27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : AWARD WINNERS

•November 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : AWARD WINNERS

TIFF Winners

            Like the previous years, the last day of the festival still packed with some events. Along with the screening of anime blockbuster ‘Attack on Titan : the First Part’ and the launch of the 27th allied project ‘The World of Tim Burton’ with the special presentation of the director’s upcoming ‘Big Eyes’, the winners of the festival were announced in the Closing Ceremony, held at TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills and presented by Festival Muse Miki Nakatani.

Festival Muse_Miki Nakatani

            The newly established award outside the festival entry categories, the Samurai Award, was handed by Director General of TIFF, Yasushi Shiina to Takeshi Kitano and Tim Burton. Receiving the trophy, Kitano commented with his remarkable true Kitano style “I think I was in the first TIFF when it was still a small festival. Then the Green Carpet appeared that made us feel like grasshoppers. I understand there’s no prize money but a trophy made up of left over material from other nicer trophies. I didn’t want to receive the prize but when I heard Tim Burton was coming, I didn’t feel so ashamed. I wasn’t satisfied making TV and comedy shows but I finally feel like I’m casting off my skin. Not like a snake turning into a larger one, but more like a cicada turning into a dragonfly.”

TIFF Samurai Award

            Tim Burton also expressed his gratitude with a nods to this year’s special focus on animation, saying “Thank you for having me. Japan is one of my favorite countries, so it’s an honor to be here with all of you, with the great Takeshi Kitano, and with the Japanese monsters that I love.”

            Here are the compete list of winners of the 27th TIFF :

Japanese Cinema Splash Award

Best Picture Award : ‘100 YEN LOVE’, directed by Masaharu Take

TIFF 100 Yen Love 2

Jury Special Mention : ‘ECOTHERAPY GETAWAY HOLIDAY’, directed by Shuichi Okuta

TIFF Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday

            The award went to the film ‘100 Yen Love’ directed by Masaharu Take. Handed by the Deputy General Delegate at the Festival de Cannes, Christian Jeune with jury member Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Take gave his winning speech telling the process on making the film, “This film started from a small scenario, but with the award we received, it’ll help us spread this movie to a larger audience.” Take also commented on how he hopes to see Tokyo promote TIFF further, that film festivals are a good platform for independent filmmakers, but it’s important to have an open mind, to want to promote your film worldwide.

TIFF 100 Yen Love

            About the judging process, jury member Tony Rayns gave his comment, “We saw all sorts of film like that was the homage to Federico Fellini, about a film that taught us the meaning of love, or one that none of us could understand. We were impressed enough by another film which we also thought deserved a special mention, which is ‘Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday’, directed by Shuichi Okita. We thought Sakura Ando in ‘100 Yen Love’ gave a heroic performance, we liked the music and we particularly liked how Take-san directed the film. I think he expressed the deep understanding of what it means to be defeated. I hope this film will be a great success.”

 

The Asian Future Film Award

The Spirit of Asia Award by The Japan Foundation Asia Center : ‘THE LAST REEL’, directed by Sotho Kulikar

TIFF The Last Reel

Best Asian Future Film Award : ‘BORDERLESS’, directed by Amirhossein Asgari

TIFF Borderless

            Gave his speech, director Sotho Kulikar said “This was my first film as a director and my first film to be in such a prestigious festival, so this award is very meaningful to my further career. I’m grateful to my mother who is my role model of my life. Without her, I wouldn’t be here today. My mother once told me that a few months before the civil war, my father was suggested by a friend that he should take us and leave for Europe until the country became stable. This was just before the collapse of Cambodia. But my mother said ‘why leave? There is only six months of sunshine in Europe’. This was her expression for her love for the country. I had a personal desire to tell a story to know about my family history. I was born two years before the civil war and grew up during the war. I don’t remember the genocide period and people didn’t want to talk about it. My generation grew up only knowing that Pol Pot regime destroyed our country. After working with people in the Khmer Rouge, I understood why Cambodians kept silent. I developed a desire to tell a story from a Cambodian perspective, and there is a large population of young Cambodians who aren’t interested in their heritage, rather they are ashamed of it. I wanted to communicate to people across generations to move on to the future. That’s why this trophy is for my country.”

TIFF Borderless 1

            For the winner of the Best Asian Future Film Award, ‘Borderless’, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director at the Toronto International Film Festival described the film as follows. “Our jury was impressed by a film that tells its story of survival during the war with the purest of cinematic elements; image, gesture and time. The lead actor is a young boy and he does it without one word of dialogue.” Giving his response to this, director Amirhossein Asgari said “ I was speechless. I don’t know what to say and I’m overwhelmed. But I know I would like to dedicate this film to everyone who loves peace in this world. Also, I’d like to dedicate this trophy to my family, my crew and those who love peace. This is my first film and my first award. Thank you so much”

 

The Competition Section

WOWOW Viewer’s Choice Award : ‘TEST’ directed by Alexander Kott

TIFF Test

            Being the first announced in the Competition section as the newly established award for this year’s festival, director Alexander Kott said, “This is a wonderful prize because it was chosen not by jury members who are experts of the industry but by viewers. So I am truly honored. This is similar to the Audience Award I received in the past. Arigato!”

TIFF Test Winner

 

 

 

The Audience Award : ‘PALE MOON’ directed by Daihachi Yoshida

TIFF Pale Moon 5

            With actress Rie Miyazawa also appeared on stage, Yoshida gave his speech “Thank you. This prize means that the audience voted for my film. I feel the weight of the award and it’s a great encouragement for my career.” Miyazawa followed, “Thank you very much. Before the release on November 15, it’s an honor to receive this prize. I was nervous about the release but now I can be proud and look forward to the opening day!”

Pale Moon Winner

 

 

Best Artistic Contribution : ‘TEST’, directed by Alexander Kott

TIFF Test 3

            As described by jury member Debbie McWilliams, “The film was beautiful, amusing, thought-provoking, and shocking. The design, the sound, the cinematography all contribute to this extraordinary experience.” Gave his second winning speech, director Kott said “Film is an art of imagery. Film is about the visual artistic technology. This award was presented to us because we were able to achieve that, and I can’t forget that my artistic muse is my wife!”

 

Best Actor : Robert Wieckiewicz in ‘THE MIGHTY ANGEL’

TIFF The Mighty Angel

            Announced by jury member Robert Luketic, he described the acting as a performer whose depiction was so committed to humanity that times we could almost feel and smell it. He said then,”This actor takes the audience through the agony and dehumanization of full-blown alcoholism. There is unrelenting and convincing pursuit of truth and performance.” Received the trophy on behalf of the actor was director Wojtek Smarzowski, saying “He is busy working on a film so he couldn’t come to Tokyo. I think Robert would have liked to thank the jury members and the actors in the film.”

TIFF Wickiewicz

 

 

 

Best Actress : Rie Miyazawa in ‘PALE MOON’

TIFF145

            Announced by jury member John H. Lee, he revealed that the choice was an unanimous vote. “Her acting was profound, so sensitive yet fragile. Her eyes has spoken everything. I thank her for her wonderfully artistic performance”, Lee said. Being first leading role for Miyazawa after seven years, the actress said, “I’m shaking. I was nervous after seven years, but Mr. Yoshida’s tenacity yet warm direction gave me power. If I could slice this trophy in half, I’d like to give the other half to him.”

Best Actress_Rie Miyazawa_Pale Moon

 

Best Director : Joshua Safdie and Benny Safdie in ‘HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT’

TIFF Joshua Benny Safdie

 

            Announced by jury member Eric Khoo, he described that the film was a tight street film filled with energy. Receiving the award, director Joshua Safdie described that Tokyo as having so much energy, and how the fanaticism of life in the city was so amazing. Benny Safdie commented, “This is all thanks to the leading actor and actress. It’s a true honor to receive a prize in city of movement and speed, which is also what we want in our movies.”

 

The Special Jury Prize  : ‘THE LESSON’, directed by Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov

TIff The Lesson

            Presented by director Hiroshi Shinagawa, saying “It’s an honor to announce this prize. This film had us on the edge of our seats and we were stressed out in a good sense. The performance of the actress was great, and her presence was everything on the screen. Director Valchanov commented “I thank the co-director, my wife Kristina Grozeva!” Actress Marguita Gosheva also expressed her gratitude as well, saying “It’s our fourth prize but considering that this film was made with a ‘nano’ budget, we’ve come a long way. Arigato!”

TIFF The Lesson 2

 

 

The Tokyo Grand Prix : ‘HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT’, directed by Joshua Safdie and Benny Safdie

TIFF Heaven Knows What

            Presented the highest acknowledgement of the festival, James Gunn, President of Jury, enthusiastically explained why this was the winning film. Gunn said “This film bursts with life about people living on the brink of death. It’s about people who are desperate to become something more, and in the process of attempting to do so, become something less. The performances seem raw, natural and real, and it belies the craftmanship of those performances beneath that. The direction is exciting, turns the tragedy into humor and the music, in all the best ways, is disruptive and shameless.” Receiving the Tokyo Grand Prix, Joshua Safdie commented “Two is better than one I guess! I said earlier about praising extremism and this is rather extreme. I only met Arielle a year and a half ago and this has been quite a detour. Honestly, when we got selected for TIFF, it was the most exciting news because I thought this film would react well in Tokyo with people’s love for fanaticism and extremism.” Benny Safdie added “We got that second watch! It’s such an honor. So much sacrifice was made to make this film and for it to be recognized.” And the actress Arielle Holmes, the real character that inspired the story, was also lost for words by the jury’s choice. “I don’t know what to say… Thank you all so much! This is amazing because when I met Joshua, I was just a homeless girl in New York City.” The actor Caleb Landry-Jones from ‘X-Men : First Class’ and ‘Byzantium’ was thrilled as well, saying “Thank you very very very very much! This means a lot!”

Tokyo Grand Prix_Heaven Knows What

 

 

 

            After all the awards had been presented, James Gunn made an overall comment. “It was a great festival experience with amazing people and jury members. We got along very well despite our differences in opinions, but no one got angry and no ego. We ‘ve been on a trip around the globe, from Poland to the Phillipines to New York City and Iran and on and on! Through our travels, we’ve illuminated a lot of differences between our cultures but more importantly, we’ve illuminated how we are all the same. Each film is about how people want to love or be loved. We are all one human spirit, we merely have different ways of communicating that. Watching these films as a collections, I feel I know myself much better, and I’ve gotten to know the world a bit better. This festival is about experiencing our differences and our similarities through the joy and craftmanship of cinema. I am grateful to the volunteers, staff, fans, press and lastly to the city of Tokyo for its incredible hospitality. Thank you!”

