Wednesday, October 29, 2014

REFLECTIONS FROM THE TOKYO FILM FESTIVAL

Daihachi Yoshida’s “Pale Moon”

Everything at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) scales vast spaces, dizzying heights and awesome high tech. It is set in the sprawling upbeat Roppongi Hills complex which embraces a host of public venues such as restaurants, shops, relaxation areas and a splendid museum. The 2014 TIFF takes place in the Mori Building West which houses several theatres, the festival’s office rooms as well as meeting places such as the Press computer room, the festival video room to catch films one has missed, and banquet rooms for events and parties. This is on the 49th floor (the building has 51 floors in all).  TIFF is supported by the Japanese government in conjunction with the country’s leading conglomerates, the latter input accounting for its large-scale organization.

The steady drizzle on opening night (October 23) did not deter the festival’s glitz  as guests from around Asia, Europe and Hollywood traipsed damp the red carpet alongside Japan’s Prime Minister, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and leading State politicians.

The august audience then watched the world premiere of Don Hall and Chris Williams' animation “Big Hero 6”, released locally by Disney. With the story set in San Fransokyo, a fictional combination of Tokyo and San Francisco, and the festival's emphasis on animation this year, the film provided the ideal start to the coming ten days.

The lavish party that followed saw glimpses of several friends of Indian cinema, such as Christian Jeune  from Cannes, Cameron Bailey from Toronto (on jury duty),

Kim Dong-ho, Honorary Director of the Busan film festival, Nashen Moodley – Sydney Film Festival director and also Asia/Africa programmer for Dubai film festival, the Japanese film critic Tadao Sato, among many others.

On the first day press conference programming director Yoshi Yatabe said that all 15 feature films competing this year convey portrayals of “people with their backs to the wall”, people who are cornered and wondering "how they are going to live tomorrow."  

The six member International jury seconded the choice of films. Chaired by American writer, director, producer, actor, musician, cartoonist James Gunn, the jury comprised Korea-born filmmaker John H. Lee (“A Moment to Remember”, 2004), Australian director Robert Luketic (forthcoming female-led “Expendabelles”), Singapore's Eric Khoo (Cannes 2008 Palme d'Or contender, “My Magic”), Japanese comedian/director Hiroshi Shinagawa (“One Third”, 2013), and veteran casting director Debbie McWilliams (“Skyfall”, 2012). At their media meet, the jury were both articulate and open about their impassioned crusading of cinema that is truthful and enlightening, the kind that should form the core of a film festival.

Chairperson Gunn, referring to this year’s TIFF, said, "It's great to have these pockets of real culture ... It's important to have events that acknowledge films as something other than commerce, so that it doesn't become a world where movies are made purely to make a lot of money and don't have any heart."

Director Luketic added that he viewed cinema as a “beacon of hope that illuminates the global human condition."  Considering the world’s difficult and challenging times, he said, “Films that can offer me hope and a sense that we're all kind of in this together -- that's sort of what I would look for, something truthful in that regard."

The festival announced the inauguration of the Samurai Award, to be presented to veteran filmmakers who “continue to create ground-breaking films that carve out a path to a new era.” The first recipients are Japanese director Takeshi Kitano and US director Tim Burton, whose “Big Eyes” was screened at the festival. Other sections announced include World Focus (films screened at major fests, but with no Japanese distribution), Asian Future (films by new Asian directors, including Japan and the Middle East), Japanese Cinema Splash (Japanese indie films) and Special Screenings (commercial films to be released in Japan over the last quarter of the year). Other key sections cover the work of animator Hideaki Anno, films from the New York Museum of Modern Art  (MoMA) collection, and new Thai films presented by the Japan Foundation Asian Center.

A luncheon was hosted the first day by the Japan Foundation’s Asia Center allying itself with the cinema industry in Asia and its individual festivals to promote their combined film culture. The same evening saw The Japan Foundation celebrate its presentation of Thai films in this year’s Tokyo festival and also its intention to work closely with Asia’s festivals to extend the strength of Asian films. Curiously, in the list of countries named or aimed for in this laudable collaboration, India was not mentioned even once. It would appear that the Near East remains somewhat outside the orbit of cinematic goals being heralded in the Far East – a situation that surely needs to be addressed and corrected.

The handful of films, mostly in competition, were steeped in the dire crises, often self created that individuals face amid the forces that shape our times. The much touted sole Japanese competition film, Daihachi Yoshida’s “Pale Moon” featured top star Rei Miyazawa as a disgruntled woman caught is a dull marriage.  Starting as a banking clerk, her swift promotions lead to her embezzling funds to free herself. The film ends on an ambiguous note, taking no position on her motivations.

Another ,low-key Japanese film, Takashi Nishihara’s debut work “Starting Over”, unfolded a poignant story of two schoolgirls drawn whose inseparable closeness develops into a lesbian relationship, largely because their home lives shut them out any sign of love or understanding.

The Spanish film “Flowers” directed by Jon GaraƱo and Jose Maria Goenaga, takes the onslaught of menopause into a surreal longing for love which changes the lives of three women stemming from one of them mysteriously receiving a bouquet of flowers every week without a clue of who the sender is.

From the Philippines, “Above The Clouds” directed by Pepe Diokno, starts with devastating scenes of a major flood that took hundreds of lives, and then zeroes  into a 15-year-old orphaned by it. He is sent to live with his eccentric, grubby grandfather. His initial grief and resentment finally gives way to an acceptance that life has something to give even when it denies you everything at one stroke.

Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014

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