Like the city in which it’s based, Kyoto International Film and Art Festival revels in the glorious past. Kyoto is the spiritual home of film in Japan. It’s where the industry started, where the country’s first film screening took place and where, up until very recently, all the country’s Jidaigeki (period dramas) were produced. While the industry quite naturally transitioned to the bright lights and glamorous surroundings of Tokyo over the years, the significance of the Kansai city can never be forgotten.

The festival has been in operation since 1997, but was given a facelift, a new focus on art, and at the same time, a more focused ambition to represent the area’s storied cinematic past. Instead of trying to rival the capital – the massive Tokyo International Film Festival kicks off just days after Kyoto ends – this festival cuts a unique path. Offering more than just film, the event aims to facilitate cultural sightseeing, to provide exhibition space for new and established artists, and to nurture fledgling filmmakers and to represent the city itself to a global audience.

The films on offer represent the historical importance of the region’s film history while also giving a nod to the future. Opening film “Tsuioku” (Reminiscences) documents the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan to the Republic of Palau on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It offers a somber remembrance of those who did not come back from the fierce fighting that took place on infamous Peleliu Island. The “Special Screenings” present a more complete dichotomy of past and future. Works like Kon Ichikawa’s epic documentary of Japan’s 1964 hosting of the Olympics, “Tokyo Olympiad”; brilliant 1987 Japanese war documentary “The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On”; and classic family drama “Hachi-ko” stand alongside recent offerings like Joshua Oppenheimer’s searing new documentary “The Look of Silence.” The “Special Invitation Category” caters further to those looking for something new, with advance screenings of yet to be released Hollywood hits “Magic Mike XXL” and “The Other Woman.” Other recent fare includes famed French fashion designer Agnes B.’s directorial debut “My Name is Hmmm…” and Japanese wartime drama “This Country’s Sky.”

If you’re looking for a reason to head down south, then Kyoto International Film and Art Festival 2015 provides one. The art, culture, cuisine, film history, and the unique air of the ancient capital all get a chance to shine over this four-day event.

Kyoto International Film and Art Festival 2015 takes place October 15–18.

See the website for further details:

–Christopher O’Keeffe