Kinuyo Tanaka
Film Pioneer

Join us for this richly illustrated talk exploring the career of Kinuyo Tanaka, which guides you through our film selection. This season introduction event will trace how Tanaka came to be considered one of the greatest actors in the history of Japanese cinema, and charts her move to being a ground-breaking female filmmaker, producing films about distinctly feminine topics.

‘I have never considered acting unsatisfying. But I love cinema and realised I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to become a director.’ – Kinuyo Tanaka

Contracted as a teen to Shōchiku studios in 1924, Kinuyo Tanaka flourished during the first golden age of Japanese cinema, acting for major directors including Yasujirô Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Kenji Mizoguchi. As Japan emerged from the destruction of the Second World War, societal roles for women radically shifted. Tanaka seized this opportunity, moving from superstar actor to directing commercial films. ‘I have never considered acting unsatisfying. But I love cinema and realised I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to become a director. I guess my ambitions came to the surface.’

Leveraging her experience as an actor, working for various directors, and inhabiting multiple personas, Tanaka’s films gracefully shapeshift across genres. Irrespective of their diverse styles, when viewed collectively these six films offer a unique perspective on a nation grappling with the scars of war, social upheaval, and modernisation: all seen through the lives of its female citizens.

Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernández is a Ph.D. candidate at University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid (Spain), writing a dissertation on female authorship and representation in the films directed by Kinuyo Tanaka. She has been a visiting researcher at the Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo and Birkbeck, University of London. Her research, teaching and publications include the study of women filmmakers in Japan, gender representations in East Asian culture and transnational film connections between Japan and Latin America.

Love Letter (Koibumi)
Mon 1 Aug 18:15; Sat 6 Aug 12:00; Sat 20 Aug 12:15; Fri 26 Aug 18:15
Forever a Woman (aka The Eternal Breasts) (Chibusa yo eien nare)
Wed 3 Aug 20:45; Mon 8 Aug 20:40; Sun 21 Aug 14:45; Mon 29 Aug 14:30
The Moon Has Risen (Tsuki wa noborinu)
Sun 7 Aug 15:40; Sat 20 Aug 18:00; Fri 26 Aug 20:40
Kinuyo Tanaka: Film Pioneer
Mon 8 Aug 18:30
The Wandering Princess (Ruten no ohi)
Sun 14 Aug 12:20; Sun 21 Aug 18:10; Sat 27 Aug 20:50
Girls of the Night (Onna bakari no yoru)
Sun 14 Aug 18:10; Sat 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 29 Aug 18:20; Wed 31 Aug 20:30
Love under the Crucifix (Ogin-sama)
Tue 16 Aug 20:45; Sun 28 Aug 18:20; Tue 30 Aug 20:45

In partnership with

In cultural partnership with

In September we will screen six films with Kinuyo Tanaka as actor, including The Life of Oharu and A Hen in the Wind

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email