TIFF Jury Members Closing

            With this year’s total 44.706 numbers of audience (200 films screened) and other official events that were attended by approximately 151.000 persons, TIFF’s Director General Yasushi Shiina then wrapped up the Closing Ceremony with his finale speech, “ I thank the sponsors, government sectors, ASEAN, local agencies and organizations all involved in TIFF. Also, thank the Festival Navigators, Azusa Okamoto and Harry Sugiyama and Festival Muse, Miki Nakatani. In closing, I would like to recall the words of Prime Minister Abe on the opening day of this festival, that we are a hub for intercultural exchange between filmmakers, culture and businesses alike. We established two new awards this year to nurture young creators. So I hope TIFF will serve as a foundation for such filmmakers to flourish in the world!”

See you in the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival!

(dan)

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 3)

•November 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 3)

TIFF_Poster

            Days after the opening ceremony, .this year’s TIFF seems successfully gained more audience to watch the movie lineup in its public screenings. With more special events over the various venues and stage appearance in Roppongi Hills, the hype was still continued.

TIFF Ultra Seven

            In TOHO Cinemas Nihonbashi, after the Pikmin short movies screening featuring the father of Nintendo’s video game, Shigeru Miyamoto, the anime pioneer Hideaki Anno also did the screening of more than 50 of his movies, as well as the special talk event to emphasize this year’s special focus on animation. And along with the special screening of ‘Ultra Seven’ HD remastered 2.0, still in Nihonbashi, the character figures and diorama of ‘Evangelion Unit-01’ (2m height) and Ultra Seven’s ‘King Joe’ of Tsuburaya production was displayed to celebrate the spotlight.

TIFF Shes Funny That Way

           Moreover, the 27th TIFF also brought some classics to be screened in Nihonbashi, such as James Dean classic, Nicholas Ray’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ that was presented in special 4K remastered format, 1981’s Oscar winning ‘Chariots of Fire’ and Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ in the Special Night Event at the famous Kabukiza Theatre with Kabuki performance and talk session.

TIFF Expendables 3

            But the real highlights were more famous actors and directors special appearance to present their film as this year’s entry to the festival. Celebrating Japan premiere of ‘The Expendables 3’, director Patrick Hughes and actor Kellan Lutz attended the stage appearance, director Owen Wilson and director Peter Bogdanovich for ‘She’s Funny That Way’ in the Q & A special appearance, director Jean Pierre Jeunet for ‘The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet’ and Bollywood hit’s ‘Dhoom 3’ featured Aamir Khan and director Vijay Krishna Acharya.

TIFF Dhoom 3

            And to close the festival along with the announcement of award winners, the most awaited first recipient of the Samurai Award along with Takeshi Kitano, US director Tim Burton. Attending TIFF for the first time, Burton will also present the special footage presentation of his upcoming movie, ‘Big Eyes’, starred Amy Adams & Christoph Waltz, to start the TIFF allied project ‘The World of Tim Burton’, which will screen some of Burton’s best cinematic works.

TIFF Tim Burton

The World of Hideaki Anno

TIFF Hideaki Anno

            This first-ever major screening to showcase Hideaki Anno’s retrospective works is also one of the most highlighted event in this year’s TIFF. The man, an animator whose career spans over thirty years and known as the Evangelion’s creator, started it all with his relationship with Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki. With some of his earlier works that impressed Miyazaki, Anno was hired as an animator on ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’. Animated the warrior gods, the most monumental creatures in the film, since then, Anno has begun to create a string of hits until ‘Evangelion’ series becomes a global phenomenon among the world’s most famously known Japanese animation.

            Represent this event, Toshio Suzuki, the producer of Studio Ghibli, described Anno as the only man Hayao Miyazaki would ever acknowledge as his apprentice. Suzuki then said when he was asked for an advice by Yasushi Shiina about launching a special focus on animation, he got an idea of spotlighting on individual animation filmmaker after Hayao Miyazaki had announced his retirement. And the only man he would ever think of was Hideaki Anno. He also believed that Anno will be the successor that will lead the Japanese animated film industry, at least for the next 10 years.

            Anno himself thinks of this as a great honor, to be the first to represent the animation world. He said that he was very grateful and excited, yet a little embarrassed that seeing all his work, including the rare ones from all genres and his amateur ages, animations and live actions, being exhibited is like reviewing his whole life in a short time.

            Besides showcasing all of his work from a lifespan career in TOHO Cinemas Nihonbashi, in the way TIFF celebrating Japanese animation in grand style, Anno also sets a special talk event for several times during the week, talking about his life and vision as an animator and filmmaker.

TIFF Hideaki Anno 2

            From his early career in Studio Ghibli, the relationship with Hayao Miyazaki, and his thought about anime in Japan cinema hasn’t been sufficiently well appreciated, Anno said that there is no clear answer in the message he wanted to convey in the film. Instead, he wanted to stimulate the intellectual curiosity of his audience, that the characters would have a different interpretations beyond their complexity and ambiguity. Either it was depth, attractive effects or cinematic aesthetics, to him, the key to the excitement is how much the movie could take the audience to get away from reality, and as well, create emotions which could help the audience find a solution to their life’s problems.

            In the screening of ‘Revival of Evangelion’, an augmented omnibus of several episodes of ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ TV series , Anno said that the trick to get as much achievement is knowing what to discard. He learned this lesson the hard way while working on ‘Royal Space Force’, a late ‘80s series where he was in charge of effects and mecha design.

            His first job as director was on the six-part video series ‘GunBuster’, which actually has many problems in dealing closely with producers, and so when he made NHK animated series ‘Nadia The Secret of Blue Water’, which was based on Jules Verne’s work. However, seeing all of his work again recently, he still feels impressed by many aspects in those films.

            All of this experience made him determined to do things his own way, which led to ‘Evangelion’. In terms of themes and visuals, Anno admitted that ‘Evangelion’ was probably his most characteristic work, where the production partner has a same vision and believed in him.

        The fourth and final film in the ‘Evangelion’ film series will be released next year along with the 20th anniversary of the original series.

Special Night Event at Kabukiza Theatre

            In this special night event, Kabuki actor, Ichikawa Somegoro gave a Kabuki performance, the famous Kabuki play, ‘Shakkyo (Stone Bridge)’ followed by talk session and the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’. For those of you who’s wondering why ‘City Lights’ is the choice to end the event, there was an explanation beyond the history of Kabuki Theatre in Japan.

TIFF Kabukiza

            Began with the appearance of the festival muse Miki Nakatani expressing her delight to be the part of TIFF, to promote wonderful Japanese films to the world. And also being a Kabuki fan, she was excited to see TIFF and Kabuki merge in a single night on the same stage. This is the first occasion in the history of TIFF to hold a screening event at Kabukiza Theatre, which just has been renovated over a year.

TIFF Kabukiza 3(c) Shochiku Co., Ltd.

 

            The Kabuki performance then began with the brief explanation, that the play ‘Shakkyo’ was based on the myth that a sacred beast of a mythological lion-like animal appears to show good omen in the sacred ground of Bodhisattva, Seiryo Mountain, India. A number of Kabuki variations of the ‘Stone Bridge’ have been created. Presented the Kabuki dance featuring the spirit of the lion, Somegoro, played the lead with the heroic mane swinging and energetic choreography as the highlights of the show.

TIFF Bento 2

            As the theatre tradition, the performance was followed by the customary bento (meal box) intermission. For this special ocassion, the traditional Makunouchi Bento was recreated. This popular bento dates back to the Meiji period (1868-1914) when Kabukiza Theatre was built.

TIFF Bento 1

            The second part of the event featured Somegoro appearing on stage. He said that he was honored to have the chance to perform for TIFF and the audience today, with a positive sense of tension and responsibility of representing Kabuki world. Explaining why he choose to perform ‘Shakkyo’, Somegoro then said that the dance was quintessentially Kabuki. The dance, the music, stage effects and make-up were what many people will recognize as familiar characteristics of Kabuki, and also one of the most appropriate dance to understand the art.

TIFF Kabukiza 2

            About the history, traditionally, Kabuki was performed to remove evil and bad spirits which is why it is often associated with festivities and celebrations. Beyond that, the moves are important as well, and Somegoro said that he swung the mane a bit longer for the special evening. He added that being different from films, a live performance is even harder because the audience must feel the energy and every momentum of the stage.

TIFF Kabukiza 4

            Finally, presenting the screening of ‘City Lights’, Somegoro told a story of Chaplin and Kabukiza, both were born in 1889, and how Chaplin, whose love for Japan is widely known, was very much attracted to Kabuki and visited the Kabukiza Theatre in March 1936. He still kept a photograph of his great grandfather, Matsumoto Koshiro VII and Chaplin, and show it to the audience. Moreover, there was a Kabuki dance inspired from Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’, a fact even Somegoro was surprised to discover. In the end, he said ‘This year commemorates Chaplin’s 100th year debut, and that’s why it’s the most appropriate choice to screen tonight at Kabukiza’. There you have the answer of the connection between Chaplin and Kabuki tradition.

TIFF’s Closing Film : PARASYTE : PART 1

TIFF Parasyte

            Having the world premiere of Takashi Yamazaki’s big screen – live action adaptation of famous Japanese body-snatcher manga as TIFF’s closing film, the screening of ‘Parasyte’, which will divide into two parts (the second part will be released later in 2015) was attended by Yamazaki (also wrote the screenplay and worked on VFX), actor Shota Sometani and Masahiro Higashide, actress Ai Hashimoto and Eri Fukatsu and Japanese rock band Bump of Chicken, who sings the movie’s theme song.

            Presented the film, Yamazaki explained the process of making ‘Parasyte’ was actually very long and also a strenuous process to complete the digital effects. With the rights reverted back to Japan after ten years in the US, he fought his way over his love to the original source. For him, the original manga was very powerful and has much depth beyond a philosophical questions about mankind and motherhood.

             Sometani then stressed his quote that the time he spent to shoot ‘Parasyte’ was more than other films he has ever been in, and the difficulties in acting against Righty, the CG character was rather complex and pushed him to many trial and error in the process. However, he said that Yamazaki was very helpful in many discussions they were in.

TIFF Parasyte SA

            To actress Eri Fukatsu, who hasn’t read the original manga until she offered the part, it was such an intense, wonderful piece of work which she was instantly drawn in. And same goes to Ai Hashimoto, who admit she also instantly became a fan. Moreover, she said that the crew were very familiar. Masahiro Higashide then added that his part required more of doing facial expressions, but after all it was fun, and recalled that in the set, the other actors acted like parasites without talking, smiling and even blinking too much.

            Back to Yamazaki, after his smash hit ‘Eternal Zero’ and also ‘Doraemon : Stand by Me’, he admitted that ‘Parasytes’ was quite a pressure, but knowing the box office really depends on timing and luck, he hoped that ‘Parasyte’ could do as well as his previous movies.

