Sakura Hanami (flower viewing) in Japan is the traditional custom of admiring the spring cherry blossoms at the height of their beauty. Because the blossom season is so brief and the delicate blooms soon fade, Hanami celebrates the wonder of the fleeting moment.
Parks and public spaces in Japan are full of flowering cherry trees (sakura). Many of the most beautiful plantations are near sacred sites, with hundreds of varieties including the famous weeping cherry tree. As the flowering season approaches, news bulletins and weather forecasts anticipate the first blooms, tourists arrive from all over the world and excitement escalates. The peak period – round about now – has its own special festivities in Japan and people gather for outdoor parties under the clouds of pink blossom trees, which are often lit up at night with paper lanterns.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society on Radio 4 this morning, it’s been an exceptional year for cherry blossom in the UK too, though we tend to celebrate them a little more quietly.
But some of them do make you catch your breath in wonder, and over the last week or so I have been gazing upwards, entranced by cherry and magnolia trees with pink and white flowers opening almost as you watch.
And in case you wonder what this has to do with film club, it just so happens that I’ve been watching this on Mubi Cherry Blossoms (Dorrie, 2008)
…and although this is a German film, it’s an homage to Japanese cinema, especially Ozu’s Tokyo Story. I’ve been thinking about the way that Japanese culture celebrates the small, fragile moment and the subtleties of relationships, and at the same time can be so in-your-face and brash. I’m really intrigued by those contradictions. It’s something you see in Korean cinema too, and when we’re thinking about programming for film club we often wish we could show more Oriental titles.
So when we were asked if we wanted to show a programme of independent East Asian short films to encourage more understanding of the different styles of Asian cinema, we said yes at once. Actually there aren’t any Japanese titles in the first programme; the films are from Thailand, Korea, China, Singapore and even Iran. So prepare for a feast of fusion!
Like the cherry blossom, these films will only be on view for a short time. We think that’s a good excuse to get together. We hope you will come and enjoy them with us, celebrate the wonders of the world, and appreciate the beauty of some different cultural perspectives.
We’ll be screening Red Dot Asian shorts at the lovely little cinema at PictureHouse Social, Abbeydale Road, Monday 27th April. See you there, doors at 7.30pm.
And if you have any sakura pictures you’d like to share, do send them to our Facebook page.