'Asura,' 'Warriors' screen at fest

TOKYO — Heavyweight Hollywood reps were missing when the 16th Tokyo Intl. Film Festival opened Saturday. Instead, one major film each from Japan and China took center stage, with stars and filmmakers in attendance.

“Like Asura,” a daring family drama when it aired on local TV back in 1979, is a Toho-produced remake bound for general release Nov. 8 and the first Japanese feature to open the fest in 11 years. Sony Pictures Entertainment presented Chinese Oscar submission “Warriors of Heaven and Earth,” helmed by He Ping. Pic is one of Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia’s big local-language successes; it was the highest-grossing Chinese film in its home territory last year.

That China is very much on the mind of new Tokyo fest director Tsuguhiko Kadokawa shows in the selection of Gong Li to head the five-member main jury for the main competition.

Veteran U.S. helmer Irvin Kershner is also a member, and they will have to choose among 15 competition entries representing an eclectic, if not disappointing, choice by former film acquisition executive and new fest programmer Kayo Yoshida.

Fest did not change its oftcriticized policy of showing mostly films with local distribution in place. This is especially visible among the 22 special screenings. “Bruce Almighty” and closing film “Finding Nemo” have been released in most territories; Japanese auds must wait until after the Tokyo fest wraps Nov. 9.

“Beyond Borders” and Jane Campion’s “In the Cut” add some Hollywood flair, although most of their stars and filmmakers won’t make it to Tokyo and will send video messages instead. This is a far cry from years past, which saw a modicum of glamorous Hollywood presence at Asia’s fastest declining film festival.

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