With the start of his second edition as Tokyo International Film Festival director, Takeo Hisamatsu feels more confident of TIFF’s direction than when he assumed the post in March of last year. “The first thing I did when I took office was to clarify TIFF’s vision and organize programs and events based on that vision,” he told Variety.
“Our future direction is now clearer both to the public and within the festival organization. Also, based on the slogan ‘Entertainment and Art in Symmetry,’ we have added new programs such as the Midnight Film Festival, Tribute to the Musical, and Cinema Arena 30, a free open-air screening program. These have appealed to audiences and we have succeeded in increasing attendance.”
There is still room to strengthen the interactions with the film industry, Hisamatsu admits. “Undoubtedly the most important aspect of the festival is the strength of our programs, but events that remain in the memories of those who participate, like encounters with others, are also one of the attractions.”
Stronger bonds between the festival and the region is also a priority, says Hisamatsu: “We have strong relationships in Asia.” He cites the Asian Film Academy that brings students from Hong Kong to experience TIFF. The festival is also screening the second installment of the Japan Foundation-funded “Asian Three-Fold Mirror” feature co-production, “Journey” and hosting a special talk event with Hong Kong director Fruit Chan.
Hisamatsu also notes that the traditionally insular Japanese film industry is engaging more with Asia, China in particular. Many Japanese films have been theatrically released in China, including the Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters,” and China and Japan have signed a co-production agreement.
“That means there may be more chances to collaborate in filmmaking,” he said Also, TIFF is hosting a symposium focused on Japan-Chinese co-production agreement and a talk event with Terence Chang, the Chinese producer of “Wings Over Everest,” a new crime thriller starring Koji Yakusho. “I’m sure it will attract a lot of attention,” said Hisamatsu.
While TIFF remains committed to the experience of watching films in theaters, Hisamatsu also thinks it important to nurture movie lovers on other media. “A lot of people don’t have time to watch films in the cinema, and many people are without a theater nearby, so I think it’s meaningful to support platforms like (Netflix and Amazon) and home video to expand the scope of audiences for film,” said Hisamatsu.
TIFF is this year by screening two Netflix titles: Alfonso Cuaron’s Golden Lion winner “Roma,” and Masaaki Yuasa’s hit animated series “Devilman Crybaby.”
Promoting the local industry is paramount, however, including the Japan Now section that presents outstanding Japanese films from the past year and the animation retrospectives, which this year feature deceased Studio Ghibli master Isao Takahata and rising star Masaaki Yuasa.
TIFF is also doing its part to foster the next generation of cinema fans and filmmakers through film classes for kids and master classes for young filmmakers. “The international success of ‘Shoplifters’ and ‘One Cut of the Dead’ has given young filmmakers big dreams,” Hisamatsu says. “We would like to introduce more Japanese films in the future.”