Category Archives: Tokyo International Film Festival

Japanese films fail to make mark at ‘Big 3’ festivals

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Misuzu Sato

Japanese films failed to make the Golden Lion shortlist at the 73rd Venice Film Festival that wrapped up in September. A question was posed at the Venice Film Festival Press Conference on why Japan is missing out on challenging in the top competition for the second consecutive year.

Also in Cannes and Berlin this year, no Japanese films were shown in competition, meaning they were not in the running for the top prizes at the “Big Three” film festivals.

While experts say Asian films have been losing their foothold in the increasingly competitive film festival circuit, they urge Japanese filmmakers to pursue their ingenuity and attempt a more international perspective.

The Venice festival has given the Golden Lion prize to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi, and also showcased films by Kitano, Hayao Miyazaki, Shinya Tsukamoto and other Japanese filmmakers in competition for 13 consecutive years until 2014. Although three of the 21 films showcased in competition in 2008 were from Japan, no Japanese movies have made it to the main competition for the past two years.

“With the number of films produced having increased, the margin for not only Japanese films but also for other Asian movies to be featured at international film festivals has shrunk in recent years,” said Tokyo International Film Festival programming director Yoshihiko Yatabe. “As it stands, it is less of the quality of the works than the fact that organizers can’t get around to reviewing Asian films as South American and North European films are also doing great.”

However, Filipino director Lav Diaz won the Golden Lion for Best Film for his The Woman Who Left at Venice this year.

A forum focusing on the rapidly growing Chinese market was also held on the sidelines.

But Venice festival director Alberto Barbera said the festival had picked up a powerful and beautiful Japanese work in the Orizzonti section for cutting-edge films: Kei Ishikawa’s first feature film Gukoroku–Traces of Sin.

While Ishikawa was presented in Orizzonti, Yasushi Kawamura’s full-CG film Gantz: O–also his first full-length feature–was screened out of the competition at Venice.

At Cannes, Koji Fukada’s Harmonium received the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

“In Japan, it is difficult for filmmakers to make auteuristic art films, but it shouldn’t be impossible if they are determined,” said film journalist Atsuko Tatsuta, as to how Japanese films could break into the competition lineup. “They need to gain a more international perspective by collaborating with other countries and making other efforts.”

Jean-Michel Frodon, former editorial director of film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, said that although Japanese filmmakers are making good films, they have yet to earn recognition abroad. He also stressed the importance of showing their presence at other film festivals and promoting their works to overseas audiences.

*Featured photo: The red carpet at the Venice Film Festival in Lido Island, Italy, where all the films want to be competing (The Asahi Shimbun)


When to speak and when to shut up: the art of a Japanese ‘benshi’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Alisa Yamasaki

The silent films screened in Japan from the 1920s to ’40s were never completely silent. Katsudo-shashin benshi, or benshi for short, delivered live narration that provided everything an audience might need to appreciate a film — from commentary to translation. Derived from Japan’s many narrative art forms, benshi were an effective way to introduce cinema to Japanese audiences.

Though the era of silent films is gone, the art of narration lives on through a handful of professionals. Ichiro Kataoka is one of the country’s few active benshi, and he will provide narration for Tomiyasu Ikeda’s 1926 classic “Chushingura” at the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Special Night Event at Kabukiza Theatre. The event will also feature narration by guest benshi Ichiro Furutachi and a special performance by kabuki actor Onoe Kikunosuke.

Modern day benshi, Ichiro Kataoka (Photo credit: Dan Szpara)

“I had known about benshi but I thought that it was a long lost profession,” Kataoka tells The Japan Times. “When I was 18, I happened to attend a benshi performance by Midori Sawato and it made me want to learn about being one.”

At age 38, Kataoka has built an impressive career out of the art. The professional benshi has narrated more than 300 films and has been invited to perform at events around the world.

“When I perform overseas, I’m asked to narrate classic Japanese films, but I do films from any country: Japanese, European, American, Chinese, anything,” Kataoka explains. Are non-Japanese films more challenging to narrate than domestic ones?

“There’s a specific pacing with classic Japanese films that makes it easier for benshi, since Japanese silent film directors were aware of the benshi and filmed their work with them in mind. With foreign cinema, mostly European, the director tries to convey as much as possible through the cinematography,” he says.

“At the end of the day whether it’s Japanese or not, the film I’m narrating is old. But I’m a modern person and my audience comprises modern people, so I need to constantly think about how to communicate the old film from one modern person to another — what themes to bring up and what scenes to emphasize — in order to present it as a terrific piece.”

