28th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: CELEBRATING THE DIVERSE WORKS OF JAPANESE CINEMA
28th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: CELEBRATING THE DIVERSE WORKS OF JAPANESE CINEMA
The fanfare of Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) again just kicked off in their main venue in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Spreading the hype now to one of their crowdest district in Shinjuku, the event that marked its 30th anniversary in its 28th edition took its focus from last year’s animation genre to now – celebrating the diverse works of Japanese Cinema, opened with an annual Red Carpet highlights and followed by the Opening Ceremony to present the Opening Film, Robert Zemeckis’ ‘The Walk’.
The new spotlight of the festival is not only packed with more of those diverse works on Japanese Cinema in every sections, also the new ones named ‘Japan Now’ that reveals the journey and achievement on their cinema today through the screenings of up-and-coming to veteran director’s works including special focus on the works of director Masato Harada, Terayama Films section that celeberating the 80th anniversary of Terayama, Commemorative Screening of Ken Takakura Films, the special anime highlights ‘The World of Gundam’ and ‘Masters of J-Horror‘, The New Arigato Award to five remarkable contributors to the film industry, and as well, the show of Japanese culture from music to the established special events ‘Tokyo Cinema Cuisine’ from 5 Japanese Chefs.
On more important note, though, lies on its new focus that continues to set Tokyo International Film Festival as a leading platform and International movie festival in Asia to spread wider exposure throughout the world, also under the 2nd year collaboration with The Japan Foundation Asia Center TIFF Director General Yasushi Shiina, programming director for the Competition Films Yoshi Yatabe and Asian programmer Kenji Ishizaka shared their thoughts about this concern, not only the festival role but also other tendencies to pack the ideas of culture into Japanese and Asian cinema, to the journalists from foreign media.
On choosing competition films, Yoshi Yatabe said that this year he’s still trying to put not only a balance in various countries, but also wider range and a diverse kind of list. The main point in choosing those films, however, is always the strong presence of filmmaker in each of their works. Yoshi then said, while the purpose of the competition is still to encourage filmmakers and support them, he always think with the diverse list from various countries, audience should discover their world through cinema and cinema is the most effective ways. Another concern is to have as many world premiere status as possible, mostly to Asian films. He added that it might be hard to having world premiere for American films in Asian festival after Toronto, Venice, Cannes, but at least, an Asian premiere will do.
And this year, he picked three Japanese films in the Competition section of the total 16, more than last year. The reason was that 2015 has been a very strong year for their films, and to Yoshi, there are two definitions of good Japanese films; work in the domestic market and also can travel throughout the world. In other words, while a film sometimes could easily connected to Japanese local audience, it might not be the same to overseas audience. He sees that the all three, ‘Foujita’ (Kohei Oguri), ‘The Inerasable’ (Yoshihiro Nakamura) and ‘Sayonara’ (Koji Fukada) really had those qualities. There were also more than one Chinese language films in the competition, and regarding this, Yoshi said that he’s always trying to have one or two films from China, Taiwan as well as Hong Kong in the competition, since China produced a lot of films thus hard to cover all of their works all at once. Yoshi-san always thought this is the biggest difficulties in choosing Asian mostly Japanese films to put on the Competition list. And even with those added numbers, he felt sorry that no Indonesian or Malaysian films in the list (last year they had one Malaysian indie ‘The River of Exploding Durians’), but however, this might be different in the years to come.
Moreover, he also discussed about the difficulties to build the interest in public audience to a film festival. As a lecturer, he sometimes ask his student if they ever been to film festival and rarely the answer is yes. He should encourage them, sometimes giving free tickets, to get them having more interest to foreign language films and Japanese non-mainstream films as well, though he thought that the role of a film festival has never been as important as it is now, and that the festival must fight to maintain the diversity of film culture. As a Japanese, he always wanted to promote Japanese films, but as an audience, he also felt the need to introduce the beauty of international cinema to Japanese audience. “We can do better and we must do better, otherwise there is no future”, he said. Yoshi then closed the session with his thought to a concept of a good movie; that the fingerprint of the director is imprinted on screen – and in the next festival, he would still stand in the same directions with diversity as the keyword, while still continue to encourage young filmmakers.