             Lastly, before the screening of the film, the Japanese rock band ‘Bump of Chicken’ consists of Motoo Fujiwara (vocal), Hiroaki Masukawa (guitar), Yoshifumi Naoi (bass) and Hideo Masu (drums) appeared on stage. The frontman Fujiwara told the audience that all personnel of the band were actually a big fan of the manga since they were teenagers, so they got very excited to be offered this job. Yamazaki added that he felt very satisfied with the result. Hearing the song, he thought of Shinichi, the main character, running through all the chaos straight into part 2 over the good bridge and perfect way to finish the film.

               Bump of Chicken then played the theme song titled ‘Parade’ for the first time in public.

The Report on TIFFCOM : Japan Content Showcase 2014

TIFF TIFFCOM 2

            As TIFF’s affiliated film market, Japan Content Showcase 2014 has successfully ended. Held at the Grand Pacific Le Daiba Hotel from October 21 to 23, 2014, this film market welcomed 331 exhibitor organizations from 25 countries and regions, and 1158 buyers from 39 countries and regions. Comparing to the recent years, JCS has achieved a significant increase in Exhibitors and Buyers, which becomes the highest record in the history.

TIFF TIFFCOM 34

            Joined by more than 18000 participants, 3 days of JCS was filled up with business meetings, seminars, pitching sessions, co-production events, networking parties, TIFF movie screenings in TOHO Cinema Mediage Aqua City and more than 22 artists/group live music showcase. And as a special features of JCS 2014, the Japanese broadcasting networks gathered up as TV network pavilions in an attempt to create vibrant environment for business by bringing the shooting sets from their TV programs into their own exhibition zone.

TIFF TIFFCOM 35

              TIFFCOM also launched a new spot named ‘Property Zone’ where specific creative works are comprehensively exhibited regardless of business boundaries. The featured contents of this year was the famous properties ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ in its 35th anniversary project and ‘Moshi Moshi Nippon’. The market wrapped up with the opening reception of TIFF and live performance event ‘JAPAN NIGHT’ features Japanese top artists.

TIFF TIFFCOM 25

             Next year’s Japan Content Showcase will be scheduled around the end of October, 2015.

Movie Reviews :

HUNGRY HEARTS (2014, Saverio Costanzo, Italy)

TIFF Hungry Hearts

            In their struggling film industry, which left almost no room for new talents unless in the world class festivals, Italian cinema still stands with some notable works. Comes from Golden Lion nominee director Savero Costanzo, ‘Hungry Hearts’ was based on the Italian novel ‘Il Bambino Indaco’ by Marco Franzoso. Unlike the promotional photos featured American actor Adam Driver (HBO’s ‘Girls’) and Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, both won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor and Best Actress in the 71st Venice International Film Festival, ‘Hungry Hearts’ was actually an intimate horror about paranoid parenting.

            The movie also started with delightfully romantic feels about a new young couple met in serendipitous situation, moving in together and getting married after the girl got pregnant. It even had Irene Cara’s ‘What A Feeling’ over the wedding scene, but soon after the film hits its half an hour screen time, an issue of indigo baby turned the movie into some kind of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ paranoia where the wife (played by Rohrwacher) becomes a germophobic and carnophobic mother who barely feeds and keeps giving the baby a purgative. Thus, the husband (played by Driver), with the help of his mother, is doing the best he could to save the baby, whose now underdeveloped and needs major amounts of protein.

            Building the unique plot with well-written script turnovers, distinctive directorial style, although the use of fish-eye lens and Nicola Piovani’s camera angle was quite irritating yet explains a surreal angles of claustrophobic from the apartment walls to New York crowds, also an outstanding performance from Driver and Rohrwacher, the conclusion was a bit cliché in suspense genre. Though, it didn’t prevent ‘Hungry Hearts’ to stand out intensely frightening with its eerie looks beyond parenting and married life.

TEST (2014, Alexander Kott, Russia)

TIFF Test

            Against all odds, Russian director Alexander Kott made this apocalyptic love triangle tale in the life of Kazakhstan’s steppe and a nuclear test. Played it silent, with no script but just a 3-page treatment, the film talks through the acts, art direction, cinematography and editing as their major role.

            It might feel like just a series of image or a silent theatre through the desolate sets, yet the result is very controlled naturalistic production that still leave you with emotion with a fine sound engineer’s work that captured birds, wind, storms and silence sound and surprisingly, a striking ending. The 14 year old actress Elena An, who plays the girl, who’s not a professional actor, gave the most convincing face and body expression performance, and also the key to keep the audience on their seat. A very unique piece of experimental filmmaking.

WALKING WITH MY MOTHER (2014, Katsumi Sakaguchi, Japan)

TIFF Walking With My Mother

            This documentary entry in Japanese Cinema Splash tells a story about the director’s mother, a 78 y.o Suchie, whose distraught after losing her daughter and then, her husband. Taking countless tranquilizers to calm herself down, it’s not until her sister, Mariko, decides to take Suchie back to their hometown for the first time in 38 years.

            In documentary storytelling, there’s nothing very special about ‘Walking with My Mother’, but director Katsumi Sakaguchi might know that he already has a strong theme to talk about, from a long lost family relationships to the struggling journey after losing our loved ones, and this made the film becomes quite challenging, emotionally.

MELBOURNE (2014, Nima Javidi, Iran)

TIFF Melbourne

            There’s always something about Iranian cinema. How they create a very intimate looks to draw the conflict, and keep the tension in pace. Flows in the same veins with Asghar Farhadi’s films, best known for ‘A Separation’ (2011) and ‘The Past’ (2013), this Nima Javidi’s directing debut even has more intriguing premise about a young Iranian couple, Amir (played by award winning actor from most Farhadi’s films, Peyman Moaadi) and Sara (played by Negar Javaherian) got hold back to move to Melbourne by the neighbor’s dead baby in their bedroom.

            Like most Iranian film, ‘Melbourne’ also looks very natural in creating the conflict of ordinary family facing extraordinary circumstance. Thanks to a strong screenplay filled with effective dialogue and magnetic interactions between the leads and other characters. When the situation escalates through the thought-provoking conclusions where the couple struggled for their conscience, the suspense laid like a rollercoaster of emotions that keeps you on the edge of your seat, rooting for the lead characters and wondering what happened next.

NOVA : TERBAIK DARI LANGIT (2014, Nik Amir Mustapha, Malaysia)

TIFF Nova Terbaik Dari Langit

            After the remarkable debut in ‘KIL’ (2013), which won four awards including Best Picture and Best Director in 26th Malaysian Film Festival (Festival Filem Malaysia), director Nik Amir Mustapha comes up with this quasi-scifi ‘Nova (Terbaik Dari Langit)’. The screenplay was written by Redza Minhat, the lead actor in ‘KIL’, and the Malaysian acting diva Sharifah Amani also starred.

            Berg (played by the rising Malaysian actor Bron Palarae), a rather failed and drug addicted avant-garde filmmaker, reunites with his three school friends (played by Iedil Putra from ‘Cuak’, Amerul Affendi from ‘Bunohan’ & Megat Sharizal) in a road trip to capture the UFO sightings he experienced 15 years ago on film. A one last hurrah that took them to a test beyond their collapsing relationships, and also something more than what it seems.

            Over the exciting ‘Super 8’-ala sci-fi prologue and a bunch of mocks to independent filmmaking, lies the strong friendship story that flows with a gentle pace of new wave Malaysian cinema these days. However, like his achievement in ‘KIL’, the avant-garde atmosphere here was never getting too distinctly to communicate to his audience. Mustapha kept the sparks of emotion runs with a wonderful balance between the drama and the comedy, along with a nods to Malaysian culture. Plus good ensemble acts from the actors, this is obviously another effort, a nice formula to Malaysian new wave film scene that still can be received by the common audience as well.

            ‘Nova’ will open in Malaysian theatres December 25th .

LATE SPRING (2014, Cho Keun-hyun, Korea)

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            This Korean drama tells a story of a genius sculptor (played by Park Yong-woo) who diagnosed with a progressive disease that soon will lead him to total paralysis and losing his motor skills. In despair, his wife (played by Kim Seo-hyeong) found a desperate and abandoned young wife-mother (played by Lee You-young) to become a model, to encourage him getting his life back.

            Being gorgeously shot beyond the theme of sculpture art and human relationships in beautifully crafted Korean post-war period, this director Cho Keun-hyun’s first feature dived deeply to reflect the painful side of its characters. The pace is quite slow comparing to most Korean drama, but the emotion never fails to deliver. Both the female leads also gave their magnetic performance though the conclusion was a bit out of place. Still, to K-drama cravers, this promising debut worth a closer look.

DHOOM 3 (2013, Vijay Krishna Acharya, India)

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            While not many Bollywood movies screened in Japan theatres, although almost a year late, ‘Dhoom 3’ is an exciting entry to this year’s lineup. Following the success of the recent film series, this Bolly show of heroes, girls vs charming villain and their mean machines back with more explosive elements.

              As ever, the moneymaking franchise always focused more on the villain role. Having Aamir Khan brought his suave act into a more comical territory including circus and magic, still with the main lead Abishek Bachchan – Uday Chopra plus the beauty of Katrina Kaif, ‘Dhoom 3’ might still crafted with Bolly-bombastic and razzle-dazzle extravaganza. Call it whatever, but as a pack of total entertainment, ‘Dhoom 3’ delivers a high-octane and grand scale of action stunts. A sure-shot and indeed, record breaking blockbuster.

 

THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014, Patrick Hughes, US)

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Read the full review here (in Indonesian) (dan)

 

 

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 2)

•November 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 2)

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            Even one of the biggest international movie festival throughout Asia still needs more audience. Though TIFF has its way to combine the various movie genres in the line-up, unlike any other festivals, some of non-commercial art ventures and local independent films may look harder to find their way in reaching more admission numbers. The special focus on Japanese animation was another concern, mostly for overseas audience, but with the huge success of ‘Frozen’ in Japan cinemas, this might be the right time to bring more of those recognitions.

            To cope with this, as Yasushi Shiina said, this year’s festival packs more events and exhibitions around the main venue in Roppongi Hills. From the food-vaganza in ‘Tokyo Cinema Cuisine’ event, music shows to World Cosplay Summit as TIFF’s side events and exhibits, and more stage appearances, they are aiming wider attention. The summit that was established in 2003 to promote a new kind of international exchange through cosplayers all over the world has the increasing number of participants over the years, and for this year, the cosplayers from 22 countries and regions will glam up the festival venue. Even the choice of the idol band ‘Arashi’ as the festival ambassador, was meant to get more of the media coverage.

