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Terasaki Center set to debut Japanese film series“The Secret World of Arrietty” plays on Feb. 16. (Image courtesy of Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios)

Terasaki Center set to debut Japanese film series

"New Visions of Japanese Cinema" kicks off next month at the James Bridges Theater

“The focus on Japanese movies offers an opportunity to showcase major important works of Japanese cinema, sometimes before they achieve a wider release, or in some cases there might not be other opportunities to see these films in the United States."

By Jenna Maffucci for the Daily Bruin

The UCLA community enjoys a prime view of the West Coast film scene in action. Often, this benefit can be accredited to the surrounding premieres and exposure of Los Angeles, but in other cases, the campus itself contributes to the film experience. Melnitz Movies does just that as it prepares for another quarter of showcasing independent and foreign films on campus.

Samuel B. Prime, the director of Melnitz Movies, invests his efforts in continuing the event by programming the schedule with various films. All films are shown in the James Bridges Theater (Melnitz Hall 1409), typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., depending on the film, at no cost whatsoever.

According to Prime, Melnitz Movies, which is sponsored by the Graduate Student Association, is the campus’s premier free-screening series, open to UCLA students, faculty, staff and members of the general public. He said that the series is looking to expand on its work from last quarter.

“For winter quarter, we’re looking to showcase a handful of exciting sneak preview screenings of films that are coming up in 2012,” Prime said. “In addition, we’re bringing a lot of really extraordinary foreign pictures to campus, many of which will be Los Angeles or West Coast premieres.”

During winter quarter, Melnitz Movies will place a strong emphasis on not only American independent film, but also international and world cinema. Melnitz Movies will launch this quarter on Jan. 10 with “Miss Bala,” Mexico’s submission in the Best Foreign Film category of the upcoming 2012 Academy Awards.

This quarter’s Melnitz Movies will also debut a monthly film series in cooperation with UCLA’s Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies titled “New Visions of Japanese Cinema.” The series was conceived as part of the center’s 20th anniversary, a part of several commemoration events, according to Seiji Lippit, associate director of the Terasaki Center of Japanese Studies. Lippit participated in the collaboration efforts with Melnitz Movies to expose Japanese filmmaking.

“The focus on Japanese movies offers an opportunity to showcase major important works of Japanese cinema, sometimes before they achieve a wider release, or in some cases there might not be other opportunities to see these films in the United States,” Lippit said.

The first film to screen in “New Visions of Japanese Cinema” will be “The Secret World of Arrietty” on Feb. 16. It is a Studio Ghibli film, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. According to Lippit, a reception commemorating the launch of the film series will follow the screening. The film will open to wide release by Disney the following day.

Melnitz Movies will continue to display less widely distributed films this quarter as well.

“We’re presenting first-time filmmakers or foreign directors who haven’t made their big break in the United States yet; it’s an opportunity to show their work and discuss that with students,” Prime said.

Along with the foreign films, Melnitz Movies will continue to screen American independent films. A sneak preview of “Rampart,” directed by Oren Moverman, will be shown on Jan. 12. The film centers around Officer Dave Brown, a Vietnam vet and a Rampart Precinct cop.

UCLA alumnus and University of Colorado at Boulder film professor Alex Cox will work with Melnitz Movies to present three older films: “Walker,” “Lonely Are the Brave” and “Executive Action.” These films range between 25 and 50 years in age.

“The world one lives in is so rapidly changing; there’s so much you have to contextualize. But with these films, you don’t have to be over 50 to enjoy them. They are truly sensational,” Cox said.

According to Cox, “Executive Action,” a political conspiracy film in the context of the John Kennedy assassination, will still entertain at Melnitz Movies in February almost 50 years after it was made.

“These three are all films that have been made inexpensively; they don’t depend on special effects,” he said. “They are ensemble films that have a lot of quality acting and rely on quite significant content.”

Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies