Indie Japan

Celebrating the renegade spirit that powers the most exciting Japanese cinema.

Despite its exotic reputation in the West, Japanese cinema as a whole is generally conservative by nature, dominated for most of its history by the same five major studios: Tōhō, Tōei, Shōchiku, Kadokawa and Nikkatsu.

While those giants bequeathed greats like Kurosawa and Ozu, a parallel tradition has always run through Japanese cinema. It’s the rebellious spirit that inspired Kaneto Shindo to boldly set up his own independent production outfit in the 1950s, and later saw Seijun Suzuki part ways with Nikkatsu when his ideas became too wild.

Distributors like the Art Theatre Guild stepped into the breach, famously turning to production to nurture numerous talents (and classics like Funeral Parade of Roses), while TV companies also played their part in giving promising filmmakers a break, such as TV Man Union with Hirokazu Koreeda.

Come the 1990s – and the arrival of cheaper filmmaking technology – an entire rival industry had sprung up: V-Cinema. From this rough-and-ready scene directors like Sabu and Takeshi Miike emerged; filmmakers instilled with the mindset to shock, grab attention and work at furious pace, even now they're no longer required to.

The indie ethos is perhaps best personified by Takeshi Kitano, the gameshow host who struggled to gain acceptance from the Japanese film industry despite winning wide international acclaim. We celebrate the continuing defiance of such figures with this collection of iconoclastic classics.


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Love LifeLove Life

Drama2022123 minsDirector: Koji Fukada

A couple find their relationship in a precarious state following a tragedy, in Kōji Fukada’s subtle portrait of the frailty of human relationships.

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Boiling PointBoiling Point

Crime199097 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

A young baseball player becomes mixed up with a psychotic yakuza, in Takeshi Kitano's hilarious and twisted crime tale.

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Drama1995109 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda’s first fiction feature is an exquisite meditation on loss, loneliness, uncertainty, and coming to terms with the past.

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Plan 75Plan 75

Drama2022113 minsDirector: Chie Hayakawa

Faced with a rapidly ageing population, a government in near-future Japan rolls out an unsettling agenda.

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Horror1964102 minsDirector: Kaneto Shindo

Stylish, symbolic and erotically charged Japanese horror in which the fortunes of a murderous mother-and-daughter team are upended by a strangely masked samurai.

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Violent CopViolent Cop

Crime1989103 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

In his brutal directorial debut, ‘Beat' Takeshi Kitano plays a renegade cop who frequently resorts to violence and unethical methods to get results.

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Woman of the DunesWoman of the Dunes

Animation & Artists Moving Image1964147 minsDirector: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Hiroshi Teshigahara's mystifying, serene and provocative fable about an entomologist who becomes trapped in a young widow’s desert shack.

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A Snake of JuneA Snake of June

Drama200277 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Bizarre and unsettling sex fantasy from Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo), about a woman blackmailed by a stranger into enacting his wildest fantasies.

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Crime199394 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano's masterful and meditative gangster film, about a yakuza sent to the beautiful beaches of Okinawa where he has time to ruminate on his fate.