While Kataoka has a compelling tone and presence to him, he says it’s crucial for benshi to understand they don’t have the leading role.

“A good benshi always remembers when to shut up and let the images do the talking,” he says. “Silence can be more powerful than words.”


Special Night Event at Kabukiza Theatre will be held on Oct. 27 and is sold out. However, The Japan Times has two pairs of tickets to give away to readers. To apply, send a postcard by Oct. 23 with your name, address, postal code, phone number and the word “TIFF” to the Life & Culture section of The Japan Times, 4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023. To apply online, visit


29th Tokyo Film Festival Announces winners of Samurai Award

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is pleased to announce that the recipients of SAMURAI Award for 2016 are Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese (Silence, The Departed, Taxi Driver) and Cannes award-winning director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Journey to the Shore, Tokyo Sonata, Cure). The SAMURAI Award, now in its third year, commends achievements by veteran filmmakers who continue to create groundbreaking films that carve paths to a new era in cinema.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, winner of 3rd Samurai Award for the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival (Photo courtesy of

The SAMURAI Award Ceremony will be held on November 3 (Thu), 2016 during the Closing Ceremony of the 29th TIFF. To commemorate the event, the 3rd SAMURAI Award Special Talk “In Person: Kiyoshi Kurosawa” will also be held on the same day. At this event, we will look back at Kurosawa’s outstanding career and discuss the many challenges he has faced during his journey in filmmaking.

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorcese, winner of 3rd Samurai Award for the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of

Due to the director’s schedule, Martin Scorsese will not be able to attend the ceremony, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa will be present at the ceremony to receive the award.

The 29th TIFF will be held from Oct.25 to Nov.3, 2016 at Roppongi Hills, EX Theater Roppongi and other theaters in Tokyo.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 5.35.18 AM

(Source: Press release provided by

*For further information or inquiries, please contact: TIFF Public Relations Division
Tel: +81-3-6226-3012; Fax: +81-3-6226-3023; email:


29th Tokyo International Film Festival Unveils Full Lineup

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) held a press conference to announce lineups in the all sections, jury members, and this year’s topics and highlights at Toranomon Hills Forum in Tokyo.


From left: Daigo MATSUI, Yu AOI, Munetaka AOKI, and Mamoru HOSODA ©2016 TIFF

Yasushi SHIINA, Director General of TIFF & TIFFCOM, made opening remarks and announced that the festival muse for this year is Haru KUROKI, one of the most accomplished actresses in Japan. TIFF’s programing directors then took the stage to introduce the lineup for each section of the 29th edition, as well as to reiterate the prior announcements of the Opening film, Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins and the Closing film, Yoshitaka MORI’s Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow.

In the Competition section, 16 films were selected from among 1,502 titles from 98 countries and regions. Representing the two Japanese titles in this main competitive section, director Daigo MATSUI and actress Yu AOI from Japanese Girls Never Die, and actor Munetaka AOKI from Snow Woman were welcomed on the stage and made remarks.

Click here for the Full Competition Lineup.

Acclaimed director Mamoru HOSODA, who is being honored this year with “The World of Mamoru Hosoda” in the Animation Focus section, greeted the audience after the retrospective lineup was announced. He will appear for stage talks during TIFF with such special guests as director Hirokazu KORE-EDA and filmmaker Daisuke “Dice” TSUTSUMI.

This year’s International Competition Jury members were also announced. French director/writer/producer Jean-Jacques BEINEIX will serve as President, working with director Hideyuki HIRAYAMA, actor Valerio MASTANDREA, producer Nicole ROCKLIN, and director Mabel CHEUNG.

During the 10-day celebration, more than 200 films will be screened and there will be unique film-related events every day at the festival venues, including stage appearances, Q&A sessions and symposia featuring celebrated guests from around the world.

The 29th TIFF will take place October 25 to November 3, 2016 at Roppongi Hills, EX Theater Roppongi (Minato City) and other theaters, halls and facilities in Tokyo Metropolitan Area.



Haru Kuroki named Festival Muse for 29th Tokyo International Film Festival!

The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival has welcomed actress Haru Kuroki for the Festival Muse. Ms. Kuroki will appear at the opening ceremony and other official events as the face of the 29th TIFF. The festival is scheduled to run October 25th through November 3rd, 2016.

