Film fest focuses on horror films made by women

Film fest focuses on horror films made by women
A scene from 'Zero', directed by Mari Asato.

Horror movies tend to be seen as a genre for men, but a growing number of women are becoming fans and creators of such films.

At the Uplink cinema in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, a festival of short horror films by female directors will take place from Saturday, under the title "Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo." Guest participants include Mari Asato, director of the feature-length horror movie "Zero" (Fatal Frame), which is a film version of the horror video game "Zero" series. It is currently showing at cinemas.

The festival has been planned and organised by film producer Mai Nakanishi, 33. In 2013, a film produced by her won a prize at a US film festival featuring short horror movies directed by women.

"I wanted to hold an event that supports women who create horror films," Nakanishi said in explaining why she held the first edition of Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo in October 2013.

The two-day event featured 25 short horror movies from seven different countries, all directed by women. The venue was packed on the first night, Nakanishi said.

This year's festival has been expanded to seven days, with five late-night screenings from Oct 27 to 31. Twenty-seven participating films will come from 12 countries and territories, including Norway, Spain, Indonesia and South Korea.

"These are horror films, but they make good use of women's perspectives, like being fashionable, hiding venom inside cuteness or having a female lead character who looks cool to other women," Nakanishi said.

One special feature of this year's festival is that the lineup includes more Asian films than the first. "In Asian countries, female film directors in the genre of horror are particularly few and far between. And those few that exist don't have much exposure. I want to introduce those women [to the world]," Nakanishi said.

Highlights of the festival include "Fight Like a Girl" (Japan title: "Garu Faito"), directed by the Soska sisters from Canada.

The beautiful twins, Jen and Sylvia, are extremely popular overseas and also appear in the film. "The Captured Bird" (Japan title: "Inosensu," or Innocence) is a dark fantasy film directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, also from Canada, with Guillermo del Toro as executive producer.

Also among the lineup is "5 Ways 2 Die" (Japan title: "Shinu tame no itsutsu no hoho") directed by Daina Papadaki from Cyprus, which tells a story of a perpetually suicidal man. "Call Girl," directed by Jill Sixx Gevargizian, stars Laurence R. Harvey, famed for his "The Human Centipede" series.

On Oct 31, Asato, the director of "Zero," will make a stage appearance in a talk event at the festival. "Zero" is set in a girls' school far from town. Students living in the school dormitory go missing one by one, and other girls start gossiping that their disappearances were caused by a curse that haunts only girls.

The film's scary scenes are beautifully presented, such as the scene in which the body of a beautiful girl who has drowned floats on a stream and is brought to the shore.

While many female directors aspire to make artistic films, Asato has a slightly different ambition.

"I want to make films in genres that are very entertaining, like horror and action," she said. "Horror movies are more of a genre for boys who like movies, but I made 'Zero' for girls and with a female audience in my mind."

Nakanishi said, "I'd like to continue this festival and introduce to the world many female directors who take on the challenge of the horror genre."

Oct 25-31 at Uplink in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. For more information, visit

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