On 2 November 2017, actor Kengo Kora appeared as a special guest at the opening event of the Japan Film Festival 2017, held in Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta. As well as attending the opening ceremony, Kora joined a special screening of The Story of Yonosuke, a film in which he plays the lead, and interacted with the many fans who attended the festival. After the event’s closure, we spoke with Kora about his thoughts on the event and about films.
I felt that my messages were really getting through to people.
――How did you enjoy participating in the Japan Film Festival Indonesia this year?
It was the first time I’d joined a Japan Film Festival. I felt that it had a very ‘at home’ atmosphere, and there was a real closeness between the people there. That made it a really fun experience. I was glad to be able to interact with non-Japanese people through my work, and it’s given me an energy boost. The Story of Yonosuke was first released in Japan in 2013, so I was happy that it is still creating a lot of stimulation even now, four years on. On the other hand, I was disappointed that I couldn’t have come here for one of my more recent works. I hope that I will have another chance to participate, with a new film next time.
――Did the film festival help you discover anything new?
Going to places I’ve never been before and seeing scenery I’ve never seen make me feel recharged. When I come to a foreign country, I can feel these new sensations seeping into my soul. When the guests at the The Story of Yonosuke event told me their thoughts on the film, I realised that the film’s messages were really getting through to them, and this made me very happy. Participating in the film festival helped me see some ways that Japan could make things more interesting, in terms of film festivals and film screenings.
There should be more films that peel back to raw emotion.
――What do you think are the attractions of Japanese film?
When I asked people at the event their favourite Japanese films, many people named Yasujiro Ozu works. Perhaps that answers your question right there. But I do think there are several points to commend about Japanese films. I think they have the ability to change depending on the viewer or the situation they are viewed in. And the uniquely Japanese timing and pauses are special. People say that in non-Japanese films, you need to clearly say want you want to convey, but I feel like many Japanese films encourage the viewer to think and grow together with them. This is the attraction of Japanese film, and I believe it is evident to non-Japanese people as well.
――Conversely, what issues do you think Japanese film needs to overcome?
A lot of recent Japanese films make their viewers feel safe and calm, and I think many people want to see these kinds of films. Of course, these are important works. But at the same time, I think if there were more opportunities to see movies that make you ask questions, people would be more stimulated. I often watch movies to feel relaxed, but there are some films that are like a punch in the guts, that make me feel hurt. And many of these actually remain in my mind and help me change my way of thinking. So I think that if there were more chances for these films that peel back to raw emotion, rather than just the ‘safe’ ones, their messages would get through to people well.
One of the film festival staff said that she would like to have English subtitles put on the Japanese films shown in Japan. I thought this was a very good, specific idea. After all, English is a common language around the world so English subtitles would be very effective, and would broaden the scope for spreading Japanese films around the globe.
Films let you feel something in just two hours
――What kind of films do you like?
I have always liked films that let me experience a sensation I’ve never felt before. Films that make me think. When I watch action flicks, I’m always thinking to myself, “I wonder if I could do that?” or “I wonder how long they rehearsed?” I always look forward to new films directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. For foreign films, I like those directed by Aki Kaurismäki.
The good thing about movies is that they let you feel something, and all you need is two hours. You can’t read a whole book in two hours, and travelling somewhere takes you several days. But a film can prompt you to think about all kinds of things without needing much time. That’s what I like about movies.
Now that I have participated, I hope to help with ideas about film festivals.
――Please tell us about your plans for the future.
Thankfully, I have been able to play roles which I think I would only be able to play at this point in my life. I turned thirty this year, and I know there are roles which I will only be able to play as a 30-year-old. I’m sure the parts I play will change a lot now that I’ve entered my thirties. I would like to try playing the role of a father some time.
――Can you give us a final comment?
We [actors] cannot hold these film festivals ourselves, and they are very beneficial to us. I really hope that they will continue to be held. I hope that, now that I have participated once, I can help with ideas about how to make them even better in the future.
◆Kengo Kora profile
Born on 12 November 1987. Actor.
Major works: The Story of Yonosuke, Shin Godzilla, Moon and Lightning, etc.
Awarded Best Actor for The Mourner and Being Good at the 28th Nikkan Sports Film Awards
Name: The Story of Yonosuke
Director: Shuichi Okita
Original story: Shuichi Yoshida
Screenplay: Shuichi Okita, Shiro Maeda
Music: Ren Takada
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Go Ayano, Kitaro, Kimiko Yo
Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kengo Kora) travels to Tokyo to start university, from the harbor town where he grew up in Nagasaki. Yonosuke tends to accept any task asked of him, and has a charming personality that attracts people to him. He meets a girl called Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka) who develops a crush on him, but he is interested in an older woman, Chiharu (Ayumi Ito).
■Japan Film Festival 2017 Outline
【Name】Japanese Film Festival 2017
【Held By】The Japan Foundation Jakarta Japanese Culture Centre
【Cities】Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Makassar, Denpasar
【Period】Saturday 30 September to Thursday 7 December 2017
【Number of films】20