26th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : JAPANESE CINEMA SPLASH
26th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : JAPANESE CINEMA SPLASH
The 26th Tokyo International Film Festival has been succesfully held and stunned its audience with the various sections and special programs including the film market exhibitions in TIFFCOM. But under the new festival’s general director, Mr. Yasushi Shiina, this year’s festival left a highly important note that might added more new visions to the festival in years ahead.
Supporting young and mostly independent filmmakers who suggest ways of breaking through the future of Japan cinema, this can be seen through one of the most interesting section titled ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’. Evolving from the Japanese Eyes section of previous years, this section has proved the great existence of energetic Japanese independent filmmakers, both in ideas and cinematic talents.
As we all know, at any places, the independent movie scenes always need more audience for its main demand. With only a few supports, most of them couldn’t go far to show their distinctive ideas beyond many innovative styles of film making. There are new ideals that’s not just needed for the alternative cinemas, but also to regenerate talents in the movie industry.
This year’s TIFF has opened more ways for the discovery of these young talents, which is a very good thing, and not only in screenings, the committee also provided bigger networking events to introduce them to film buyers, distributors, critics and press.
Held on the fourth day of the festival at TIFF movie café, Roppongi Hills, The ‘Tokyo Cinema Night’ event was opened with a talkshow by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, known for his J-Horror movies and some favorite arthouses. Like many directors, Kurosawa also crawl-up to get better recognition in his carreer.
<photo by Hide Masuda>
It’s not until his J-Horror, ‘Pulse’ (2001) was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, months after its selling in Japan had been over. Although the movie didn’t have such a great appraise by most critics at first, but it began to hold a cult following and later bought by Miramax for the US remake written by Wes Craven, spawned by two direct-to-video sequels.
After a few movies including well-received ‘Doppelganger’ (2003), ‘Loft’ (2005), and ‘Retribution’ (2006), Kurosawa again brought his movie, which is one of his masterpiece that considered a big step from J-Horror into family drama, ‘Tokyo Sonata’ (2008) to Cannes Film Festival and won the Prix Du Jury (Grand Jury Prize) in Un Certain Regard category. The film also won the award for Best Film at the 3rd Asian Film Awards and nominated in 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards for Achievement in Directing and Best Screenplay.
From that moment, Kurosawa’s directing style has been compared to many famous directors such as Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky although he always expressly listed Alfred Hitchcock, Yasujiro Ozu, Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah and Tobe Hooper as his biggest influences. Still continuing making movies including the upcoming ‘1905’ starred Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Shota Matsuda, Kurosawa thought the appreciations in film festivals was so exciting that it can be one of the major reasons for keep making movies. Going to the movie festivals, making a lot of unexpected connections and shared a great memories, to him is always an unforgettable experience, and a big encouragement when he’s making one.
Along with other independent directors who came to introduce their works, the event also introduced us to the directors of movies selected in the ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’ section. There were 8 films in this section, plus one in special collaboration / joint event with PFF (Pia Film Festival) presented this year’s PFF’s Grand-prix winning film selected out of 16 films, and each of them has shown a great talent beyond the filmmaker’s distinctive style. Here are those films in details.
‘A BAND RABBIT’ AND A BOY
Directed by Takuji Suzuki
‘The tune of adolescence’
Based on widely loved Kei Nakazawa’s novel, a mysterious rabbit appears before Katsuhisa, a shy first year in junior high. He runs after it and finds himself in the music room, where he is mesmerized by a timpani performance and ends up joining the wind band, the hardest practicing club at this school. The story unflods in HamamatsuCity, Shizuoka, where brass instruments are very popular. The entire junior high cast was selected through auditions, most are locals and some without acting and instrumental backgrounds that practiced for a year to create their own tune. An adolescence story through the power of music.
Directed by Rikiya Imaizumi
‘What is ‘Proper Love’, exactly ?’
An ensemble piece about that revolves around a filmmaker who wants to stop cheating his girlfriends, a fan who pines for an ex-idol for 10 years, and a former idol who goes to meet him. The vignettes from these various romantic entanglements contemplate the true meaning of ‘proper love’.
The latest film from director Rikiya Imaizumi, a specialist in doomed modern-day love stories whose previous feature ‘I Catch A Terrible Cat’ won praise at film festivals at home and abroad.