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            And luckily, this year’s TIFF has got a big support by the Japan Foundation partnerships. Known as an independent administrative institution whose purpose is to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries, Japan Foundation could help them reach more awareness from overseas, and even to showcase more Japanese movies to other Asian countries.

            Bringing the new project series named ‘Crosscut Asia’ to the festival, this program will focus on Asian film from various angles including countries, themes, directors and actors. Over seven years until 2020, Asian films will be presented with a different theme each year. In its inaugural edition, the subject is ‘Thai Fascination’ which brought the evolution of modern Thailand cinema scene today.

            Under the direction of Ishizaka Kenji, professor at Japan Institute of the Moving Image whose also the programming director of Asian Future and World Focus, eight Thai films that represent their cinema achievements were chosen in this new section.

         Moreover, Kenji said that each section of the showcase has their own particular conditions. While the Special Screenings may focus on the status of Asian or world premiere as the primary criteria, Asian Future and World Focus took more concern on the theme of the film among the quality of the chosen ones. Being not far from the social issues about cornered people which runs around the competition films, by the people, politic and other causes, these sections represent a global trend in the industry, where most of these issues could gain more attention from the audience.

The Samurai Award Special Talk Session with Takeshi Kitano

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            Receiving this year’s inaugural Samurai Award with US director Tim Burton, Japanese famous actor Takeshi Kitano leads the special talk session about the now and future of Japanese Films. Held in the Tower Hall, Academy Hills, Roppongi Hills 49F, Kitano was also joined by Tony Rayns and Christian Jeune, both the jury members for Japanese Cinema Splash sections, and winners of PFF Award and three student film festivals in Japan.

            The event began with a talk session between Kitano and the students who won various film festivals in Japan such as PFF (Pia Film Festival), Tokyo Student Film Festival, TOHO Cinemas Student Film Fetsival and Kyoto International Student Film Festival. Kitano said that he believes in creating what he wants to create, but also knows the importance of accepting what he doesn’t like, and not everyone should have the same taste in making movies. That there were always other opinions and perspectives in filmmaking. Answering some questions from these young filmmakers, Kitano then said ‘The more objective you are, the less you’ll push yourself into a tight corner’.

            Tony Rayns and Christian Jeune then tells their first encounter with Japanese cinema through their teenage years, with Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi films, and also to Kitano’s films. With such familiarity towards Japanese cinema, they both shared their outlooks on what’s to come of the Japanese film industry. Telling the future of Japanese and other cinema lies in the hands of young people who are going to reinvent cinema themselves by teaching them how to make a film, they emphasize these students to not be afraid of the reviews. Jeune added that the directors nowadays have their own way of telling stories, what they want to say and how they want to say it.

           Kitano then said, ‘When I began shooting films, the reviews I got were awful, and Tony Rayns was the first person to give me postitive appraisal and to this day, I feel deeply indebted to him. The point is, you never know by who or when your films will be well-received, which is why young filmmakers should follow their heart and shoot what they want to’.

       About the spirit of independent filmmaking, Rayns stated that young filmmakers should pursue new channels of film distribution, and a recommendation in making a breakthrough is as simple as make good films so the world will notice. Kitano closed the session saying ‘In making movies, you can listen to advice, but don’t forget that you are the creator of your own film. What’s best is to build your own world which may lead to answers’. In his true Kitano style : ‘I won’t tell you to keep at it because you see, it’s best to nip the buds!’

Pikmin Short Movies Event with Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto

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            Although not too popular to overseas audience, Japan anime lovers will not have failed to notice the adorably perky and colorful characters named ‘Pikmin’, who began appearing on TOHO Cinema movie screens across Japan since 2013, arranging the letters in the cinema logo before being chased away by a giang polka-dot monster sporting 3D glasses.

            These kawaii creatures, a race of part-animal and plant named after their iconic word ‘pik min!’, a bit like the word smurf in ‘The Smurfs’, populated an earth-like planet and discovered by Captain Olimar, a tiny extraterrestrial whose spaceship crash and landed after being hit by a comet were created by Shigeru Miyamoto.

            Known as the father of the Nintendo video games including Super Mario Bros, the best-selling video game franchise of all time, Donkey Kong and later, Wii console, Miyamoto has been around in Japan videogames industry scene since the late 1970s. Through each era of video games development, his design for video games and systems was so influential, critically acclaimed and also become the global industry standard throughout the world. Pikmin have been the stars of their own 3D strategy game, published by Nintendo since 2001, with the player controlling Captain Olimar.

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            Joined Miyamoto in this event, a packed premiere screening of Pikmin shorts at TOHO Cinema Nihonbashi, was Nobuo Kawakami, founder of gaming platform Dwango and Niconico Douga, Japan’s first profitable online video-sharing service. In the special talk session after the screening, Miyamoto explained the way Pikmin was moving from game consoles to movie theatres as the future of the franchise and animation industry at large. Started from the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, Miyamoto created a short movie with Pikmin following him from the dressing room to the stage, then he made Pikmin stickers that allow people to add the characters to their own photos and films.

            While releasing its new 3DS controller, Nintendo offered Miyamoto the making of short films as well, where he then worked with the TK3 animation company to create ten three-minute shorts. Realizing that the movie making is very different from interactive games, the process took quite a long time to draw. Miyamoto said that he could’ve finished two new games for one three-minute short movie.

           And the base was always his childhood memories, how to create something that could be enjoyed by all ages, including parents and children. But he never forgot to introduce some Japanese culture including the Ramune (Japanese cider) bottle, that appeared in the second of the movie shorts.

            Adding this special talk event, Kawakami also showed the audience a 3D animation trailer for an upcoming NHK TV series titled ‘Ronja Roverdotter’, directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. Kawakami, who produced the show, explained how they combine the idea with a number of people of NHK to create something new to the 3D animation platform.

            At the end of the session, answering Kawakami’s question on whether Nintendo plans to move into feature-length 3D animation, Miyamoto answered there were some possibilities of that, however, longer movies would be time-consuming which they have to come up with a lot of surprises to keep them interesting. For a while, Miyamoto said maybe he could ask people to send a lot of ideas and drawings and see if they could make it into a global project.

Seven Film Directors in Japan Special Program : Seven Samurai

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            Like the previous years, this year’s TIFF also celebrates Japanese classic cinema. Screening Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ on Academy Hills, Roppongi Hills 49F to mark its 60th anniversary, the movie was presented by seven selected directors considered to have special achievement in their film industry over the last few decades, in a special talk event.

            Those names were Eiichiro Hasumi, Takashi Miike, Tetsuya Nakashima, Keishi Otomo, Sang Il-lee, Takashi Yamazaki and Daihachi Yoshida. Hasumi was known for the romantic ‘Umizaru’ series, Miike, who’s made over 80 films including ’13 Assassins’, ‘Hara-Kiri : Death of a Samurai’ was famously known with his gonzo styles, Nakashima for the Oscar-shortlisted ‘Confessions’, Otomo for this year’s twin megahits, ‘Rurouni Kenshin : Kyoto Inferno / The Legend Ends’, Lee for Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’, Yamazaki for ‘The Eternal Zero’ and Yoshida for the multi-award winning ‘The Kirishima Thing’ and also the director of ‘Pale Moon’, Japan’s only entry in this year’s TIFF competition section.

            Selected by TIFF to showcase the continued excellence of Japanese films, the special event was led by Lee, Otomo and Yamazaki. Besides talking about the Japanese film industry in general, they also discussed their personal thoughts on Akira Kurosawa, from his famously known principal to not compromise for the integrity of his films, to their personal favorites among Kurosawa’s movies.

Movie Reviews :

FORCE MAJEURE (2014, Ruben Ӧstlund, Sweden-Denmark-France-Norway)

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            Only if you have seen Ruben Ӧstlund previous works, you wouldn’t expect ‘Force Majeure’ as a traditional disaster flick like a bunch of its promotional footage. But being an important part of the plot explored, this prize winner at Cannes revealed an emotional flow of avalanche beyond human struggle in a bond of relationships, raising questions about men and women’s gender stereotypes over marriage life.

            Plays out over a five-day vacation of a looks-like perfect family at a stunning Alps snow mountain, the husband Tomas (Johannes Bah Kunke) and his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) suddenly find themselves in a much more difficult situation after one disastrous event.

            A subtle script and handsome directing from Ӧstlund never miss its marks over a distinctly quiet and beautifully eerie atmosphere by Fredrik Wenzel and Fred Arne Welgeland’s visually stunning cinematography. Diving deeply to create more challenging questions in human bonds and relationship, Ӧstlund precisely calibrated every situation and characters, played naturally and emotionally convincing by the actors, in his metaphors of avalanche. Like an avalanche that could finish in seconds, but the risk of collapse, is never vanished. A must see entry in this year’s TIFF’s World Focus.

RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS / LIU LIAN WANG FAN (2014, Edmund Yeo, Malaysia)

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            Sounds like a show of Malaysian culture, this competition entry about a group of youth being caught in the middle of political activism introduced the full-length feature work of Edmund Yeo, known as a new and promising independent filmmaker in his region.

            Yeo sure had peculiarly wild ideas and something to say in this film, but rather felt like a still-waters and full of Asian arthouse-cliches, the story which is divided into parts connected by Ming (Shern Koe), a middle class boy that has a big crush for a fisherman’s daughter, Mei Ann (Joey Leong), their friend Hui Ling (Daphne Low) and her favorite teacher, the idealistic headmistress Lim (played by Taiwanese actress Zhu Zhi-ying) sometimes seems a little out of focus and not all-effective. The chaos demonstration scene near the end was also felt a bit unrealistic.

            However, how each plot intertwined beyond a backdrop of slowly rising protest in Malaysia’s social, industrial and political issues that heads to a darker path was kept restrained, but never forgot to show us Malaysia’s distinctive mix of cultures, languages and religions in an independent cinema’s attempt to create more gentle pace and natural conflicts. Not that special, but very much worth a look.

THE CONNECTION / LA FRENCH (2014, Cédric Jimenez, France – Belgium)

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            Titled ‘The Connection’, it’s ‘La French’ in French, with the story of a police magistrate Pierre Michel (played by Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin) teams up with a bunch of clean cops (one of them played by Benoit Magimel) in battle to take down Marseilles’ ‘The French Connection’ ‘70s drug ring, you guess. This film is a French flip side, a Gallic take on William Friedkin’s classic crime thriller.

            However, like the director Jimenez said in his special appearance with actor Gilles Lellouche (played the untouchable kingpin Gaetano Zampa), he never wanted to do a remake to Friedkin’s film. Instead, the real characters portrayed in this film were a lesser-known Euro side of the story. Inspired by his own father who owns the French club in the ‘70s, Jimenez has created something closer to Scorsese’s crime thriller that never depends on the action.