Haru Kuroki

Kuroki was born in Osaka on March 14, 1990 and made her debut in 2010 as a heroine in Noda Map’s extra performance “Omote ni Deroi!”. Her film debut was in Tokyo Oasis (2011, Kana Matsumoto and Kayo Nakamura). In 2014 she won the Silver Bear at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and the Japan Academy Prize for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Yoji Yamada’s The Little House. She won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Supporting Actress again in the following year for My Mother (2015, Yoji Yamada). Her filmography includes The Great Passage (2013, Yuya Ishii), Solomon’s Perjury Part 1: Suspicion and Part 2: Judgment (2015, Izuru Narushima), A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016, Shunji Iwai), “Hanako to Anne” (2014, NHK), “The Emperor’s Cook” (2015, TBS), “Sanada Maru” (2016, NHK), and “Juhan Shuttai” (2016, TBS). The Long Excuses (Miwa Nishikawa), Chotto Ima kara Shigoto Yametekuru (Izuru Narushima) are due to be released soon.

The festival is scheduled to run October 25th through November 3rd, 2016.

(Source: tiff-jp press release)

2 Chinese films nominated for top honors at Tokyo International Film Festival

This year’s Tokyo International Film Festival is set to take place in less than a month, and two Chinese-language films are in the final competition for the top Tokyo Grand Prix.

The two films are Mr. No Problem by mainland director Mei Feng and Shed Skin Papa by Hong Kong director Roy Szeto. Mr. No Problem, shot in stylish black-and-white, is a three-act fable set in wartime Chongqing. It focuses on the indifferent rich, the head clerk on a farm, and some young intruders. Based on a 1943 short story, the film is screenwriter Mei Feng’s directorial debut and stars well known comedian and actor Fan Wei.

Still from Mr. No Problem, by Chinese film director Mei Feng. (Photo courtesy of Tokyo International Film Festival)

Comedy Shed Skin Papa calls to mind the tale of Benjamin Button. As a frustrated director faces debt and a divorce, his elderly father suddenly regains his youth. Elements of history and romance then unfold. Adapted from a play by Norihiko Tsukuda, the film stars Hong Kong actors Francis Ng and Louis Koo.

Still from Shed Skin Papa by Hong Kong film director, Roy Szeto. (Photo courtesy of Tokyo International Film Festival)

A total of sixteen films have been selected to compete for the highest honors in Tokyo. They also include Italy-France-Switzerland co-production Seven Minutes and After You’re Gone from Russia.

Established in 1995, the Tokyo International Film Festival is among the most competitive film festivals in Asia. This year’s event will open on October 25th and feature more than 200 films from around the world.


Hosoda hopes to surpass anime legend Miyazaki

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Olivier Fabre

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-5-01-37-pmTOKYO —

Mamoru Hosoda, one of Japan’s young anime directors hoping to lead the industry after the retirement of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, says he hopes to surpass his boyhood hero one day, but don’t look for Miyazaki in his movies.

“That won’t happen. It is only right that different directors create totally different works,” Hosoda, 49, told Reuters TV ahead of the Tokyo International Film Festival next month where a retrospective of his work will be shown.

“I think there are movies that only I can create and movies that only I know how to make people enjoy them,” he said.

Hosoda’s rise to fame culminated with his 2015 box office hit “Boy and the Beast”, which grossed over 5.8 billion yen ($57 million) to become the second most watched movie in Japanese theatres that year.

His movies are colorful and vibrant and appear to follow in Oscar-winning Miyazaki’s footsteps. However, Hosoda regularly chooses themes related to family and identity, which disappoint some fans who seek the more immersive fantasy provided by works out of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.

“The Boy and the Beast” explores the relationship between a paternal beast-father figure and a run-away child. His previous film, “Wolf Children”, centered on a single mother raising children fathered by a werewolf.

Hosoda said his deeper exploration of the meaning of self-identity in an extremely homogeneous nation are often lost on viewers.

“I think there are possibly people in the audience here who were not able to understand that. And that, in a way, is representative of Japan today,” he said.

Hosoda is hopeful for the future of Japan’s animation industry despite the fact that more and more animators rely on computer graphics to polish their work.

“There are, or should be, multiple correct ways to express oneself in animation,” he said.

“If you start saying that only Disney or Pixar animations are the right kind of animations, that just becomes very boring. If everything needs to have computer graphics,then you lose a lot of the richness in expression available in animations,” he added.

