October 26, 2017 – The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival opened last night, with award-winning U.S. actor and filmmaker Tommy Lee Jones among a host of celebrities taking a stroll down the red carpet amid the cold and intermittent rain in the Japanese capital.
Jones heads a five-member jury for the festival’s main competition section, where 15 entries will vie for the top Tokyo Grand Prix award. The works, to be shown during the festival’s run through Nov. 3, were selected from 1,538 titles from 88 countries and regions.
Jones, a familiar face in Japan for his role as a space alien in a Japanese commercial, said at the opening ceremony that he is “honored and proud to be a part of a film festival’s jury that intends to celebrate emotional and intellectual understanding between people and stand at the heart of, and not on the rim of, filmmaking.”
Also appearing on the red carpet were seasoned Japanese filmmakers including Nobuhiko Obayashi and four Japanese actresses — Sakura Ando, Yu Aoi, Hikari Mitsushima and Aoi Miyazaki, appointed as “muses of Japanese cinema” for the festival and whose films will be featured as part of the “Japan Now” section.
“I hope that this festival will bring movies closer to the people,” Miyazaki said.
Pikachu mascot, arguably the best-known character of animation and global franchise Pokemon, and a mascot of the titular character of Japanese animation “Crayon Shin-chan” also graced the event.
The audience was given a peek into “Ku-Kai (Legend of the Demon Cat),” a special opening film to commemorate 30 years of the festival. A 10-minute footage of the Japan-China collaboration, big-budget film by renowned Chinese director Chen Kaige was shown ahead of its theatrical release next year.
The work is based on a best-selling Japanese novel by Baku Yumemakura and stars Japanese and Chinese actors including Shota Sometani, Hiroshi Abe and Huang Xuan.
Huang said at the same event via an interpreter that he is “honored” to be both part of the festival and Chen’s film. “It is a wonderful spectacle,” he said, adding that working in the film was like “a cultural exchange for me.”
The festival, which will show more than 200 films at theaters in the Roppongi district and other parts of Tokyo, began with the film “Fullmetal Alchemist,” directed by Fumihiko Sori and based on a best-selling Japanese comic series about two brothers’ journey.
Japanese actress Tsubasa Honda, who was part of the fantasy-action flick starring Ryosuke Yamada, a member of Japanese pop idol group Hey! Say! JUMP, said the film touches on brotherly love.
The festival will close with “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a sequel to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s climate change documentary. The film, directed by Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen, is a follow-up to “An Inconvenient Truth,” an Oscar-winning film released in 2006.
Gore, known for his environmental activism, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with a U.N. panel on climate change. He is scheduled to come to Japan for the festival.
Two Japanese films are among the entries for the competition section, along with works from other parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, such as “Aqerat (We the Dead),” an entry from Malaysia about the plight of the persecuted Rohingya minority group in Myanmar to Malaysia.
Director Edmund Yeo said he wanted to make a film to “show the pain” of the Rohingya people over the years.
The two homegrown films are “The Lowlife,” based on a novel by porn actress Mana Sakura, and “Tremble All You Want,” a romantic comedy featuring Japanese actress Mayu Matsuoka.
Takahisa Zeze, director of “The Lowlife,” won a critics’ award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2011 for his “Heaven’s Story.”
The “Asian Future” section will present 10 films from budding directors in Asia and the Middle East, such as “Someone from Nowhere” of Thailand, “The Right to Kill” and “The Portrait” of the Philippines, and “Life without Life” of Iran.
As with last year, the festival will have a section highlighting Japanese animation, featuring Keiichi Hara, whose “Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai” won the jury award in the feature films category at the 2015 Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France.
The film is based on the comics by the late Edo culture researcher Hinako Sugiura and tells the story of O-Ei, female painter and the daughter of famed Edo-era ukiyoe painter Katsushika Hokusai.
Some of Hara’s noted works, including two movies of Japanese animation series “Crayon Shin-chan,” will be shown.
For the fourth straight year, there will be a special event featuring the traditional Japanese performing art of Kabuki, with a performance of “Otokodate Hana no Yoshiwara” by actor Ichikawa Ebizo as well as the screening of “Gate of Hell,” a Japanese film which won the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1954.
One of the programs scheduled is a live performance of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra to the original “Godzilla” movie from 1954.
There will also be seminars by filmmakers Naomi Kawase of Japan and Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines, as well as musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.