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.
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.
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.
Because of the war, few countries participated in the 1940, 1941 and 1942 Festivals, not taken into consideration later on, with the dominating presence of the members of the Alliance. Following the war pause, the Festival was held again in 1946 with screenings at Cinema San Marco (the Palazzo del Cinema had been requisitioned by the Allies).
In 1946, in view of an agreement with Cannes, which had held its first festival that year in the spring, a simple transitory festival was organized in September. The 1947 Festival was held in the splendid setting of the courtyard of the Ducal Palace, with a record audience of 90,000. It was one of the best festivals and saw the return of the USSR and the new “popular democracies” including Czechoslovakia, which won first prize for Siréna by Karel Stekly. That year the international jury was reinstated to assign the International Grand Prix of Venice. Up until 1948 the director was Elio Zorzi, a Venetian.
Proceedings were transferred permanently back to the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido in 1949, and the Golden Lion of St. Mark introduced for best film.
During the Fifties the Festival experienced a period of international expansion, with the affirmation of new types of film (Japanese, Indian), and the arrival of leading directors and film stars. The Festival director’s chair was occupied by Antonio Petrucci (from 1949 to 1953), Ottavio Croze (1954 and 1955), Floris Ammannati (from 1956 to 1959) and Emilio Lonero in 1960.
Over the years the Festival has had a noteworthy influence on the history of world cinema. Japanese cinema has become well known in the West mostly thanks to the Golden Lion awarded to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashômon in 1951, and successively through the Silver Lions won by Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) and Sanshô Dayû (1954) by Kenji Mizoguchi, not to mention the presence of films such as Biruma no Tategoto (1956) by Kon Ichikawa. It was the same case for Indian film, Golden Lion in 1957 to Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito. Eastern European cinema was brought to world attention partly through the Grand Prix awarded to the film Siréna (1947) by Karel Stekly (Czechoslovakia), and later thanks to the presence of emerging filmmakers such as Andrzey Waida (Popiól i diament, 1959).
After the first neo-realist films were shown at the Festival (Paisà by Roberto Rossellini and Il sole sorge ancora by Aldo Vergano in 1946, La terra trema by Luchino Visconti in 1948), a number of foremost Italian figures were recognised as leading talents in the ’50s and ’60s: Fellini, Antonioni, Rosi, Olmi, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Vancini, De Seta, and Zurlini. The fact that Luchino Visconti did not receive the Golden Lion for Senso in 1954 nor for Rocco e i suoi fratelli in 1960 led to heated debate. Visconti was to be awarded the top prize in 1964 for Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa.
French cinema marked decisive steps in the Festival history, with the presence of directors such as Jean Renoir (The Southerner, 1946), Henri-Georges Clouzot (Manon, 1949), Robert Bresson (Journal d’un curé de campagne, 1951), Marcel Carnè (Theresa Raquin, 1953), Louis Malle (Les amants, 1958), Alain Resnais (L’année dernière à Marienbad, 1961) and Jean-Luc Godard (Vivre sa vie, 1962; La chinoise, 1967).
Great figures in world cinema received awards with significant works: Carl Theodor Dreyer (Ordet, 1955), emergent Andrej Tarkovskj (Ivan’s Childhood, Golden Lion in 1962), Luis Buñuel (Belle de jour, 1967), Ingmar Bergman (The Face/The Magician, 1959), who had first come to the Lido in 1948 as an unknown figure with Musik i mörker.
Veteran British director Ken Loach won his second Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday for I, Daniel Blake — a stark portrayal of a disabled man’s struggle with the crushing benefits system in northern England.
The 79-year-old was presented the festival’s top prize by actor Mel Gibson at a ceremony on the French Riviera. Accepting the award, the silver-haired Loach punched his fists in the air in victory and said that he hoped his gritty, social realist movie would hold a mirror up to the impact of Europe’s policies of austerity on the poorest in society.
Director Ken Loach, centre, actor Mel Gibson, left and President of the Jury George Miller react after Roach is awarded the Palme d’or for the film I, Daniel Blake, during the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
“We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible,” he said.
I, Daniel Blake chronicles a middle-aged widower from Newcastle who, after a heart attack, can neither work nor get government aid. It follows the sometimes comic, frequently painful frustrations as he winds his way through an archaic system that seems designed to bring him down.
Like many of Loach’s films, social politics is at the heart of I, Daniel Blake — which many critics have predicted could be his last.
“There is a conscious cruelty in the way that we are organizing our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault,” Loach told reporters. “If you have no work it’s your fault you haven’t got a job. Never mind in Britain, there is mass unemployment throughout Europe.”
Loach has long brought his distinct portrayals of the British working class to Cannes — and is more a regular at Cannes than almost any filmmaker. He has had 12 films in competition at the festival over the years, including his Palme d’Or-winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
Canadian director Xavier Dolan picked up the runner-up Grand Prize, which has been seen by some critics as a vindication for him personally after his film, It’s Only The End Of The World, garnered lukewarm reviews and triggered a spat between him and certain film critics. The 27-year-old won the jury prize in 2014 for Mommy.
Director Xavier Dolan poses for photographers with his Grand Prix prize for the film, Juste La Fin du Monde (It’s Only The End OF the World), during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
The jury of the 69th Cannes Film Festival was headed by Australian director George Miller who described the jury’s selection as “two words: rigorous and happy.”
The Cannes jury’s decisions are famously unpredictable, and take place behind doors closed to the press for the duration of the May 11-22 festival.
Despite mixed reviews, director Asghar Farhadi’s film, The Salesman, picked up several awards including best screenplay and best actor for Shahab Hosseini.
Romanian director Cristian Mungui, who was a favorite to win the Palme d’Or for Graduation, won the best director award, which he shared with French director Olivier Assayas for his paranormal thriller, Personal Shopper, starring former Twilight star Kristen Stewart.
Director Olivier Assayas poses for photographers after receiving the Best Director award for the film Personal Shopper, during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)