As an Asian programmer, Kenji Ishizaka also expressed his thoughts about this year’s lineup of Asian films. The choice of putting Phillipine Cinema as the festival’s focus on Crosscut Asia after last year’s Thai Cinema was because he thought that the independent movie in the Phillipines has been really emerging these last few years. In terms of the selections, instead of featured more commercial films, Kenji felt the festival has more needs to aim at independent filmmakers, and he believe there will be more opportunities to show different kind of Phillipine Cinema to the festival’s audience.
He also said in the purpose of introduce films from other Asian regions to Japanese audience and the world markets, beside the festival characteristic on showing indie or art films, they need to help many Asian arthouse films to find the good distribution. If they succeed in the festival, there will be more opportunities to get a wide distribution in Japan and that’s why they also invited Japanese distributors. He thought that Japanese audience could cope to Asian arthouses, and wanted as well Phillipine Cinemas could work like Apichatpong Weerasethakul or Tsai Ming-liang’s films that got commercially screened in Japan.
On his interview session with the foreign journalists, TIFF Director General Yasushi Shiina added that although the festival still continue to pursue the purpose of supporting young Japanese filmmakers and promote Japanese Cinema throughout the world, the progress was really good. The ultimate example is their success on promoting ‘100 Yen Love’, last year entry in TIFF’s independent movie and newly young filmmakers section ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’ from director Masaharu Take. After winning the award for Best Picture in the section, the film also continues to gain some remarkable acknowledgments; it was chosen for third place in the Nippon Cinema Award at the 15th Japanese Film Festival Nippon Connection, 8th best Japanese film of the year and Best Actress Award for Sakura Ando at the 88th Kinema Junpo Awards, Best Film and Best Director at the 24th Japan Film Professional Awards, Best Actress at the 57th Blue Ribbon Awards, good receive when it was released in Japan on December 2014 and as well, becoming the official Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
THE RED CARPET EVENT
Began with the appearance of a robot named Pepper, the world’s first to understand human emotions, along with the Festival Navigators KIWA and Masao Nomura, first international actress to walk the Red Carpet was the two-time Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank. Presenting her latest film, ‘You’re Not You’, a drama with medical background of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) selected in this year’s Special Screening section – also starred Emmy Rossum, Swank arrived with TIFF’s official car, saying how delighted she was to be in Tokyo, living her dream walking on the red carpet as one of the 200 films at TIFF.
The actors, actresses and filmmakers from all over the world who were also shared their works as the part of this year’s TIFF then followed. Big names such as Kazuaki Kiriya, director of international action ensemble ‘Last Knights’ based on the Japan’s classic ’47 Ronin’ (Panorama section), Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza, whose works got selected for this year’s ‘Crosscut Asia: The Heat of Phillipine Cinema’, Burmese director Sotho Kulikar from last year’s winning ‘The Last Reel’ in Crosscut Asia’s Omnibus Film Project, the real life figure of ‘Paddington’, and ‘True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga, brought his first Netflix’s feature ‘Beasts of No Nation’, also to the festival’s Panorama section.
From this year’s TIFF special program of ‘Masters of J-Horror’, introducing their hottest content beside anime, director Hideo Nakata and actress Haruka Shimazaki from ‘Ghost Theater’ also walked along the red carpet with director Masato Hirada – featured in the Director in Focus in new section ‘Japan Now’ and Japanese famous actor Koji Yakusho from his works ‘Kamikaze Taxi’ and ‘The Emperor in August’. There were also Sola Aoi, a Japanese gravure idol that known widely to Indonesian public from her appearance in Indonesian film ‘Suster Keramas 2’. She walked the red carpet with the team from Luk Yee-sum’s ‘Lazy, Hazy, Crazy’ and producer Pang Ho-cheung, an erotic coming of age movie that’s in the Asian Future section.