DEATH & TANYA
Directed by Taishi Shiode
‘What kind of lives do grim reapers lead? Who knows!’
Grim reapers become human when they cry, but when one takes over a human body, he meets a woman who causes all sorts of disasters. A new style of cinematic groove that takes its story both humorously and seriously, and moves at a fast pace with one incident quickly following another.
HOW SELFISH I AM!
Directed by Daigo Matsui
‘Days of regret, illuminated by music’
An offbeat musical film conceived by rock band CreepHyp’s Sekakikan Ozaki and directed by Daigo Matsui (‘Afro Tanaka’, ‘Daily Lives Of High School Boys’). A tale of regret and frustration illuminated by CreepHyp’s tunes resonates with our times. An unusual musical coming-of-age film follows young people down on their luck.
AND THE MUD SHIP SAILS AWAY
Directed by Hirobumi Watanabe
‘This is the world’s rubbish heap’
Born from a rubbish heap, the first production from Tochigi-based filmmaking collective Follish Piggies Films will be unveiled at its miraculous world premiere in Tokyo. Tells a story of an unemployed and unmotivated man lives with his grandmother in Ohtawara City in Tochigi, visited by a girl who claims to be his dead father’s daughter. Features a 96-year-old newcomer Misao Hirayama, the producer and director’s grand mother, this is a surreal life comedy black and white minimalism.
WALKING WITH A FRIEND
Directed by Akira Ogata
‘Are you sure your friend isn’t waiting for you?’
A lighthearted study of friendship , life and death in the lives of four men ; two elderly residents of a suburban housing complex and two adults who cling to their youth.
The first film in nine years from director Akira Ogata and screenwriter Kenji Aoki, whose works include ‘Boy’s Choir’ (2000) and ‘The Milkwoman’ (2004). It is an omnibus comprised of four interconnected parts. Shooting was scheduled to begin in March 2011, but was delayed by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
THERE’S NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF
Directed by Hisashi Saito
‘What it means to be a couple’
This film tells a story of Eri, who lives with her husband Fumiya. Instead of becoming a mother and father, they devote themselves being a wife and husband. Everyday incidents accumulate and form layers. A delicate depiction of ordinary lives and hidden emotional uncertainties ; loneliness, love and ego hidden between the lines, contemplates what it means to be a couple.
Directed by Ayumi Sakamoto
‘Conflicting emotions intertwine’
Yukari and Ayako, her former classmate reunite and begin working together, but their relationship gradually deteriorates. What lies at the end of this cycle of hatred? A suspenseful drama about the darkness of the heart, with the conflicting emotions intertwined.
NIGHT AND KEIGO’S CAR
Directed by Yusuke Ichikawa
‘A joyride suddenly turns into a nightmare’
This year’s PFF (Pia Film Festival) Grand-prix winning film tells a story about two friend on an unexpected journey into one night full of terrors.
Each of these energetic young independent film directors has their own interesting story behind their movies. The stories are different, but there’s a same classic problem lies in every story, about their personal fights with budgets. Ayumi Sakamoto, the director of ‘Forma’ came up with her story of years producing the film beyond her health issues, while Akira Ogata had to asked a funding helps from his friend to conceive his film ‘Walking With A Friend’. The Watanabe brothers from Tochigi who made ‘And The Mud Ship Sails Away’ with sophisticated ideals also had to create a tactical way of producing their movies. To cut the budgets, they had themselves taken care some technical departments, even using their own 96 year old grand mother joined the cast.
That’s why these challenging fights need more supports. To hold the purest form of their ideas, they need more space to exhibit their works and more medias to expose their existence. And it’s good to know that under the new festival director’s new vision, the Tokyo International Film Festival now provide wider ways for these filmmakers. As Mr. Yasushi Shiina said, not only put more focus to support local independent productions so they can produce more and more films, the festival also has the special mission to introduce these works to the international film markets.
Although only one of these remarkably selected independent films will win the Japanese Cinema Splash Best Picture Award chosen by the members of jury ; Paolo Bertolin (Program Advisor Doha Film Institute), Christian Jeune (Deputy General Delegate Cannes Film Festival) and Takahisa Zeze (film director), but way more than the result, this is the victory to the whole Japanese independent movie industry. So let the fight begins, and let’s look forward to their splash in the future world stage!
*The Japanese Cinema Splash Best Picture Award went to Ayumi Sakamoto’s ‘Forma’*