Tokyo International Film Festival returns in person

FACE TO FACE is what they call it as the 35th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) announces its return through a variety of events to be held in the Hibiya-Yurakucho-Marunouchi-Ginza district from Tokyo, October 24 to November 2, 2022. After three years, that one indicator that cinema is celebrated is back: the red carpet event.

This festival becomes the post-pandemic edition, which also marks the end of more than two years of isolation, social distancing and anxiety. The person announced a few weeks earlier will be the president of the International Competition jury, Julie Taymor. The acclaimed theatre, opera and film director is known for her work, such as the musical The Lion Kingand acclaimed films Titus (1999), Frida (2002), across the universe (2007), and The Glorias (2020). Importantly, Taymor will be the second woman to lead the judging panel in a row, following famed French actress Isabelle Huppert last year. The jury is completed by director of photography Yanagijima Katsumi, actor Shim Eun-kyung, director João Pedro Rodrigues and former director of the French Institute of Japan Marie-Christine de Navacelle. These jurors will judge the 15 films that are part of the Competition section from around the world.

This fact about Ms. Taymor is of particular interest to the Japanese. In the words of current TIFF President, Ando Hiroyasu: “Ms. Taymor has made not only musical theatre, but also many excellent films. She has a particularly strong connection to Japan, having studied traditional Ningyo Joruri puppet theater here as a student and later applying it to her own works. Continuing, Ando said, Taymor happens to be “a big fan of Kurosawa Akira and is a perfect fit as Jury Chair this year as we revive the Kurosawa Akira Award.”

From Julie Taymor was received this comment made after she accepted the position of jury leader: “The arts are the beacon that brings us out of the chaos, paving the way. In a dark theater, the images that shimmer before us draw us both deep into and also out of ourselves, our isolated and unique selves. Hang on to movie theaters, the palaces that bring us together to cross the boundaries of what we don’t know at all, what we think we know, and what we have personally experienced. Become the life and loves of others and let them inspire and torment you.

What makes this year’s festival doubly exciting is the revival of the Kurosawa Akira Award which will honor the legendary author’s legacy and his still enduring influence among filmmakers. The prize will be awarded to a filmmaker who has made “extraordinary contributions to world cinema and who should help define the future of the film industry“. Previous winners of the coveted award include acclaimed filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Yamada Yoji and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It is well known that Kurosawa remains the most “international” of Japanese directors.

For the award, the nominating committee has five members: Yamada Yoji, Nakadai Tatsuya, Harada Mieko, Kawamoto Saburo, and TIFF programming director Ichiyama Shozo.

Yamada is a Japanese director well known for his Otoko wa Tsurai yo (literally, “It’s hard to be a man”) series. Better known as the Saga of Tora-san, the series ran for some 48 episodes, all made between 1969 and 1995. Only one actor played Tora-san and it was Atsumi Kiyoshi who was so identified with the character that he there was no sense in continuing the series after the actor’s death. In 2019, before the pandemic, the 50th Tora-san graced TIFF. it was the movie Tora-san, I wish you were here. Poignant and historically significant for Japanese film students, the film featured Atsumi in a brilliant composition of flashbacks.

Yamada is also known for his Samurai Trilogy, consisting of Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and love and honor. The Twilight Samurai won an impressive 12 Japanese Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.

Nakadai Tatsuya appeared more in Kobayashi Masaki’s films, but his presence in Kurosawa’s iconic films cemented the reputation that he was a Kurosawa favorite. Nakadai was in Kagemushawhich won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1980 (tied with And all that) and Ranthe sprawling and majestic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Kurosawa King Lear, without forgetting his appearance in the legendary Seven Samurai and Yojimbo.

Harada Mieko is a multi-award winning Japanese actress known for her appearance in two of Kurosawa’s films, Ran and dreams. Peerless is its winning awards, all 12, from various film competitions from 1996 to 1999, not to mention other awards from other years.

Kawamoto Saburo is the respected film and literary critic, credited with discovering a talent, that of Murakami Haruki.

The recipient of the Kurosawa Prize will be announced later.

To celebrate Kurosawa’s genius, TIFF decided to screen classics that the director would have admired and loved. These movies are: Fitzcarraldo (1982, Werner Herzog) and The hive mind (1973, Victor Erice). They will be labeled during the festival as “Kurosawa Akira’s Favorite Movies”.

As part of the competition section, around fifteen films will be judged, including three made by Japanese filmmakers. including eight world premieres. These films were chosen from 1,695 titles from 107 countries and regions.

A feature of the festival is the TIFF lounge, which will have conversations between leading authors from Asia and other regions. Organized for three years now, this event is placed under the aegis of

the Japan Foundation and TIFF. What’s a Japanese film festival without entertainment? For this year, the theme of the Japanese animation section is “Creating a world from scratch”.

Darcy J. Skinner