The 35th edition of the Tokyo International Film festival will open this evening (October 24) with Takahisa Zeze’s Japanese prisoner of war drama, Fragments of the Last Will. The festival will run for 10 days.
Fragments Of The Last Will is based on the true story of Hatao Yamamoto, a Japanese prisoner of war detained in a post-Second World War Siberian gulag. Yamamoto believed that he would be able to reunite with his wife and children in Japan and fought to keep hopes alive for his fellow POWs as well.
The cast is led by Kazunari Ninomiya and includes Keiko Kitagawa, Tori Matsuzaka, Kento Nakajima, Akira Terao, Kenta Kiritani and Ken Yasuda. It will release theatrically in Japan on December 9 through Toho, one of the leading movie production houses in Japan.
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This edition will be a full-fledged one after the pandemic disruptions, and is being looked forward by dozens of invitees that include 100 from other countries. Last year, only a handful of foreigners participated.
Also, the Festival has shifted from the calm, rather quiet Roppongi Hills to the hep, happening Ginza district with its flourishing nightlife, bars and discotheques.
The Festival has a new programming Director, Shozo Ichiyama, who is said to have put together a vibrant list of films. There is a move to make Tokyo surpass Busan, which has in recent years become huge and hugely popular, although it is still fighting shy of inviting a considerable number of journalists.
“Although we continue to monitor the global health situation and cannot let our guard down yet, TIFF continues to strive to accelerate the evolution that we implemented last year by taking a number of innovative steps for a further leap forward,” says Hiroyasu Ando, who was appointed TIFF chairman in 2019 towards the end of a long diplomatic career and amid a decade-long stint as president of the Japan Foundation (2011-20). Among those steps are an expansion of TIFF’s venue footprint, reviving the Kurosawa Akira Award, and increasing the number of international guests.
Like many events around the world, TIFF saw a decrease in private sponsorship in the first year of the pandemic but has since been able to gain new sponsors. “It was difficult due to Covid-19, but we were able secure the necessary budget of over jpy800m [$5.3m] to operate this year’s edition with support from local communities and corporations,” said Ando, who has also made it the Festival’s goal to become a more locally engaged citywide and nationwide event through collaboration with local companies and administrations.
The Festival has added three large multiplexes. Which has enabled it to raise the number of movies from last year’s 86 to 111 in nine main sections. These come from 42 countries – including two from India. There are 33 world premieres and one international premiere.
There are 15 titles in international competition including Rikiya Imaizumi’s Japanese feature by the window, Sanjeewa Pushpak¬umara’s Sri Lanka-Italy co-production Peacock Lament, Bui Thac Chuen’s Vietnam-France-Singapore co production Glorious Ashes and Daishi Matsunaga’s Japanese title Egoist.
The festival is closing with Oliver Hermanus’s UK drama Living starring Bill Nighy. An adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Japanese drama Ikiru with a revised screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, the film premiered at Sundance in January and has screened at other festivals including Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian.