Shinobi movie poster

GMK movie poster

Samurai7 movie poster

Kiri painting geisha

Kiri fabric "painting"
by student survivor
in Hiroshima

Vermont Samurai Kaiju Festival:
Films & Much More

The Vermont Samurai Kaiju Festival on September 5, 6, and 7 in Brattleboro will be full of monster movies (kaiju means mysterious beasts) and warrior (or samurai) movies. Related activities will include martial arts demonstrations, a dance party, costumes, storytelling, moulding your own monster (or warrior), a video game contest, and a community brunch.

Samurai warriors played an important role in Japanese history through the mid-19th Century. Their code of conduct and values are still very relevant today: The Samurai way of life continues as a timeless lesson in chivalry through examples of loyalty and sincerity, stoicism and thrift, self-control and self-reliance, finesse and timing. The Samurai film shares many of the values and characteristics of the American Western film genre.

Kaiju films are about monstrous creatures such as Godzilla that endanger and/or save the world. The Kaiju genre took off in Japan in the 1950s and provided an outlet for coping with the devastation and loss experienced by that country in the 1940s, a chance to get in touch with collective grieving. These films also represent a way of enjoying Japanese popular culture and an avenue of creativity for aspiring artists and filmmakers.

The Festival begins on Friday, September 5, with martial arts demonstrations from 5 to 8 pm at The River Garden (157 Main St.) during Gallery Walk. Representing Brattleboro School of Budo, Cyndy Gray will present a katana sword demo, Erik Schmitt will show his mastery of the rapier, and Stician Samples will model the discipline of aiki-budo. In addition, there will be demonstrations of TaeKwonDo by Jeanette and Mike Linnehan, and t'ai chi ch'uan by Cai Silver.

After Gallery Walk there will be a "late show" double-feature of warrior films at Latchis 4. First comes "Shinobi: Heart Under Blade," followed by "Hana: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai." "Shinobi" is a Romeo-and-Juliet tale of 18th Century Japan in which the ruling Shogun orders two clans to dissolve their peace pact and duel each other (the Shogun wanting to wipe out both clans!). This situation climaxes in five-on-five ninja combat. "Hana" depicts a warrior forsworn to avenge his father's death and finding an unusual pacifist solution. Both movies offer gorgeous cinematography and will be shown again Sunday evening at the Hooker-Dunham Theater.

After starting off with further martial arts demos, Saturday the 6th begins with kamishibai -- Japanese storytelling with a mini-theater, presented by Dianne Clouet -- in the tale of an ogre who saves a village. Mary Dumas and sword instructors from New England Fan Experience, of Boston, will offer a preview of sword work and of their own Cambridge-based festival, Anime Kaiju Experience, which is scheduled on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Saturday and Sunday matinee double features at the Latchis Main Theater present the original "Mothra" (1961): giant bug saves the world and communicates with the human race through twin tiny princesses who sing to the benevolent monster. Also showing is "Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" (2001), known as "GMK," widely thought of as one of the best of this film genre. The movies show on Sunday in reverse order.

Saturday evening at the New England Youth Theatre there will be a showing of "Samurai 7," a new anime film based on Kurosawa's classic "Seven Samurai."

Sunday morning's schedule will start with a video game contest at the Marlboro Tech Center, sponsored by the Graduate Center and First Run Video. The video game will be an opportunity for people young and old to enjoy being mysterious beasts. While destroying virtual cities, contestants can ponder how we can actually save and preserve our environment. Next to the video game contest will be a Monster Brunch sponsored by Grafton Village Cheese Company and featuring the Chelsea Royal Diner's famous breakfast quesadilla.

Throughout the weekend people of all ages are invited to mould their own monsters (or warriors) with clay. This 'make and take' project is sponsored by the Greater Manchester Arts Council.

The following weekend, September 12-13-14, Manchester, Vermont extends this Festival with further movie showings, making this a southern Vermont celebration.

Putting monsters and warriors together in the same festival celebrates Japanese arts and culture and provides opportunities for insights into today's human condition. For instance, there is a connection between art, fictionalized destruction in the Kaiju films, and dealing with the memories of actual devastation in wartime.

To highlight the ever-relevant role art plays in grieving, healing, and peacemaking even in wartime, the Asian Cultural Center of Vermont (ACCVT) presents two concurrent exhibitions in West Brattleboro to complement the Japanese action film festival:

- Kiri Paintings in which tiny collaged bits of fabric were used to "paint" artful images -- This rarely exhibited artmaking by Hiroshima student survivors offered some normalcy in otherwise shattered lives. More information is at

- Peace Masks 2008 consists of 60 face "masks" made using several layers of handmade paper molded from the unique faces of grad students attending a Conflict Transformation seminar at World Learning/SIT Graduate Institute this summer. About an hour each to make, the masks are artfully arranged in a luminous tableau. More information is at

The Asian Cultural Center of Vermont connects people through the arts and cultures of all Asia. For more information, including images and video, visit the festival website,, or the events page of, or contact festival coordinator Adam Silver at (802) 579-9088 or 257-7898 or

Copyright 2008, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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