            This big-budget France-Belgium production also never touched the gritty exploration in Friedkin’s owned classic. But being closer to a French old fashioned crime saga, the film stands out with the well-crafted production values to create the ‘70s set and all of its aspects including the kinetic camera work by Laurent Tangy, gloriously shot in 35mm, and the soundtracks, the mix of American and French ‘70s retro-hit, with much lesser violence. A slick and quite intense period-crime thriller.

KYOTO ELEGY (2014, Kiki Sugino, Japan)

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            This is not very usual, that an actress turns producer and director has made two full length-feature over a year as an entry to some world’s largest film festival. Started her producing – directing debut besides ‘Taksu / Yokudo’, a drama set in Bali and photographed by Indonesian independent director Sidi Saleh, which screened at the Busan International Film Festival, Kiki Sugino’s ‘Kyoto Elegy’ was based on the award winning novel ‘Manganiku to boku’ wirtten by Shiki Asaka.

            In the surface, this story about a man and his eight year long span relationship with three women may look like a romantic comedy, but deeper than that, ‘Kyoto Elegy’ draws its plot over women’s fears in various kinds of symbiotic relationships, and also project the distortion of many ideals in Japanese society. A very feminine looks that at many times, seem lost in unnatural descriptions by the twisted and unlovable characters, but at the same time, also triggered our sense to look deeper at every relationship we had in life. Kiki Sugino played the female character named Satomi over her fatty makeovers.

THE MIDNIGHT AFTER (2014, Fruit Chan, Hong Kong)

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            Known as an independent Hong Kong second wave filmmaker that has a special style portraying the everyday life of Hong Kong people in his wild and sometimes daring films, director Fruit Chan now comes with a post-apocalyoptic satire in ‘The Midnight After’.

Based on the novel ‘Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai Po’, originated as serialized web fiction by an anonymous writer who goes by the pen name Pizza, about the last 17 people in a public vehicle while the rest of humanity suddenly vanished, ‘The Midnight After’ tells the aftermath of the mysterious event.

            Like Chan’s other filmography that played on genre mishmash but still left his special marks on cartoonish satire, for some, ‘The Midnight After’ may look like just a sci-fi horror flick that plays on pulpy atmosphere, but deeper than that, instead of speaking causes, Chan draws many aspects of cultural decadence in his society over more behaviorial study of its characters. With solid acting from senior actors such as Simon Yam, Kara Hui, Lam Suet and a bunch of new talents, and the tunes of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ evoking the claustrophobic isolation theme, this is Chan returned to what he did best, with more twists and turns.

AS YOU WERE (2014, Liao Jiekai, Singapore)

TIFF As You Were

            A Singapore entry to this year’s Asian Future section marks the other successful credentials of their independent filmmaker Liao Jiekai from ‘Red Dragonflies’ (2010). Tells a story about a childhood sweethearts who spend their last moments together after years of being apart and became a couple, the film reflects a meaning of change in memories and relationships.

            Using lots of metaphors over experimental ways in storytelling to describe those themes beyond the beautiful look of St. John’s Island in Singapore’s idyllic and historical landmarks, for some, might be moving a bit too slow in its episodes, but nevertheless, also has a strong descriptions to Singapore new wave and independent film scene these days.

ABOVE THE CLOUDS (2014, Pepe Diokno, Philippines – France)

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            As one of the most exceptional filmmakers in Phillippine cinema’s new trends, the script of ‘Above The Clouds’ received the Arte Prize at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival, as well as an Asian Cinema Fund grant from Busan last year. Set over an overnight hiking journey up a cold mountain between a grandfather and his 15 y.o. grandson after losing their loved ones, the film tells a struggling story in dealing with griefs.

            As a very personal journey inspired by the 2009’s Typhoon Ketsana that hits Diokno’s hometown Manila, the film marks a strong chemistry and performance between Pepe Smith and rising young star Ruru Madrid. However, the emotion, one that should be needed more in these themes, was kept a bit too restrained at times. It is indeed a choice to emphasize the class on Arthouse genre, but the result, lessen the conflict in becoming more engaging.

IN THE ABSENCE OF THE SUN / SELAMAT PAGI, MALAM (2014, Lucky Kuswandi, Indonesia)

TIFF In The Absence Of The Sun

Read the full review here (In Indonesian)

THE RAID 2 : BERANDAL / GOKUDO (2014, Gareth Evans, Indonesia)

TIFF The Raid 2

Read the full review here (In Indonesian) (dan)

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 1)

•October 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON JAPANESE ANIMATION (PART 1)

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            Becoming a longtime dream of Yasushi Shiina, the new director general of Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) since 2013, the festival took the big step in its 27th edition this year, with a special focus in animation. The idea of spreading wider awareness in animation genre as one of the biggest part in Japanese entertainment industry through the theme of the festival was not an easy way, though. The crucial point is how to showcase anime films with the bigger impact than any festivals have gone before, and to wrap it along with other selections in the vein of the festival all these years, as one of the largest international film festivals throughout Asia.

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            Playing an important key role to make it happen was Toshio Suzuki, the chief producer and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. Having long experience in one of the largest and most well-known Japanese animation industry, Suzuki helped Shiina to accomplish this idea. Instead of just putting more anime films in the festival lineups, they choose one iconic person in the industry to represent this culture. Hideaki Anno, the professional animator behind ‘Evangelion’ and many well known animation works including Ghibli’s films, filled the festival with this year’s most highlighted retrospective event, ‘The World of Hideaki Anno’, which screened over 50 films over his succesful carreer. To maximize the experience, ‘Evangelion’ gigantic character figure unit-01 (2m height), ‘King Joe’ and diorama of Tsuburaya production will be displayed at Toho Cinema Nihonbashi with the screening of ‘Ultra Seven’ HD remastered 2.0 edition.

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            TIFF also put another name, Shigeru Miyamoto, senior managing director of Nintendo and known as the father of ‘Super Mario Bros’, ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda’ with the screening of his ‘Pikmin’ shorts along with other animation movie like ‘Appleseed’, ‘Attack on Titan : First Part’, ‘Doraemon’ and episodes of ‘The Next Generation Patlabor’ to welcome the upcoming live-action version of the famous animation.

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            And Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6’ (titled ‘Baymax’ in Japan theatrical release) world premiere is a fortunate coincidence to actualize this special focus on animation as the theme of the festival. With the huge success of ‘Frozen’ throughout Japan, they wanted a Disney movie to open the festival. Luckily, ‘Big Hero 6’ is like a Disney’s special gift to Japanese reception of ‘Frozen’, too, where the elements was built over John Lasseter’s love to Japanese culture over the years. Combining both culture on animation, ‘Big Hero 6’, as seen from the trailers, have many recognitions of Japanese anime and other cultures.

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            Moreover, they even held the special event in the 2nd day of the festival, which took place in the EX-Roppongi Theatre and concert hall, where John Lasseter did a special talk show titled ‘Cool Japan’ as in Japan’s strategy in their entertainment industry. Telling his fans a lifelong story on how his successful career and works all these years was influenced over his admire to Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Lupin III’, many elements of ‘Totoro’ and other Japanese culture that also was seen in his previous movies like ‘Cars 2’, Lasseter presented over one hour of awesomeness in this special event.

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 (c) Disney

 

The Red Carpet Event

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            Opened the event, the TIFF’s red carpet, like the previous years, was held in the Roppongi Hills arena. The event commenced with the appearance of Festival Muse Japanese actress Miki Nakatani, festival navigators Harry Sugiyama and Azusa Okamoto, and the surprise appearance of ‘Arashi’, one of the most prominent artist group in Japan, as the festival ambassador. Along with some musical and culinary events introducing nowadays trend in Japan, the appearance of this group consists of multitalented singer and also actors was meant to reach wider awareness to the festival.

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            The red carpet then rolled by the appearance of the jury members, actors, actresses and film staff from around the world, animation characters, also many young Japanese independent filmmakers who got selected in Japanese Cinema Splash category and Japan Foundation’s Crosscut Asia : Thai Fascination section doing photo sessions, meet their fans and signing autographs. Like John Lasseter said, ‘We are so excited to be here. Konbanwa, Tokyo International Film Festival!’

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The Opening Ceremony

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            Attended by Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Senior Vice Minister and secretary in charge of intellectual property and Cool Japan strategies, Masaki Taira & Yohei Matsumoto, and member of Japan House of Representative Tatsuya Ito, the opening ceremony began with the speech by Arashi, which appointed as the national tourism advisors and showcasing Japanese entertainment culture ever since. They hoped that their appearance could convey such qualities to the many guests from abroad at TIFF with the spirit of Japan’s hospitality (omotenashi).

            Like in the previous years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe then appeared on stage explaining that they asked Yashishi Akimoto, the renounced producer of the festival to ask multitalented artist Takeshi Kitano who will receive the first Samurai Awards with director Tim Burton to take part in this year’s TIFF, in the hope to promote the coolness of Japan to the eyes of the world. With the increasing numbers of tourist last year and welcoming Tokyo as the host city for the 2020 Olympics, he also hoped TIFF will grow into the leading film festival in Asia, as the gateway for young directors and anime filmmakers, all in the part of Japan’s part in sports, culture, art and technology.

            Members of the jury, which like an unlikely pairing ever in the movie festivals, then introduced on the stage. Director James Gunn (president of the jury) spoke on behalf of the other jury member Robert Luketic, John H. Lee, Eric Khoo, Japan owned Hiroshi Shinagawa and casting director Debbie McWilliams that they are so excited to take the part in the festival and received the great honor to choose films that have an essence of truth in the main selection theme of cornered people against various causes from political to other matters.

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            And to present the opening film ‘Big Hero 6’, producer John Lasseter and Roy Conli, director Don Hall and Chris Williams, Walt Disney Animation Studio executive vice president Andrew Milstein and voiceover actors Kotaro Koizumi & Miho Kanno, expressed their joy of being able to have the world premiere of the movie in Tokyo and how the film was based on many inspirations from Japanese people and culture as a love letter to Japan. Director Chris Williams said that they took pictures and made sketches to represent Japanese sensibility and aesthetics with a feel of sensitivity behind the movie’s fictitious main set, San Fransokyo. Lastly, John Lasseter wrapped up the ceremony to commence the opening screening and also the festival with the message : ‘May you see amazing films, may there entertain you, inspire you, and fill your heart with warmth’.

Tokyo Cinema Cuisine

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            Aside of increasing the number of venues to the TOHO Cinema Nihonbashi and Kabukiza Theatre, to spread more recognitions on the festival in one pack of culture shows, an event combining movie experience with culinary attraction also held in the Roppongi Hills Arena, with 5 kitchen cars and one drink bar in the center of Roppongi Hills..

