The BFI is launching a six-month season on BFI Player celebrating Japanese cinema. BFI Japan 2020: Over 100 Years of Japanese Cinema will launch on 11 May and will be divided into thematic collections presented between May and October 2020.

The event was originally scheduled to run in venues across the UK from May through September 2020, however, in light of the current coronavirus pandemic that has forced theatres around the globe to close their doors, the BFI has decided to programme nine new online collections of Japanese films on BFI Player.


This major season will kick off on 11 May with a spotlight on Akira Kurosawa‘s work and over the following months will feature the great classics of Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse, and the pioneering women of the Golden Age like Kinuyo Tanaka. There will be striking films by post-war New Wave directors like Nagisa Oshima, vivid visions of anime masters such as Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, and the J-horror netherworlds created by filmmakers like Hideo Nakata.

The season will also celebrate contemporary visionaries such as Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano and Naomi Kawase, as well as spotlight the next generation of creatives making waves in Japan, with the chance to see 21st-century films that are yet to be made available in the UK.

The collections will be launched as follows:

• Akira Kurosawa (11 May)

• Classics (11 May)

• Yasujiro Ozu (5 June)

• Cult (3 July)

• Anime (31 July)

• Independence (21 August)

• 21st Century (18 September)

• J-Horror (30 October)

The event will also draw on the BFI National Archive’s significant collection of early films of Japan dating back to 1894, launching a new free collection titled Early Films of Japan (1894-1914)’, which will include travelogues, home movies and newsreels, and will offer audiences a rare chance to see how European and Japanese filmmakers captured life in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights include the oldest surviving film, ‘Japanese Dancers’ (1894), which captures three Japanese women performing an Imperial dance from The Mikado, and early colour film ‘Japanese Festival’ (1910) which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama’s Harbour.


An online events programme on BFI YouTube will run alongside the BFI Player season, featuring virtual Q&As, introductions and more, with details to be announced soon.

The season is set to continue in cinemas as soon as they are able to reopen, hopefully later this year and into 2021.

And because it’s the BFI, you can rest assured that they’ve also been busy preparing fabulous merch to complement the season. There will be numerous BFI DVD and Blu-ray releases, including Ozu’s ‘Tokyo Story’ (1953) and ‘The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice’ (1952) – both in new 4K restorations; Toshio Matsumoto’s controversial debut ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’ (1969) will receive its UK Blu-ray premiere; and there will be a Takeshi Kitano Blu-ray boxset featuring ‘Sonatine’ (1993), ‘Violent Cop’ (1989) and ‘Boiling Point’ (1990). All these films will be available on BFI Player.

The BFI has also released, together with Bloomsbury, a new book titled ‘The Japanese Cinema Book’, edited by Hideaki Fujiki (Nagoya University, Japan) and Alastair Phillips (University of Warwick, UK), which is available in e-book and print editions now.

And last but not least, their iconic magazine, Sight & Sound, will celebrate anime this summer with a special issue out at the end of May.