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MFA launches first-annual Japanese film festival

This Thursday, the Museum of Fine Arts is launching its first-annual Japanese film festival with the screening of the film “Your Name.”

The Boston Festival of Films from Japan will join the ranks of 12 other annual MFA film festivals, according to Carter Long, the Katharine Stone White curator of film and video at the MFA and event organizer. The festival will run until Feb. 28, and 10 different films will be shown throughout that time.

Long chose to kickstart the festival with a screening of “Your Name,” directed by Makoto Shinkai, because he felt it had stunning imagery and, in 2017, it became the highest grossing anime film worldwide.

“Your Name” follows a girl named Mitsuha, who is from a small mountain town but dreams of leaving, and a boy named Taki, who lives in Tokyo. One night the two switch bodies, and as they adjust to their new lives, they face various obstacles preventing them from meeting one another.

Long said it was a big dream to show a film with as much support as “Your Name,” and he was grateful he could show it the first year of the festival.

“When I saw it, I was blown away,” Long said. “It’s a visually stunning film, and it has incredible animation sequences. It’s a story that is very well-told, and it’s a really compelling film.”

Long said he also felt particularly excited about showing “Blade of the Immortal,” which is director Takashi Miike’s 100th film. According to Long, “Blade of the Immortal” is in some ways a departure from Miike’s other films and is a live action manga adaptation.

“[Miike] uses computer-generated effects very well, but he also has incredible fight sequences in the film,” Long said. “The choreography is amazing to watch, really well-directed, really well-edited.”

“Blade of the Immortal” tells the tale of Manji, a skilled samurai who is cursed with immortality after a battle. He seeks to regain his soul by fighting evil and promises to avenge the murder of a young girl’s parents done by ruthless warrior Anotsu.

The MFA is working with UNIQLO to hold the festival after the company expressed interest in helping display more Japanese culture and art, according to Katie Getchell, chief brand officer and deputy director at the MFA. Getchell said the festival has been in the works for a year.

Additionally, at the screening of “Your Name” on Feb. 1, there will be Japanese food at Taste Cafe, a DJ and art-making activities. The first night is free, and tickets can be acquired on the MFA’s website.

Getchell said she hopes that in addition to expanding the museum’s film program, the Japanese film festival will attract people who do not regularly attend the MFA.

“I hope that they will think about the museum as a place that has a year-round engaging interesting film program [and] as a place to come for a wide variety of activities, whether that’s art or performance or film,” Getchell said.

Getchell said she hopes the festival fosters a greater appreciation for Japanese culture and reinforcing the MFA’s strong position in Japanese art.

“The film festival adds a whole genre that we haven’t been able to display in Japanese art and culture before,” Getchell said. As opening night nears, Getchell said she feels optimistic due to widespread positive feedback on the festival’s Facebook page.

Xingyi Shi, a PhD student studying bioinformatics at Boston University, is planning to attend the “Your Name” screening. She had seen the film in Shanghai, China, and said she was excited to experience the movie again.

“I find Japanese art interesting in the sense that its genre can be so diverse and broad, and the topics are sometimes just mind blowing,” Shi wrote in a Facebook message. “Learning about their culture makes me think that there are many deep, gentle and thoughtful thoughts that came out of their people.”

Shi said she hopes others take away a similar message after viewing “Your Name” and the festival’s other offerings.

“In terms of the impact this festival will have, I hope that people can notice how much careful work people put into this movie, and maybe the tenderness of most Japanese people on teeny tiny details,” Shi wrote.

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