            Named ‘Tokyo Cinema Cuisine’, this event hopefully will attract the audience and other guests by serving special menus created by five leading chefs in Japan. Mamoru Kataoka (Ristorante Al Port), Shinji Kanesaka (Kanesaka) and Yosuke Suga (Suga Labo), three of those five chefs (Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Yuji Wakiya were the other two) appeared on the Roppongi main stage to explain their original menus made especially for this year’s TIFF.

Movie Reviews

PALE MOON (2014, Daihachi Yoshida, Japan)

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            As the only film represents Japan in this year’s competition category, ‘Pale Moon’ is an adaptation from a novel by Naoki Prize-winning author Mitsuyo Kakuta. Directed by award-winning director Daihachi Yoshida, the film tells a story about Rika Umezawa (played by Rie Miyazawa, award-winning actress from Yoji Tamada’s ‘Twilight Samurai’ and Kazui Kuroki’s ‘The Face of Jizo’), a lonely housewife tangled in large embezzlement over her affair with a university student (played by Sosuke Ikematsu) and fraudulent case at works.

            In the surface, ‘Pale Moon’ might looks just like an erotic thriller about an adultery wife – tired plots. But beyond the exquisite directing from Yoshida and the almost perfect acts and chemistry between Miyazawa and Ikematsu, ones that really triggered our deepest sense over some key scenes, lies a stronger theme of a woman’s struggle seeking for liberation against many aspects and conventional expectations among Japanese society.

RUINED HEART : ANOTHER LOVE STORY BETWEEN A CRIMINAL & A WHORE (2014, Khavn De La Cruz, Phillipines – Germany)

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            Known as a multitalented singer, songwriter, pianist, poet and filmmaker and being considered as the father of Phillipine digital filmmaking, Khavn De La Cruz has been around in many international fim, music and literature festivals, even taking parts as jury and festival director. His artsy experimental showcase over a hundred shorts since 1994 also made him one of the most punk rock filmmakers beyond the shambolic atmosphere.

            Expanded from the 2012 same-titled short which was the first Phillipine entry to Berlin International Film Festival’s official selection, ‘Ruined Heart’ tells a story about a merciless hitman (Tadanobu Asano) rescues a prostitute (Nathalia Acevedoas) from a violent in Phillipine slum. This full length feature version also has the same tone as most Khavn’s other works, which felt more like a really wild punk – opera built with nightmarish and chaotic visuals. However, here, with the presence of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography and Japanese famous actor Tadanobu Asano, the distinctive experience of his digital filmmaking felt more intriguing. See it if only you love the wildly experimental filmworks.

1001 GRAMS (2014, Bent Hamer, Norway-Germany-France)

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            Known as Norway’s humanist comedy, Bent Hamer’s ‘1001 Grams’ felt much lighter than the title or even the metaphor of life values. Lies on the story of Marie (Ane Dahl Trop) who works in the weights and measures institute and has to replaced his terminally ill father Ernst (Stein Winge) on an international conference where the prototype weight of national kilos needs to be transported to Paris, with a little love story, the touch of art films was a bit too soft and slender over more exciting and rare informations of weights and measures institute.

THE GOLDEN ERA (2014, Ann Hui, China – Hong Kong)

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            As an ambitious work from director Ann Hui, ‘The Golden Era’ is a biopic of one of the most influential female writer, Xiao Hong (played beautifully by Tang Wei in her finest performance) in Chinese modern literature. The way Hui told her story among various direct-to-camera narrators was a daring approach beyond the lavishly impressionistic looks of the movie.

          It’s obviously colored with Ann Hui’s kind of pace, but the first half had a little issue character focus through its overlong duration. However, the rest was much better in the emotional approach, built the epic journey – feel in Xiao Hong’s influential part through her short life becomes stronger.

BIG HERO 6 (2014, Don Hall & Chris Williams, US)

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            Inspired by the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, ‘Big Hero 6’ is Disney’s Lasseter love letter to Japanese culture, from animation to other aspects. Set in the fictional metropolis named San Fransokyo, a well built crossover between San Francisco and Tokyo, a 14-year old robotic genious Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) had to face his destiny as a team of inexperienced crime-fighters with Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Fred (T.J. Miller), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), and a robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit), the only thing his loving brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) left for him.

            Over some controversies between Disney and Marvel in the company acquisitions, as a much anticipated Disney animated fantasy, ‘Big Hero 6’ is surely a fun and quite emotional packed entertainment. But aside the sets creation and a little Japanese Anime – melancholy in the dramatization that worked at best, the blend on combining two countries’ animation culture to shape the characters was sadly not as balanced. And so was the script, written by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson and Jordan Roberts, that seem a little lost to put the right balance between characters. However, the production values, the hi-tech computer-animated and all the technical efforts have created something as big as any gigantic animated blockbusters. (dan)

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : DISNEY’S BIG HERO 6, THE WORLD OF HIDEAKI ANNO & A SPECIAL FOCUS ON ANIMATION

•October 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

27TH TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : DISNEY’S BIG HERO 6, THE WORLD OF HIDEAKI ANNO & A SPECIAL FOCUS ON ANIMATION

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            As one of the largest international film festivals throughout Asia, in its 27th edition, ‘Tokyo International Film Festival’ (TIFF) is getting bigger. Spreading Japan’s cultural signature in world animation genre, held around the Roppongi hills arena and expand to Nihonbashi’s TOHO and Kabukiza Theatre, this year’s festival will be packed with special events. From much talked about epic entertainment to rarely notable works all over the world, the festival will open with the world premiere of Disney and Marvel Comics’ ‘Big Hero 6’, which will be attended by John Lasseter and the duo directors, Don Hall and Chris Williams.

               To accentuate this animation theme, the festival will also present their most highlighted retrospective event ‘The World of Hideaki Anno’, Japanese animation pioneer behind his great works from Daicon Films’ ‘Ultraman’ to ‘Evangelion’ huge phenomenon, and as well, the father of ‘Super Mario Bros’, ‘Donkey Kong’, ‘The Legend of Zelda’ and Nintendo Game Producer, Shigeru Miyamoto in the 3D premiere of  ‘Pikmin’, a famous videogames character in its first short animation films.

               The affiliated film market, TIFFCOM, which was held a few days before the festival in Grand Pacific Le Daiba this year also give a strong underline of this focus over a Japan Content Showcase, a multi-content market of music, films and animations packed with film summit, seminars and movie screenings in TOHO Cinema Mediage Aqua City.

             And in the recognition to the finest world filmmakers, TIFF has launched the special award named ‘The Samurai Award’ to commend achievements of filmmaker who continues to create gorundbreaking films that carve out a path to a new era. The first recipients of the award are Japanese cinema all-rounder Takeshi Kitano and beyond his very distinctive style of filmmaking, American director Tim Burton.

About Hideaki Anno

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            Born in 1960 in Ube City, Yamaguchi prefecture, after became a member of Daicon Film, a group of amateur filmmakers while studied at Osaka University of Arts, Hideaki Anno started his carreer in Tokyo for the television anime series ‘The Super Dimension Fortress Macross’ (1982). In 1984, he animated the character ‘The God Warrior’ in Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Nausicaă of the Valley of the Wind’. Became an effect an mecha designer after participated in ‘Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honnĕamise’ (1987), Anno made his debut as animation director in ‘Gunbuster’ (1988).

            The benchmark of his carreer then established in 1995 with ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ TV series, and even the theatrical version that became a social phenomenon two years after. Worked in many project from TV animation and live action label of Studio Ghibli, Anno founded Khara and took position of managing director. There, he released the ‘Evangelion’ theatrical series since 2007 as original writer, screenwriter, executive producer and director. This special feature event is not only be the first, but also will take the audience of the festival to experience the full and greater picture of his animation works through the screening of more than 50 Anno’s works including rare shorts, TV anime, TV adverts and other promotional videos.

Focus on Animation in Special Screenings

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            With the lineups that focuses on animation, the festival will open and close with the world premieres of two of this year’s hottest film that have a strong connection with world of animation. The opening film is Walt Disney Animation Studio and inspired from Marvel Comics’ character ‘Big Hero 6’, and for the closing, a long awaited manga-adaptation ‘Parasyte’. Unlike previous years, the ‘Special Screenings’ section of the festival will also filled up with animation films.

             In those lineups, there will be an asian/world premiere of Shinji Aramaki’s latest installment of the popular franchise ‘Appleseed Alpha’, ‘Garm Wars The Last Druid’ from Mamuro Oshii (‘Ghost In The Shell’), the 3D Japan animation ‘The Nutcracker’, ‘Attack on Titan – The First Part’ and ‘The Next Generation – Patlabor – episode 10’, the latest episode of the series that will feature the special footage to the upcoming live-action ‘Patlabor’ next year.

                 The other films to fill this section are the Japan premiere of ‘The Expendables 3’ and Gareth Evans’ ‘The Raid 2 : Berandal (Gokudo)’, Jon Favreau’s foodporn comedy ‘Chef’, French reteamed of ‘The Intouchables’ directors and Omar Sy in ‘Samba’, Atom Egoyan’s ‘Devil’s Knot’ starred Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, and Jean Pierre Jeunet’s ‘The Young and Prodigious T.S Spivet’.

             For the asian/world premiere of Japan films, there will be ‘A Courtesan with Flowered Skin’, Japanese adult cinematic poetry based on the award-winning 2006 adult novel by Ayako Miyagi, their christmas blockbuster ‘Miracle : Devil Claus’ Love and Magic’ (Isshin Inudo, dir.), and ‘Until The Day Comes’ (Sejiro Koyama, dir.).

                Also in this category, the most successfull Bollywood blockbuster of all time ‘Dhoom 3’ in its Japan premiere that will be attended by Aamir Khan, and two documentaries, Martin Scorsese’s ‘The 50 Year Argument’, about the challenges of the influential publication behind The New York Review of Books, and ‘Cathedral of Culture’, a documentary of six startling question about cathedral buildings and their souls, each directed by Wim Wenders, Robert Redford, Michael Madsen, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin & Karim Ainouz.

              Added with special programs, the section of Special Screenings will have some world’s classics with additional touch, 1981 Oscar winner ‘Chariots of Fire’, ‘Honjitsu Tadaima Tanjo’, 1979’s Japan WWII drama, James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ in 4K Digitally Restored Version, Singapore’s Eric Khoo’s animated adaptation of manga classic ‘Tatsumi’ (Jury Special Program), english dubbed-version of ‘Doraemon : Stand By Me‘, ‘The Next Generation – Patlabor – episode 0-7’, Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ that will packed together with cultural events in ‘Special Night Event at Kabukiza Theatre’, and Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ to commemorate the special selection of Seven Directors in Japan by TIFF consists of Eiichiro Hasumi, Takashi Miike, Tetsuya Nakashima, Keishi Otomo, Sang Il-lee, Takashi Yamazaki and Daihachi Yoshida.

