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.
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.
Nate Parker talks quickly, in grandly eloquent phrases, about slavery, injustice, about his Art (with a capital A), about how he became imbued with the revolutionary spirit and the obstacles he has faced.
He talks in lengthy and complex diatribes, not only about his controversial movie, The Birth of a Nation, which he co-wrote, directed and stars in, but digresses on to other subjects: religion, family, racism.
But what he doesn’t talk about and refuses to address is the 17-year-old rape case in which he was acquitted and why he has not apologised to the woman concerned and her family.
In interviews, at press conferences and on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival in September, he consistently dodged questions about the sexual abuse allegations at Penn State University in which he and a fellow student athlete were accused of rape. They claimed the sex was consensual.
Parker was acquitted in a 2001 trial and his roommate, Jean McGianni Celestin, who co-wrote The Birth of a Nation, was convicted but he appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial; the alleged victim would not testify again. She committed suicide in 2012 after two previous attempts.
Speaking to CBS television’s 60 Minutes show for a forthcoming interview, Parker addresses the court case but stops short of an apology: “I was falsely accused,” he tells host Anderson Cooper. “I went to court, I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. Her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is — no.”
Parker admits to Cooper that what happened that night was “morally wrong” when viewed through his faith: “As a Christian man . . . just being in that situation, yeah, sure. I am 36 years old right now. My faith is very important to me, so looking back through that lens . . . it’s not the lens I had when I was 19 years old.” But when asked if he felt any guilt at all, his answer is unequivocal: “I don’t feel guilty.”
Parker’s film tells the story of Nat Turner (Parker), a slave who led a bloody rebellion in Virginia in 1831; among the many violent scenes is a brutal depiction of Turner’s wife being raped. Although it received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival and rave reviews in January and won two awards there, the American Film Institute later refused to screen it amid concerns from the students about the resurfaced sexual allegations.
The initial Oscar buzz died down after The Hollywood Reporter quoted members of the Academy who admitted that the controversy had made them less likely to vote for the film – or even watch it. Almost overnight, one of Hollywood’s most promising new film-makers had become damaged goods, and his eagerly anticipated film was suddenly a PR nightmare.
Parker’s case hasn’t been helped by an essay written by his accuser’s sister, Sharon Loeffler. “In the years that followed, Nate Parker became a well-known actor,” she wrote in Variety. “It tormented my sister to see him thrive while she was still struggling… As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene. The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion.” Loeffler goes on to call the scene “creepy and perverse”.
When The Birth of a Nation premiered at Toronto it was reasonably well received with plenty of applause. Tellingly, though, it received no end-of-festival awards and critics have suggested that Parker’s history and present adamant refusal to address the issue will have an adverse affect on the movie’s performance. It is due to be released in the UK on January 20 next year.
There was some doubt as to whether Parker would even attend the Toronto festival and if he did, whether he would give press conferences and interviews. But for four days during the festival Parker was in the spotlight, always evading questions about the rape scandal with convoluted diversions into the subject matter of the movie, saying: “This is a forum for the film. I don’t want to hijack this with my personal life.”
When we talked at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, I asked whether he thought the rape case would damage the movie’s performance at the box office and how he felt when details of the allegations resurfaced he replied: “I am 36 years old, there are so many obstacles in my life so many obstacles getting this film off the ground. I go to God with my thoughts and my prayers for support and getting through any of the obstacles that have presented themselves in my life.”
Will it have any affect on the movie’s chances for awards?
“I try not to think of awards. I don’t make movies for awards, I make movies for people. I am an artist and not a politician.”
But how have the recent events affected him and how will it affect the movie?
“I am going to speak first to the rape scene in the movie… I made this film without any reflection of anything that did or didn’t happen in my life. As a black man, as a father, as a husband my last 36 years have been many obstacles that have led me to this moment and the way I have continued to get through them all is in prayer and petitioning to the God that I believe in.”
Nate Parker was born in Norfolk, Virginia, 40 miles east of where Turner’s rebellion occurred. His parents never married although his mother later married an Air Force officer.
“I grew up with nine of us in a three-bedroom apartment and it was very hard in the sense that we had very little,” he recalls. “But as a kid you don’t understand what you don’t have until you turn on the television and then you are able to contextualise your position in society.
“So in seeing the different ways people that look like me were represented in the media it affected me greatly and I grew up with a very heavy and dense chip on my shoulder, like I am sure many others do, and I had very few ways of dealing with it because there were so many closed doors for people who look like me.”
However, he went to Pennsylvania State University where he became a nationally ranked wrestler and met his future wife, Sarah, who is white. The couple have four daughters in addition to another daughter Parker had from a previous relationship. Parker has also adopted his sister’s son.
His Hollywood career began when he was spotted by a talent manager while attending a modelling convention in Texas. He moved to Los Angeles and made his screen debut in the TV series “Cold Case,” before being cast by Denzel Washington in the historical drama The Great Debaters, which Washington directed. He went on to appear in The Secret Life of Bees, Red Tails and Arbitrage.
He was in his 20s when he learned of Nat Turner, an educated slave and preacher whose rebellion is now seen as a turning point in the fight for liberation. “It made me feel a bit more whole, like I knew more about the contributions of people that looked like me to the country that everyone said was so great,” he says. “I thought more people needed to know about it.
“So when I became an artist I said I wanted to present this to the world and to be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to direct. I just knew it needed to be told. I don’t think this story is important just for black people; I think it’s important for all of us. It’s something necessary and worthy of our attention.”
In 2014 he began work on the script and on raising the £7 million budget for the movie he called The Birth of a Nation. He ironically used the same title as D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie which was notorious for its virulently racist views of blacks and which historians see as a major impetus for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and a rise in lynching and other racist violence.
“I reclaimed the title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America,” says Parker.
In his version of Turner’s story, a brutal sexual assault by white men on Turner’s wife feeds a rage that sets the rebellion in motion. History, however, shows that Turner never acknowledged having a wife and his rebellion was, according to his own writings, based on spiritual visions.
The film was shot in 27 days and first screened at the Sundance Film Festival where Fox Searchlight £14 million for the worldwide distribution rights, the biggest deal in the festival’s history.
“When I made this film I had no idea… I would never have guessed in a million years that I would be sitting here today,” says Parker. “I just made a movie and kept going forward and tried to finish it.”
As for the violent and bloody rebellion in which Turner and his followers hack and murder white men, he says: “We have to give our audiences credit to think that they won’t reduce the entire film to being about black people killing white people. If you watch the film and are honest with yourself you can see past the skin colour and recognise it was literally the oppressed against the oppressor.
This film is about so many things that are bigger than me.”
The Birth of a Nation will screen at the London Film Festival in October followed by a January UK release.
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”.
What is art and how does it relate to society? Is its value determined by its popularity or originality? Is the goal profit or expressing one’s personal vision? These are some of the questions raised as we follow fiercely independent New York artist Robert Cenedella in his artistic journey through decades of struggling for creative expression.
A student, protégé and friend of German artist George Grosz, Cenedella is now passing on the legacy of Grosz’s approach to art, in the very same room where Grosz taught. In portraying Cenedella’s determination to buck the system of what’s popular while critiquing that popularity in his attempt to turn the art world upside down, ART BASTARD is a funny, touching, and insightful look inside the maverick mind of a true original.– Written by Art Bastard
Soon to be released CAVU Pictures’ new documentary ART BASTARD starring Robert Cenedella! The film will open in New York on June 3 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, in Los Angeles on June 17 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica and in Orange County on June 24 at the Edwards University Town Center 6 in Irvine, followed by a national release.