ACA Cinema Project 2022 took place at Harmony Gold Preview House in Hollywood on September 27 — October 1

Screenings, sushi, and sake: ACA Cinema Project draws crowds for new Japanese films

Roughly one week ago, applause enveloped the Sunset Strip for a red carpeted reveal of four new Japanese films and one revered big screen revival.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (ACA) hosted the fourth ACA Cinema Project series — Emerging Japanese Films — as a key part of its Japan Film Overseas Expansion Enhancement Project. The event took place from September 27th through October 1st at Harmony Gold Preview House in Hollywood. Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO) and LA-based producer Chiyako Slawinski were entrusted with enterprise management with support from publicist Deborah Gilels, producer Marlene Sharp, and production technology by Paul and Phillip Jun’s Filmocracy. The program, which attracted hundreds of industry heavyweights, screened four recent and awards-worthy Japanese dramas. In addition, the celebration held a retrospective night that honored veteran auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda. Four of the auteurs, including Kore-eda, took the stage virtually by way of post-exhibition Q&A sessions.

The series opened with Shinzo Katayama’s modern horror classic MISSING — which recently took Fantasia 2022 by storm — on Tuesday, September 27th. Alongside director Katayama and the film’s distributor Michael Repsch of Dark Star Pictures, Film Threat’s Chris Gore moderated the talk-back session later in the evening. Hayato “Kevin” Mitsuiishi provided real-time interpretation services for Katayama.

Unfurling on Wednesday, September 28th was Shunsuke Kariyama’s BL METAMORPHOSIS (based on the smash-hit, coming-of-age manga franchise). Afterward, director Kariyama (with queries from producer/journalist Marlene Sharp and interpretation by Hayato “Kevin” Mitsuiishi) paved the way for a live panel who debated “Full Frontal Fandom: Fascinating Depictions of Manga Fans in BL METAMORPHOSIS.” Hollywood pundits included Marlene Sharp (YOUNG CAPTAIN NEMO), screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick (SAMURAI RABBIT: USAGI CHRONICLES), producer Vincent Imaoka (TIGER AND BUNNY), producer Geneva Wasserman (SPIDERHEAD), producer Kevin Nicklaus (UNTOLD HORROR), and screenwriter/podcaster/author Geoffrey Calhoun (THE SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITER).

From left: Sean Fernald, Nahoko Yamashita (VIPO), Kevin Nicklaus, Geneva Wasserman, Marlene Sharp, Jeffrey Reddick, Yuko Yamada (VIPO), Takeya Ito (VIPO)
From left: Marlene Sharp, Vincent Imaoka, Kevin Nicklaus, Geneva Wasserman, Jeffrey Reddick, and Geoffrey Calhoun discuss BL METAMORPHOSIS

The tribute with Japanese virtuoso director Hirokazu Kore-eda was on Thursday September 29th. A live-streamed video conversation between Kore-eda and Alan Ng, Editor-in-Chief of Film Threat (and Critics’ Choice Association member), began after a showing of his acclaimed 2013 movie LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON. Kore-eda received a loud standing ovation from the packed house.

From left: Alan Ng and Kore-eda ponder LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Friday, September 30th, the emotional journey of RIVERSIDE MUKOLITTA — a quietly touching endeavor of high-profile filmmaker Naoko Ogigami — screened to an enrapt crowd. The panel discussion “Riverside Mukolitta: How Asian Drama Relates to American Audiences” closed the affair. Alan Ng hosted the front-and-center conversation, which boasted Metan Global’s Larry Namer, plus veteran producers Jennie Lew Tugend (LETHAL WEAPON, FREE WILLY), Jinko Gotoh (KLAUS, FINDING NEMO), and Chuck Williams (SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, BROTHER BEAR).

From left: Chuck Williams, Larry Namer, Jinko Gotoh, Jennie Lew Tugend, Alan Ng, Deborah Gilels, Marlene Sharp

On Saturday, October 1st, ACA Cinema Project wrapped with Shô Miyake’s sensitive SMALL, SLOW BUT STEADY (a crowd-pleaser at this year’s Berlin Film Festival). The female boxer character study was paired with a panel discussion entitled “Beyond Boundaries: Taking on Challenging Acting Roles.” Tackling this subject were motion picture director Miyake, plus moderator Leslie LaPage (Director, LA Femme International Film Festival) and accomplished casting director/talent manager Valerie McCaffrey.

Leslie LaPage, Valerie McCaffrey, and Hayato “Kevin” Mitsuiishi debate characterization in SMALL, SLOW BUT STEADY

Unsung heroes, goodwill ambassadors, and gallery participants for ACA Cinema Project included a veritable Hollywood who’s who. Some of the glitterati were (in no particular order) Oscar winning CODA actor Troy Kotsur; Hiroko Stanhope (Amuse); writer/translator Yuki Machida; stylist Takako Shito; sake sommelier Shino Okita (Hanbai Solutions); producer Mike Macari (THE RING); Terry Kalagian (Gaumont); producer Sean Fernald (THE RIGHT ONE); Francisco Becerra (Pluto TV); casting director Laura Lopez (SONIC BOOM); producer Anthony Young (CHOSEN KIN); Kumiko Torres, Maai John (JETRO); Sang Lee, Derek Lee (KOTRA); writer Adam Kosloff (SPACEBALLS: THE ANIMATED SERIES); filmmaker and architect Mina Chow (FACE OF A NATION); story editor Ethan Hamilton (Impact Theory); journalist Marina Kufa (RED CARPET OF HOLLYWOOD); Alberto Arellano (Multimedia Public Relations); producer Sabrina Oertle (UNTITLED TOM FLORES PROJECT); and stunt performer Girvan Swirv Bramble (DUNE).

From left: Takako Shito, Yuki Machida, Shino Okita, Chiyako Slawinski
Marina Kufa interviews Sang Lee of KOTRA for Red Carpet of Hollywood
Marina Kufa interviews Sang Lee of KOTRA for Red Carpet of Hollywood

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Marlene Sharp

Marlene Sharp is a creative and business-savvy entertainment multi-hyphenate who originally hails from New Orleans but is now a (San Fernando) Valley girl.