              The last highlighted part of this section includes two special presentations from the upcoming Keiichi Hara’s ‘Miss Hokusai’ and Tim Burton’s ‘Big Eyes’ that also will be attended by Burton in the festival’s allied retrospective project, ‘The World of Tim Burton’.

The Festival’s Competition Section

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            Like in the previous years, the Competition section of the festival brings together excellent works around the world. As a pleasure of knowing the world is the pleasure of watching films, this year’s selection was based on the keywords of ‘diversity and creativity’, where diversity means gathering together various types of films, and creativity that was pointed to the individual characteristics of the directors that are displayed in each films.

            And the nominees will be selected by the festival’s jury ; director of Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, James Gunn (president of the jury), John H. Lee (director of Korean’s high grossing romance ‘A Moment to Remember’), director Robert Luketic (‘Legally Blonde’ and the upcoming Expendables spin-off ‘The Expendabelles’), Singaporean arthouse director Eric Khoo, Japan’s new wave director Hiroshi Shinagawa that has just had his own retrospective program in the recently first edition of ‘Kyoto International Film and Art Festival’), and Debbie McWilliams, a female casting director behind James Bond franchise and as well some notable films from ‘An American Werewolf in London’ to ‘Henry V’).

            The films in the competition section are ‘1001 Grams’ (Bent Hamer, Norway-Germany-France), ‘The Days Come’ (Romain Goupil, France), ‘The Connection’ (Cédric Jimenez, France – Belgium), ‘Heaven Knows What’ (Joshua & Benny Safdie, USA – France), ‘Ice Forest’ (Claudio Noce, Italy), ‘Melbourne’ (Nima Javidi, Iran), ‘The Lesson‘ (Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov, Bulgaria – Greece), ‘The Mighty Angel’ (Wojtek Smarzowksi, Poland), ‘Les Hongos’ (Oscar Ruiz Navia, Colombia-France-Germany-Argentina), ‘Nabat’ (Elchin Musaglou, Azerbajian), ‘Pale Moon’ (Daiihachi Yoshida, Japan), ‘Ruined Heart : Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore’ (Khavn De La Cruz, Phillipine – Germany), ‘River of Exploding Durians’ (Edmund Yeo, Malaysia), ‘Test’ (Alexander Koft, Russia), and ‘River Road’ (Li Ruijun, China).

World Focus Section

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            The ‘World Focus‘ section will be filled with award winning movies at major international film festivals, and latest excellent, unusual works and masterpieces by great masters which are not scheduled to be released in Japan anytime soon.

        In this section there are ‘Corn Island’ (George Ovashvili, Georgia-Czech-France-Germany-Kazakhstan-Hungary), ‘Freefall’ (György Pálfi, Hungary-France-Korea), ‘Flowers’ (Jon Garaňo & Jose Maria Goenaga, Spain), ‘Misunderstood’ (Asia Argento, Italy – France), ‘Force Majeure’ (Ruben Ӧstlund, Sweden-Denmark-France-Norway), ‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’ (Roy Andersson, Sweden-Norway-France-Germany), ‘The Postman’s White Nights’ (Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia), ‘Voice Over’ (Cristian Jiménez, Chile-France-Canada), ‘Reality’ (Quentin Dupleux, France – Belgium), ‘Wild Life’ (Cédric Kahn, France), ‘She’s Funny That Way’ (Peter Bogdanovich, US), ‘The Face of the Ash’ (Shakhwan Idrees, Kurdistan – Iran), ‘Station of the Cross’ (Dietrich Brüggemann, Germany), ‘The Golden Era’ (Ann Hui, China – Hong Kong), ‘Self Made’ (Shira Geffen, Israel), ‘Late Spring’ (Cho Keun-hyeun, Korea), ‘Sivas’ (Kaan Müjdeci, Turkey – Germany), ‘The Midnight After’ (Fruit Chan, Hong Kong), and ‘Partners in Crime’ (Chang Jung-chi, Taiwan).

             In the additional programs in this section titled ‘Discovering Asian Cinema’, there will also be ‘Song of Apu’ (Kaushik Ganguly, 2013, Bengali), a real life story inspired by Subir Banerjee, the child actor played the iconic role of Apu in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ and ‘Tender are the Feet’ (Maung Wunna, 1972) from Myanmar.

Asian Future & Japanese Cinema Splash Sections

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            Tokyo International Film Festival has always supported young asian filmmakers through these sections / categories. While the ‘Asian Future’, in its second year is an Asian Young Cinema Competition for first or second feature films made in Asia including Japan and Middle East by up-and-coming directors, will also compete to win additional award ‘The Spirit of Asia Award’ established by the Japan Foundation this year, ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’ will showcase exceptionally unique, creative and challenging films from the growing Japanese film industry, regardless of the stage of the director’s carreers in making a splash on the world stage.

            10 films that will be competing for ‘Asian Future Film Award’ are ‘Above the Clouds’ (Pepe Diokno, Phillipines – France), ‘As You Were’ (Liao Jekai, Singapore), ‘As the Swallow Got Thirsty’ (Muhammet Cakiral, Turkey), ‘Borderless’ (Amirhossein Asgari, Iran), ‘In the Absence of the Sun / Selamat Pagi, Malam’ (Lucky Kuswandi, Indonesia), ‘Made in China’ (Kim Dong-hoo, Korea), ‘Kyoto Elegy’ (Kiki Sugino, Japan), ‘North by Northeast’ (Zhang Bingjian, China), ‘The Last Reel’ (Sotho Kulikar, Cambodia), and a rare Malay sci-fi ‘Nova : Terbaik dari Langit’ (Nik Amir Mustapha, Malaysia), about a child and his four friends on a journey to capture the UFO experience in film.

            In ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’, there will be ‘August in Tokyo’ (Ryutaro Nakagawa), ‘Starting Over’ (Takashi Nishihara), ‘Fragile’ (Shingo Ota), ‘Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday’ (Shuichi Okita), ‘Unknown Town’ (Shingo Ohuchi), ‘Chokolietta’ (Kazama Shiori), ‘100 Yen Love’ (Masaharu Take) and ‘Walking with My Mother’ (Katsumi Sakaguchi), about a 78 year old mother and her son struggled after losing their loved ones.

Crosscut Asia Section : Thai Fascination

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            Being the new section that marked the first collaboration of TIFF and the Japan Foundation Asia Center, the first ‘Crosscut Asia’ program this year aimed the notable works in Thailand Cinema. Named ‘Thai Fascination’, the program features Thai movies from major blockbusters to indies, historical drama to horror, and also including campus films.

            The films that will be shown in this first edition of ‘Crosscut Asia’ Thai Fascination are ‘Timeline’ (Nonzee Nimibutr), ‘The Songs of Rice’ (Uruphong Raksasad), ‘Concrete Clouds’ (Lee Chatametikool), ‘The Teacher’s Diary’ (Nithiwat Tharatorn), ‘Last Summer’ (Kittithat Tangsirikit, Sittisiri Mongkolsiri, Saranyoo Jiralak), ‘Sun & Sunrise’ (Kittikorn Liawsirikul), ‘Tang Wong’ (Kongdej Jaturanrasmee), and ‘46’ (Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit). (dan)

KYOTO INTERNATIONAL FILM AND ART FESTIVAL 2014 : TAKING JAPANESE FILMS BACK TO ITS BIRTHPLACE (PART 2)

•October 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

KYOTO INTERNATIONAL FILM AND ART FESTIVAL 2014 : TAKING JAPANESE FILMS BACK TO ITS BIRTHPLACE (PART 2)

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The Opening Ceremony

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            In the middle of the beautiful autumn colors in Kyoto, at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre in Gion district, October 16th 2014, the first ‘Kyoto International Film and Art Festival’ opened with 125 guests including French actress Iréne Jacob and Japanese film industry’s big names such as Fumi Nokaido (actress, ‘Why Don’t You Play in Hell’) and Kiki Sugino (actress, producer and director, ‘Kyoto Elegy’) walked along the red carpets attended by more than 900 audience.

            Iréne Jacob, who’s lately been around in Japan during a theatrical tour of ‘La Metamorphose version Androide’, Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ play adaptation whom she worked with acclaimed Japanese director Oriza Hirata and leading roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, will be receiving ‘Most Respected Filmmaker from Paris’ based on the friendship city treaty between Kyoto and Paris.

            The opening ceremony filled with the elegant and fascinating traditional dance show by Maiko and Geiko in Gion Kobu, and some introduction speech of its stakeholders. The executive producer of the festival, Mr. Kazuyoshi Okuyama, who recently became the head of Yoshimoto Kogyo’s Katsu-do Co., a new production and distribution division, expressed his excitements about the relaunch of this potential festival, bringing Japanese movies back to where they were first introduced in Japan.

            Okuyama also recalled his personal relationship with Japanese veteran director and his personal mentor, Kinji Fukasaku (‘Satomi Hakkenden’/ ‘The Legend of 8 Samurai’, 1983) about the point of revolution is always based by tradition. Director Sadao Nakajima, the chairman of the festival then gave his insights in the hope to restore this roots, where Kyoto once again could became a center of Japanese movie industry.

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            The legendary Clint Eastwood, this year’s recipient of KIFF’s Most Respected Award for renowned actors and directors, expressed his support through a little thankful note, an acceptance message that said “It’s especially gratifying to be recognized by the film community in Kyoto. The support you’ve given us over the years is much appreciated, and though we’re currently in post-production on ‘American Sniper’ (an upcoming Eastwood’s film starred Bradley Cooper in the title role), we wanted to send along our sincerest thanks for this wonderful tribute”.

            With more than 15 venues including Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu for classic film screening, the newly opened AEON Cinema in AEON Mall Katsuragawa for the main section, in total 48 film screenings, and the rest, including Hotel Anteroom Kyoto, Kyoto City University of Arts Gallery (KCUA), Kyoto City Hall Square, Former Rissei Elementary School, The Museum of Kyoto, Ooe Nogakudo and Kyoto Station Building for various art exhibitions, Yoshimoto Kogyo has began their attempts. To restore Kyoto existence in the cinema industry, like Okuyama said, not only by providing the platform to show classic films where one can always learn from the archives, the main goal lies in discovering a new and promising talents.

The Final Result

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            While the awarding and closing ceremony was ready to take places in the evening of October 19th 2014, the last day of the festival still packed with events. The screening of Creator’s Factory’s semifinal was held in Oe Nogakudou, while some lineups in TV Director’s Movie still screened in Katsuragawa. But the largest crowd can be seen in Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu, with the screening of two Toshiro Mifune’s classic, the 1950’s ‘Rashomon’ and the 1966’s ‘Samurai Banners / Furin Kazan’.

