Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

12th Japan Wildlife Film Festival

Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr

12th Japan Wildlife Film Festival

Electra K. Vasileiadou

I've written this before but please bear with me: as far as the 7th art is concerned, the situation in Japan is less than ideal. Tickets are fairly expensive, the options often limited and even blockbusters can take a very long time to premiere here. Things are even harder for wildlife documentary fans. Very few are picked up every year and even fewer stay in cinemas for longer than a handful of screenings. So if you enjoy wildlife documentaries and appreciate free (and educational) entertainment in a city as expensive as Tokyo, then the 12th Japan Wildlife Film Festival should feature prominently in your calendar.


Photo: Jason Taellious on Flickr


Photo: Johnathan Nightingale on Flickr

Over the course of a week, starting August 24 (Monday), an estimated 30000 members of the public are expected to visit the three venues where screenings, festivals and other events are being held. The venues are Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Global Environment Outreach Centre, National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology (Miraikan). The latter is one of the most uniquely interesting museums in the country so if you haven't visited it yet now is your chance to do so! I would advise you to keep an eye out for the massive globe but you can't really miss it.

First organized by its current chairman Hirohisa Ota in 1993, at a time when no other event of its kind existed in Japan, the JWFF has grown to become the biggest wildlife film festival in all of Asia/Oceania. It takes place every other year and one of its main aims is to familiarize the audience with the beauty of nature and wildlife. This year for the first time it is being held in Tokyo instead of Toyama, were all past events took place. The organizers, considering people a part of wildlife, have included human interest films.


Photo: Jim Linwood on Flickr


Photo: Diana Robinson on Flickr

Among this year's highlights is the festival's youngest nominee ever: Tōmairangi Harvey, a 12-year-old filmmaker from New Zealand, with her animated environmental film Te Ao o te Tuturuatu (5 minutes, in Maori). Considering that among the filmmakers are the BBC and NHK, let alone the sheer number of submissions, the fact that this young creator and her endangered bird species made it into the festival is truly impressive. Having watched Te Ao o te Tuturuatu online, I can say the nomination was well-deserved. If you can't make it to the festival, you can find Tōmairangi's film on YouTube.

A number of filmmakers, including Tōmairangi, will be traveling to Japan to give seminars during the festival.


Photo: Brittney Bush Bollay on Flickr


Photo: Vanessa on Flickr

Other events you might enjoy include the premiere of Bears as well as that of Monkey Kingdom (both by Disney Nature)  and BBC Theater.

Among the participants are filmmakers from  Spain, the US, the UK,  Taiwan, Japan , Cambodia, Hungary, Austria, Latvia, Russia, India and a number of other countries. Films on a number of subjects by both independent and professional filmmakers will be featured. Some are as short as 3 minutes while others run for up to 1,5 hour.

Entrance is free for all the venues. You can find the full schedule (Japanese only) and information about all the nominations (Japanese and English) here.