TOKYO — It is now Asia’s biggest film fest, but the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival, which unspools Oct. 20-28, has been shaken to its once-inward-looking core by the soaring international status of the rival Pusan Intl. Film Festival, held in the South Korean resort city of Busan.
“When I took over five years ago, (TIFF) was for Japan only,” says TIFF chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, prexy of the Kadokawa Group Holdings media org. “I’ve since tried to make it a truly international festival.”
Kadokawa has made major changes in the focus and scope of TIFF — which celebrates its 20th edition this year — to raise its international profile and generally boost the Japanese contents biz.
Kadokawa, however, has an even bigger dream — to make TIFF the Asian equivalent of Berlin, Venice and Cannes.
“I want us to be one of the four major festivals in the world,” he says, noting that TIFF is already among the top 12 as defined by the Intl. Federation of Film Producers Assns.
As a key step toward this goal, TIFF has overhauled its competition, which was once a repository of pics rejected by more prestigious European fests.
The main problem, Kadokawa notes, was a TIFF rule that the competition could only screen world premieres.
“It made it very hard for us to get the quality of films we wanted,” he says.
Relaxing the rule has resulted in a flood of competition submissions — nearly 500 this year.
Kadokawa has also boosted the fest’s once-low glamour quotient.
On TIFF’s opening day, foreign stars and local celebrities walk down a red carpet laid on the street next to Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills theater complex — the fest’s main venue — to a stage where they greet waiting media and fans.
The red carpet may have been inspired by Cannes, but, Kadokawa explains, there is an interactive difference.
“We’re trying harder to connect with fans, not just the industry. The red carpet is a symbol of that,” he says.
The Oct. 22-24 Tiffcom market, however, is strictly for industryites, with a focus on Japanese and Asian pics. Affiliated events include the Tokyo Project Gathering, a co-production market that this year will present 38 projects from Asia, Europe and the U.S.
Kadokawa’s goal is to make Tiffcom the Asian Cannes mart — “that is, a true world market” for Japanese and Asian contents.
Another major event, now in its third edition, is the Akihabara Enta Matsuri (Akihabara Entertainment Festival) — a celebration of otaku (geek) culture, including toons, games and figurines of miniskirted anime babes, held at its epicenter: Tokyo’s Akihabara district.
Starting this year, TIFF, Tiffcom and the Enta Matsuri are under the organizational umbrella of CoFesta (Japan Intl. Contents Festival), a series of 18 events spread over 40 days.
Having already begun with the Tokyo Game Show on Sept. 20, CoFesta presents Japan’s contents industry to the global community, while serving as a launching pad for international partnerships and deals.
CoFesta has enormous potential, Kadokawa believes, but “first we have to make it shorter” so that foreign producers and buyers can use it as a one-stop shop.
“We want them to see the huge array of original contents that Japan produces,” Kadokawa says.
One barrier to synergy between the various branches of the local biz, Kadokawa believes, is “the Japanese tendency to regard art and entertainment as separate.” Thus the bashing by local critics and cineastes of the TIFF Special Screenings section, which presents commercial pics, both Japanese and foreign, skedded for release in Japan in the fall and winter.
“That’s not true in the rest of the world, is it?” Kadokawa asks. “I’ve always thought that putting art and entertainment into separate categories is strange — I don’t make any distinction between the two. That is, I think a film of high artistic quality can also be entertaining. We’ve tried to find as many films like that as possible for TIFF.”
What: Tokyo Intl. Film Festival
When: Oct. 20-28
Where: Roppongi Hills (Minato City), Bunkamura (Shibuya City) and other venues
“Midnight Eagle” (Japan)
“Silk” (Canada/France/Italy/ U.K./Japan)
“The Band’s Visit” (Israel/ France)
“Bloody Snake Under the Sun” (Japan)
“Blue Eyelids” (Mexico)
“Crossing Over” (China)
“Dangerous Parking” (U.K.)
“The Early Years — Erik Nietzsche Part I” (Denmark/ Italy/ Sweden/ Austria)
“Gandhi, My Father” (India)
“Reign Over Me” (U.S.)
“The Stone Angel” (Canada)
“Waiting for Someone” (France)
“The Waltz” (Italy)
“The Western Trunk Line” (China/Japan)