“The World Of Mamoru Hosoda” retrospective runs from October 25 to November 3 at the Tokyo International Film Festival and will include movies such as the critically acclaimed “Summer Wars”.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.


Tokyo film festival lineup to include 12 Indonesian films

Twelve Indonesian films will be screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) slated to run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.

Athirah, a film inspired by Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s mother and directed by Riri Riza, is set to be featured in the Crosscut Asia section alongside 10 other Indonesian movies. This particular section is dedicated to Asian films with a focus on a country, a director, an actor or a certain theme. For this year, the TIFF has decided to feature movies from Indonesia dubbed Colorful Indonesia.

Athirah,  a film inspired by Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s mother and directed by Riri Riza, is set to be featured in the Crosscut Asia section of the Tokyo International Film Festival alongside 10 other Indonesian movies. (Photo credit: Shuttercock/-)

Athirah, a film inspired by Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s mother directed by Riri Riza, is set to be featured in the Crosscut Asia section of the Tokyo International Film Festival alongside 10 other Indonesian movies. (Shutterstock/-)

In addition to Athirah, other Indonesian movies scheduled in the section are Catatan Dodol Calon Dokter (Stupid Notes of Doctor Candidate) by Ifa Isfansyah that is slated to premiere in Indonesia on Oct. 27, musical film Ini Kisah Tiga Dara (The Story of Three Girls) by Nia Dinata, which is inspired by the 1956 movie Tiga Dara by Usmar Ismail, Filosofi Kopi (Coffee Philosophy) ( 2015 ) by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, Sendiri Diana Sendiri (Lonely Diana Alone) ( 2015 ) by Kamila Andini, Fiksi (Fiction) ( 2013 ) by Mouly Surya, Someone’s Wife in the Boat of Someone’s Husband ( 2013 ) by Edwin, and Lewat Djam Malam (Past the Curfew) ( 1954 ) by Usmar Ismail. It will also screen three films by Teddy Soeriaatmadja, namely About a Woman ( 2014 ), Something in the Way ( 2013 ), and Lovely Man ( 2011 ).

Meanwhile, Salawuku by Pritagita Arianegara, which follows a journey of two people in Seram Island in Maluku, will represent the archipelago in the Asian Future section.


French director Jean-Jacques Beineix to head jury for 29th Tokyo International Film Festival

More than 200 films will be screened, with 16 taking part in the competition section, at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) running from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.

The 29th TIFF will take place at Roppongi Hills in Minato Ward.

Jean-Jacques Beineix, director of “Diva” and the Oscar-nominated “Betty Blue,” is heading the jury, which includes Japanese director Hideyuki Hirayama, Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung, Spotlight producer Nicole Rocklin and Italian actor Valerio Mastandrea.

The 16 films in the competition section were selected from among 1,502 titles from 98 countries and regions.

During the 10-day affair, there will also be unique film-related events at the festival’s venues, including stage appearances, Q&A sessions and symposia featuring celebrated guests.

Among the guests will be Mamoru Hosoda, who is being honored this year with his own section in the Animation Focus category called “The World of Mamoru Hosoda.”

He was also at Monday’s news conference in the Toranomon Hills complex announcing the festival lineup.

(Source: Staff Report

Lipstick Under My Burkha to be screened at 29th Tokyo International Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Suparno Sarkar

The movie Lipstick Under My Burkha will have its World Premiere at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival to be held from Octoer 25 to November 3. Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, the film is set in the crowded lanes of a small town and chronicles the secret lives of four women in search of freedom.

Lipstick Under My Burkha features Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, among others.

Expressing her excitement about the movie being screened at the Tokyo Film Festival, the director said in a statement: “The landscape of small town India is rapidly changing, and women are finding the courage to think about what they truly want. Their secret dreams and veiled desires – just on the verge of breaking out. It is this point of transition that Lipstick Under My Burkha explores. Though locally rooted, it is a story with universal resonance. And I am delighted to begin the film’s journey at the esteemed Tokyo International Film Festival.”

Meanwhile, Konkona Sen Sharma is also delighted about the event. “It is truly an honour to have our film premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival. I’m particularly excited because it is in a competitive section at such a prestigious festival,” she said.

A still photo of Ratna Pathak from Lipstick Under My Burkha (Photo courtesy of PR Handout)


Ratna Pathak Shah added: “I am thrilled to be a part of this brave film that explores desire in the context of a changing India. And I am delighted that our film will premiere at the Tokyo IFF. It is wonderful news.”