example of everything one should NOT do when making film. It was directed by 28-year idol actor Shun Oguri who, along with the film's actors, attended the screening.
It turned out that I'm friends with one of the main actors. However, due to the outlandish "star" clothes all the actors came in, I didn't recognize him. It was Mie who said, "Isn't that guy your friend?" Sure enough it was Ryohei Suzuki. Ryohei, who was just as surprised to see me at the show, and I had a good laugh over this the next day.
Following the film Mie and I went to the hotel to check in. She was bunking with two press people and I had my own room (thank god!). After dumping my bags I rushed downstairs to the opening party on the second floor.
I walked in and although only 10 minutes late, the place was already jam-packed. As I hadn't eaten all day, I was famished. I went from table to table, but all the food was gone! I couldn't even find clean chopsticks! I made my way to the table at the base of the stage and there I spotted some pizza and salad on a tray. I dove for the food, managing to get my grubby hands on a couple of slices, but I still lacked chopsticks for the salad. I started to grumble when someone handed me chopsticks. I looked up to see it was the mayor of Yubari! He went into service mode, dishing me salad and noodles. Then he grabbed a beer and poured me a cup. As he did, the town's elite watched and laughed. It was kind of a funny moment.
After the party I went to the screening of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. But I only stayed to watch the opening (directors Nishimura and Iguchi going at it) and to show Mie a bit of the film. Despite being 1/30th the budget of the festival's opening film, it is 100 times better made.
Following this I caught up with some film friends and then went home to call it a night. My film was playing the next morning and I wanted to get some sleep.