The jury of the Tokyo International Film Festival expressed warm greetings and happy feelings about a week of movie-watching in the Japanese capital. But the tone changed noticeably when confronted with the question of the position of women at film festivals, and what are festivals’ responsibilities towards women.
Comprised of Philippines director Brillante Mendoza, Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, U.S. producer Bryan Burk, Japanese actress Kaho Minami, and, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan, the jury expressed their views at a press meeting on Friday, the first full day of TIFF activities.
“If we can call this a problem or an issue of women being the minority among filmmakers, that is because women are the minority everywhere,” said Alidoosti.
Minami referenced Cate Blanchett, and the Women’s Day activities at Cannes this year, but it was unclear whether her comments about the Tokyo festival were criticism or encouragement. “This year (in Tokyo) we have two members of the jury, and maybe next year we might have three, and maybe the next year or in the future we might have a female jury president. We are proceeding with small steps, year by year.”
“I’m just upset that we have to continue to get these questions, and I look forward to not having three female jurors, but having five female jurors represented, and not just for one year, but for many years,” said Burk.
Jury president, Mendoza tried to flash his feminist credentials, pointing to 10 of his 13 films as being about female empowerment, and suggesting that The Philippines counts as a matriarchal society, having has two female presidents. “But we decide (the competition) prize winners on the film, not on the gender,” he said.
Mendoza said that the jury had been briefed by festival’s selection committee and given judging guidelines. He contrasted that with his own sense of excitement at watching the 16 competition titles for the first time. “It is important that we don’t really follow rigid guidelines what a good film is about .At the end of the day it is not just about being moved by this film, but also about applying the cinematic language. This is a competition and we are not just watching like ordinary viewers.”