Represent this year’s Indonesian entry ‘Guru Bangsa Tjokroaminoto’ (‘The Hijra’, international title) in World Focus section, legendary Indonesian actress Christine Hakim, who played in and produced the movie with Dewi Umaya and Nayaka Untara also appeared at the red carpet, followed by the crew of one of this year’s Special Animation Program ‘The World of Gundam’, Jo Odagiri and Miki Nakatani from Japanese movie ‘Foujita’ in the Competition section and the festival’s closing film ‘Terminal’; director Tetsuo Shinohara with actor Koichi Sato & actress Tsubasa Honda.
One of the greatest highlights in this year’s red carpet was the legendary British actress Helen Mirren. Came with the director Simon Curtis from her movie ‘Woman in Gold’ in the Special Screening section, the stage appearance and their short interview was really broke the cheers out from the crowd. Curtis explained that ‘Woman in Gold’ was not only meant to talk about the Jewish issue in Vienna as in the film, but also relevant in many of nowadays problems in the typical perceptions among world nations. As Mirren also commented, “The film is a very serious story done in a light way, treated with a light touch with a wit. It is the story about memory, family and justice, what humans are capable of doing with each other”, and moreover about Gustav Klimt’s artwork – Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the iconic painting as a part of breathtaking storytelling.
The five members of the International Competition Jury; director Bent Hamer from last year’s selection ‘1001 Grams’, ‘The Scent of Green Papayas’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’s Tran Anh Hung, Susanne Bier (‘In A Better World’), Chinese veteran producer Nansun Shi (‘Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate’) and Japanese director/writer Kazuki Omori then appeared on the red carpet, lead by Bryan Singer as President of the Jury. The red carpet was closed by the appearance of director Robert Zemeckis and ‘The Walk‘ producer Jack Rapke. Saying “It’s an honor opening the festival with my film and I hope you all watch it! I understood the passion this man (Phillippe Petit – the real life character in the film) had and I identified with the awe-inspiring story. I hope the audience will also enjoy this character and the achievement and journey he made”, about ‘The Walk’ as this year’s TIFF Opening Films, also the first selection of festival screened in 3D.
Another red carpet event in the festival’s affiliation with Shinjuku Art Heaven & the 36th Grand Shinjuku City Festival also held in Shinjuku area on the next day.
THE OPENING CEREMONY
Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motoo Hayashi opened the Opening Ceremony of the 28th edition of the festival. Said he was very happy to open the festival that has many outstanding films to gathered at this year’s TIFF, which transcended time and boundaries, he also expressed his joy towards the huge progress of Japanese cinema this year; the winning of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in the Best Director Prize for the ‘Journey to the Shore’ in Un Certain Regard selection of Cannes, and as well, the larger distribution over their manga-adapted action blockbuster ‘Attack on Titan’ all over the world.
The ceremony continued with the introducing of the International Jury Members and other competition section. Reflected that he first came to TIFF with his film ‘The Usual Suspects’ in 1995 and then for the smaller feature ‘Apt Pupil’ three years after, Bryan Singer said “It’s an honor to serve as a jury member in TIFF. The biggest challenge will be to choose one film from the 16 Competition films which a bit unlike any other festival; represent different genre that spread widely from dramas, comedy even horrors. But it will be interesting to select films from such diverse genres!”.
The festival navigators then introduced ‘The Walk’ as the opening film and invited Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke onto stage. Zemeckis expressed his excitement having ‘The Walk’ in TIFF and moreover on having all the elements to make a compelling movie, “Phillippe Petit is a very passionate man and his dream to walk between the two towers had everything to make a spectacular but nevertheless entertaining film. He knew what he wanted to dance between those two towers and awe-inspiring story is also what inspired me to make this film. Petit is a magnificent storyteller himself and has great passion for his art”.
While Rapke, send his thankful note to Sony Pictures, the hospitality of the people in Tokyo – mostly the staff at the festival, also described Petit as a passionate artist that could connect with and identify his impossible dream to come true. “The scenes are beautiful, but when the first step is taken on the wire, it is the most beautiful cinematography that only Bob (Robert) Zemeckis can create”. And indeed, ‘The Walk’, beyond words, is an absolute special cinematic event that was meant to be seen no less than the 3D format. You can read the full review here. (dan)