As the countdown on the official website keeps gently reminding us, there are only a few days left to go until Tokyo International Film Festival. Roppongi Hills, along with other venues, will once again play host to one of the biggest and most famous film events in Asia. Celebrating its 29th edition, TIFF offers a program that boasts an eclectic mix of movies from all around the world. This year's lineup features a considerable number of world premieres, six of which will screen in Competition.
The festival is divided into several sections, each with its own particular profile: Asian Future centers on up-and-coming filmmakers from the region, Japanese Cinema Splash showcases the country's exciting independent scene, World Focus offers a rare chance to see foreign movies that aren't scheduled for Japanese release, Crosscut Asia aspires to portray the ever-changing landscape of modern Indonesian cinema, among others.
Visitors from other countries might want to check out the Japan Now section, as it includes some of the most-talked about contemporary Japanese films of the past few months. Although most of them have already screened at various festivals around the world, the versions previously shown in cinemas here didn't have English subtitles.
The festival wouldn't be complete without some noteworthy, traditionally Japanese events, such as the Special Night at Kabukiza Theater, a unique opportunity to travel back in time to the era of silent film. One of the highlights of the evening is the screening of a digitally remastered copy of Ikeda Tomiyasu's Chushingura (1926), one of the first versions of the famous 47 Ronin story.
The film will be accompanied by a live performance of a modern-day benshi (narrator), Kataoka Ichiro, whom I had the pleasure of seeing perform in Kyoto last week. Though a bit on the pricey side (admission with a specially prepared bento box costs 10,000 yen), the event should prove unmissable to anyone interested in the history of Japanese film and theater. Digitally restored versions of other classic films, such as Ugetsu or Floating Clouds, will also screen during the festival.
Parents take note: TIFF is reviving the highly anticipated Youth and TIFF-Children sections. All the screenings in the Children section take place in the beautiful area of Futako Tamagawa, and feature live dubbing, so even the smallest guests will be able to thoroughly enjoy the movie-viewing experience. And if you're on the lookout for some animation films, then The World of Mamoru Hosoda is a section you should definitely give special attention to.
As it's been announced earlier this month, the Samurai Award, created three years ago to honor veterans of international cinema, will go to Martin Scorsese and Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Although the former won't be able to attend the festival due to conflicting schedule, the latter will be present at the closing ceremony on November 3 to receive the prestigious award. On the same day, he will give a talk titled "In Person: Kiyoshi Kurosawa" (free of charge).
Navigating through the lineup might seem like a daunting task at first, but once you get past the primary stage and start focusing on your choices, it all becomes pretty exciting. I’m sure anyone will find something of interest there but, in case you need any help with creating your schedule, here’s our list of recommended Japanese films.