Yoshimoto Kogyo, the entertainment giant that is home to many of Japan's biggest comedy personalities, including Big Man Japan
director Matsumoto Hiyoshi, announced today that they will be helping out with the running of next autumn's Kyoto International Film and Art Festival.
The company is no stranger to this work, having run their own Okinawa International Film Festival for the past few years. This latest event is a re-launch of the Kyoto Movie Festival, which has been running since 1997 but is now aiming for a more international reach, promoting Kyoto as the birthplace of Japan's film industry.
Some old-school film talent were present to sell the festival, including samurai and yakuza movie veteran and Toei stalwart Nakajima Sadao, producer of early Beat Takeshi works Violent Cop
, Boiling Point
and more recently Tokyo Joe
Okuyama Kazuyoshi, and 80's screen icon and Streets of Desire
star Natori Yuko. Actor Tsugawa Masahiko, perhaps most recognizable from Oshima Nagasa's Night and Fog in Japan
, was also present, describing Kyoto as the Hollywood of Japan, as it's where Japanese cinema started and first flourished. The screen star described how, back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for a shoot to be interrupted when a local yakuza would turn up to bark orders and generally throw his weight around.
While it's too early for any lineup announcements, Nakajima spoke of the importance of showing films from outside Japan to Kyoto's youth, and Yoshimoto often manage to bring in some surprisingly big names to their Okinawa festival (Beats of the Southern Wild saw its Japan premier there this year). That's not to say there'll be a lack of Japanese fare, in Japan many popular comedians and TV personalities appear in low budget and independent productions, and Yoshimoto will no doubt be pushing the projects of its stars.
Yonshimoto do an amazing job in Okinawa every year, creating a festival that really appeals to and is inclusive of the local population, and offers a stage to a good selection of small and independently produced films. Kyoto is a much more accessible city and a big draw for visitors to the country, if they can build a strong, unique lineup, hopefully they can cause a stir in Japan and beyond.
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