TOKYO — The 21st edition of the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival opened on Saturday in a burst of green — the fest’s new color, symbolizing its eco commitment.
Guests, including John Woo, helmer of opening pic “Red Cliff,” as well as stars Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro and other cast members, strolled down a green carpet (made of recycled plastic bottles from sponsor Coca-Cola) leading into Roppongi Hills, the maze-like shopping and entertainment complex where most fest screenings and events are held.
“The theme of this film is friendship, love and courage, which are necessary in this or any age,” Woo told the opening night aud at the Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills theater.
Kaneshiro, addressing the crowd in fluent Japanese, said “We hope that your (reaction to our film) will rock this festival.”
Unfortunately, only one of the two main screens showing the pic used an English-subtitled print, which meant several overseas guests quickly exited the theater.
Also addressing the crowd was competition jury chairman Jon Voight, who spoke of being electrified by a still from “Rashomon” in Life magazine when he was boy and later, as an actor, presenting a bouquet of flowers to helmer Akira Kurosawa as a gift “from a student to a master.” Lifting his hands toward the ceiling, Voight finished with a heartfelt, “Arigato (Thank you) Kurosawa-san.”
Prime Minister Taro Aso entertained the aud in a more down-home way, speaking enthusiastically of his long-time love for manga Japanese comics, starting with the work of pioneer manga artist Osamu Tezuka. Manga, Aso noted, has inspired many TV shows and pics, while “telling us of the future and bringing brightness to the darkness with the gift of laughter.”
At the opening night reception, at which male VIP guests wore green bow ties supplied by a local suit maker, a TIFF official said that opening night speakers Aso and Toshihiro Nikai, minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, are strong supporters of the Japanese contents industry, representing a significant improvement over previous administrations.
Unspooling Oct. 18-26, the Tokyo fest presents a competition section, with 15 pics mostly from East and Central Asia; special screenings of 19 commercial pics soon to bow in Japan, including opener “Red Cliff” and closer “Wall-E”; the Winds of Asia-Middle East section, with 20 pics from 14 countries and regions; and the Japanese Eyes section with 10 new local pics, including “Buy a Suit,” the last pic of recently deceased helmer Jun Ichikawa.
Underlining the fest’s green theme, introduced this year by new fest chairman Tom Yoda, is a new “natural TIFF” section screening docus and dramatic pics with green themes. Also, a Toyota Earth Grand Prix will be awarded to the pic in the main program that best expresses an eco-related theme. Finally, in cooperation with Toho Cinemas and a natural energy service provider, the fest is using green energy for all fest screenings.
TIFF is the key event of CoFesta, an industry- and government-sponsored umbrella org that promotes 15 official events related to games, toons, comics, music, TV shows and pics, unfolding from Sept. 30-Oct. 28. Among the most important are the Tokyo Game Show, Tokyo Asian Music Market (TAM), TIFF and the Tiffcom market, running Wednesday to Oct. 24.
At the grand opening ceremony of CoFesta on Oct. 16, Minister Nikai told assembled guests: “The (Japanese) content industry is aiming to be a ¥20 billion ($198 billion) industry. We hope that it will blaze a new way forward for Japan.”