Tokyo film fest hopes ‘Joan of Arc’ sizzles

Film Creators' Forum hopes to increase opportunities for Asian pics

TOKYO — After surviving a year of budget cuts, the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival is looking to Luc Besson’s “Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” to provide inspiration for the 12th edition of Asia’s largest pic fest.

The French director’s film will open the event, which will run Oct. 30 to Nov. 7. In previous years, two films were featured on opening day, but “Joan of Arc” will have the spotlight to itself.

In all, about 144 films will be unspooled at the Tokyo fest, with 16 vying for top honors in official competition.

The budget for the Tokyo festival is 400 million yen ($3.73 million), the same as last year. In 1998, the budget was cut by $1.41 million due to government belt-tightening and difficulties in getting sponsor support.

‘Onegin’ on again

Among the films in competition for the Grand Prix are Martha Fiennes’ “Onegin”; “Twin Falls Idaho,” from Michael Polish; French film “Criminal Lovers,” from director Francois Ozon; and “Darkness and Light,” from Taiwan’s Chang Tso-Chi.

Awards categories include honors for young and Asian directors.

Special screenings include one of the first glimpses of Toho’s decidedly low-tech “Godzilla 2000: Millennium” and “After the Rain,” the new movie from a screenplay by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa that premiered at the Venice Intl. Film Festival this summer.

Disney will close out the show with a special screening of its animated feature “Tarzan.”

A new wrinkle this year will be the Tokyo Film Creators’ Forum, which seeks to find co-financing and co-production partners for pic projects from Japan and other Asian countries. About 10 projects will be pitched at the forum, part of the Tokyo fest’s new initiative to increase business opportunities for Asian films.

Last year, the Japanese movie “Afterlife” gained overseas release thanks to a deal worked out at the Tokyo festival.