            ‘The Shozo Makino Award’ was given to Daisaku Kimura, Japanese veteran cinematographer and director, while the newly established ‘Toshiro Mifune Award’ was given to Japanese actor Koji Yakusho, who did many notable works both in local and overseas film industry. As Okuyama said, the voters of this long-planned award, celebrating Mifune as the first Japan actor who received the international status, were very careful about choosing a recipient over some candidates.

            The award for Koji Yakusho was presented by Mrs. Teruyo Nogami, script supervisor in most Akira Kurosawa’s works, now 82 years old, while a signature scarf made by the Tokyo-based French artist Michail Gkinis, also a jury for this year’s Creator’s Factory, handed to him by the son of Toshiro Mifune, Shiro Mifune, along with traditionally artful flowers and small local trees.

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            Expressing his thoughts on the festival, Yakusho said that he hopes the festival could grow well in the newly international concept, making Kyoto becomes Hollywood of Japan that once considered. He also said that he was very surprised at first when asked to receive this award. “I never thought I was qualified enough by such honorable with the name as big as Toshiro-san. However, I respect him very much so I decided no matter what people say and think, this is something I had to accept. If we can see the film business as the Olympics, Toshiro Mifune must’ve been the one to receive most gold medals among all. By receiving this award, I personally think that this award should be pushing myself more and more in my future carreer. Thank you very much”. At the end of the awarding ceremony, they did a little retrospective talk remembering Toshiro Mifune’s carreer, from being Akira Kurosawa’s first choice, mostly, to his involvement in European or Hollywood movies.

            The Most Respected Award given to Clint Eastwood and Irene Jacob still handed symbolically, along with the winners of Creator’s Factory in three category ; film section for Aki Yamamoto, Art Section for Yuki Harada  and Kids’ Art for Chiho Matsuo. Comes from different age and background, the winners of the Creator’s Factory were all women, thus before wrapping the whole event with Sadao Nakajima, Okuyama said that this is becoming an era of woman as filmmakers.

             By the data collected until before the closing ceremony, with the total 48 films and 120 various art exhibitions, the total number of admission has reached about 40.000 people. This is not bad for the first attempt to relaunch a local festival in its international status, but surely, for the next event, the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival should be bigger than this, and as well getting more and more attention throughout the world. (dan)

 

KYOTO INTERNATIONAL FILM AND ART FESTIVAL 2014 : TAKING JAPANESE FILMS BACK TO ITS BIRTHPLACE (PART 1)

•October 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

KYOTO INTERNATIONAL FILM AND ART FESTIVAL 2014 : TAKING JAPANESE FILMS BACK TO ITS BIRTHPLACE (PART 1)

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            Having their biggest form of movie festival around Asia with ‘Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF)’, many people outside Japan didn’t know that the birthplace of Japanese films was actually in Kyoto, where the very first screening of their movie took place. Many movies including historical plays and jidai-geki, period samurai drama, have been produced at film studios in Kyoto up until now. The beautiful – traditional city has also been playing a key role in the Japanese movie for a long time.

            Backing up by Yoshimoto Kogyo, the Osaka-based entertainment giant of Japan’s biggest TV and movie talents, following their part in the recent ‘Okinawa International Movie Festival’ and chaired by Sadao Nakajima, 80, Japanese film director, this year marks the relaunch of the ‘Kyoto Film Festival’, which was held every two years from 1997 to 2012.  Being freshly revived as the ‘Kyoto International Film and Art Festival’ (KIFF), this first international edition of the festival aim to create a new environment in international reputation and bring back the existence of Kyoto as one of the base in their movie industry.

            And not only movies, that welcomed more than 40 films from new to classics, a special art exhibition that will introduce world-class traditional arts and crafts of Kyoto, once a central of Japanese empire in the 8th century, are also scheduled to be held at various venues around the prefecture incl. the former Rissei Elementary School. In the hope to preserve the cultural inheritance in these different forms of art altogether, the concept of connecting the past with the future as an important lesson to step forward, also has the other main purpose in discovering new and promising talents as global filmmakers.

The Awards

            As Mr. Kazuyoshi Okuyama, the executive producer of the festival said, instead of having a competitions category among selected new films, the festival aim more to finding their new talents through the Creator’s Factory category, an open competition for creators in a variety of genres, both movies and art. The main award itself known as the ‘Shizuku no Utsuwa’ trophy, which will be presented for the ‘Shozo Makino Award’ from the preceding festivals, newly established ‘Toshiro Mifune Award’ and the ‘Most Respected Awards’.

            Created by Takahiro Kondo, potter and art writer using his original ‘gintekisai (silver mist glaze)’ technique, Shizuku (droplets) are the symbol of circulation, purification and regeneration. While Utsuwa, means empty vessel, hovers between reality and fiction, represents a substitute which a soul drawn to. As ever, the trophy represents a hope that the festival will always develop and held continously. Along with the ‘Shizuku no Utsuwa’, the winners will also be presented with a stole designed by Michail Gkinis, fashion designer and a master craftsman from Greece.

            Choose by the small numbers of committee members with council/collegial system, the ‘Shozo Makino Award’, named in memory of Kyoto filmmaker with the same name known as the father of Japanese Cinema, will be given to filmmakers who have contributed to the development of Japanese films, while ‘Toshiro Mifune Award’, in the purpose to encourage the emergence of great world class-actors like himself, will be given to actors who achieved global success in representing Japanese film industry.

            Also newly established, the ‘Most Respected Filmmaker Awards’, awards  to honor and pay tribute to world-renowned actors or directors, will be given to Clint Eastwood, and the sub-category ‘Most Respected Filmmaker from Paris’ based on a friendship treaty between two cities, will be given to actress Iréne Jacob. Along with this commemoration, the festival will screen 4 Eastwood movies (‘Dirty Harry’, ‘The Unforgiven’, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ and ‘Gran Torino’) and 2 significant title in Iréne Jacob’s acting history, both directed by Krzystof Kiezlowski :  ‘The Double Life of Veronique’ (France, Poland, 1991) and ‘Three Colors : Red’ (France, Switzerland, 1994)

The Programs

The Opening Film

            For the opening film, the festival has ‘At Home’ (2015) in its world premiere. Directed by Hiroshi Chono, this black comedy about dysfunctional family was based on the novel by Takasyoshi Honda and starred Yasuko Matsuyuki with the actor from Chono’s recent film, ‘Oba : The Last Samurai’, Yutaka Takenouchi.

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Special Screenings

            The Special Screenings section consists of three sub-category. First, the theatrically unreleased Japanese movies, such as ‘Twilight Sasara Saya’ (2014, Yoshihiro Fukagawa), ‘Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats’ (2014, Yosuke Fujita), ‘Bay Blues : 25 Years and 364 Days’ (2014, Tomohiro Takayama), and  ‘[Harajuku Cinema]’ (2014, Masashi Omino).

            Then, to explore the origins of world’s comedy films, the section ‘Silent Comedy Film Features’ combined the works of Japan’s God of comedy, Torajiro Saito (‘Modern Horror 100.000.000 Yen’, ‘Dynamite Bride’ and ‘Kid Commotion’), the roots of Japanese anime (‘Toy Films Special’ ; silent films from the Taisho to Showa periods using toy movie projectors at those times) to Buster Keaton and Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckles. Three of the Fatty – Keaton films to be screened is ‘The Butcher Boy’, ‘The Garage’ and ‘The Cook’.

            The last category for Special Screenings section, named ‘Kyoto Films’ are various films that made by Kyoto-based directors, particularly depicting Japan and Kyoto beyond shows of culture in each selected movies. The movies are ‘The Human’ (2014, Japan/Turkey, Cagla Zencirci & Guiilaume Giovanetti), ‘Early Spring, Kyoto’ (2014, Hiroshi Toda), and the classic Daimajin in the special program ‘The Daimajin Series Screening Feature’.

          Widely known as Japanese classic monster movie that was produced in Daiei Studio – Kyoto, the Golem-inspired ‘Daimajin’ (Kimiyoshi Yasuda, dir.) also became a great astonishment on the use of special effects in an historical play. Besides the screening of the original 1966 film in Yoshimoto Kion Kagetsu, a vintage theatre now used as a comedy theatre, the giant statue of Daimajin featuring Kenji Yakobe’s ‘Giant Torayan’ (giant breathing robot baby) will be exhibited in Kyoto City Hall along with the live perfomances.

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TV Director’s Movie

            Following the section in Okinawa International Film Festival (OIMF), Yoshimoto also screen their joint-produced TV movie in the TV Director’s Movie section. The films are ‘Love Session’ (Eiji Itaya, dir.), ‘Furiko’ (Norihiro Takenaga, dir.), ‘Slight Fever of 100 – Island Breeze of Love’ (Koichi Okamoto, dir.), ‘Pirameki’s Children Love Story’ (Yu Ota, dir.), and ‘NBM48 Geinin! The Movie Returns’ (Hidemi Uchida, dir.)

Creator’s Factory

            Also from the OIMF, this section is one of the most important goal for Yoshimoto to find their new talents. By showing an award winning Shiki Asaka’s novel adaptation, ‘Kyoto Elegy’, directing debut from actress – producer Kiki Sugino, the winner of 2013 OIMF’s Creator’s Factory, which co-produced by Yoshimoto, in the movie’s full premiere, they clearly stated the support will continue through the upcoming festivals.

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            As the members of jury in the Creator’s Factory, there are Kaizo Hayashi (director), Yoko Tsukamoto (art producer), Michail Gkinis (artist), Yukihiro Hirose (head of Kyoto Indie Film Festival) and Ujicha – Leo Anzai (director –producer of ‘The Burning Buddha Man’) in the art section. The festival also established the ‘Children’s Section’ in this art category, which the winners will not only be awarded with special prizes, but also got big supports from Yoshimoto.

Other Classics

            Along with other classic lineups, this first international edition of the festival will also screened two Toshiro Mifune films ‘Rashomon’ (1950, Akira Kurosawa) and ‘Furin Kazan (Samurai Banner)’ (1969, Hiroshi Inagaki), and as well, two Yuya Uchida and three Hiroshi Shinagawa films. In these special sections, ‘Yuya Uchida Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie 2 Days’ will screen ‘The Mosquito in the Tenth Floor’ (1983, Yoichi Sai) & ‘We Don’t Need Comic Books!’ (1986, Yojiro Takita), while ‘All About Shinagawa Cinema’ is more to a retrospective to Shinagawa’s wild vision in ‘DROP’ (2008), ‘Manzai Gang’ (2011)  and ‘One Third’ (2014).

 

 
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