Japan 2021

October-November 2021

In this first part of our (delayed) two-month celebration of the illustrious history of Japanese cinema, we look back to the ‘Golden Age’.


Supported by:

Grand Seiko


We have long carried a torch for Japanese film here at the BFI. Since the first BFI London Film Festival opened with Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957, we’ve played a vital role in bringing the cinema of this culturally rich nation to UK audiences through our festivals, seasons, theatrical distribution, books and video publishing. In this major season we spotlight filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world. We begin our story with the Golden Age of Japanese studio production and take a side-long glance at the netherworlds of J-horror.

These tumultuous years saw the rise of a studio system to rival Hollywood’s, in which popular genres and glittering stars co-existed with uniquely Japanese traditions, and filmmakers such as Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujirô Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Akira Kurosawa crafted films that rank among the supreme masterpieces of world cinema. Yet alongside these canonical greats lies a world of cinematic riches often neglected in the west. This selection of films charts the artistic ferment that emerged from a country torn between tradition and modernity, militarism and democracy, its indigenous culture and western influence – tensions that produced truly captivating cinema.

James Bell and Alexander Jacoby, season co-programmers

Want more?
More information on Japan 2021
See screenings of Seven Samurai, a preview of Drive My Car, and a collections focus in the BFI Reuben Library.

Also check back here for plenty more online events that form part of our season.

Guide notes by James Bell and Alexander Jacoby, J-horror notes by Kimberley Sheehan.

In partnership with:

Japan Foundation

With special thanks to:

With the kind support of:
Janus Films/The Criterion Collection, Kadokawa Corporation, Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Kokusai Hoei Co. Ltd, Nikkatsu Corporation, Toei Co. Ltd