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2009 TOKYO INT. FILM FESTIVAL – Day 4

Tokyo film festival continued to surprise with what seems to be becoming the world’s least parochial film festival. Despite a wide selection of Japanese films to choose from, the Tokyo audience gave their award to Canadian political comedy The Trotsky.

Japanese auds show up for festival screenings to see the stars present films that will be out in cinemas in two weeks time. (News for beefcake lovers: Former model and co-star of Handsome Suit and romantic lead in new film My Rainy Days Shosuke Tanihara is actually more handsome in real life than he is on the screen. He also looks younger.)

Tokyo’s jury consisting of President Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel), Mieko Harada (Ran), Jerzy Skolimowski (Deep End), Caroline Champetier (The Book Of Mary), Yoo Ji-tae (Old Boy), Matsumoto Masamichi (President, Film School of Tokyo) also by-passed Japanese cinema.

From the jury, Best Actress went to France’s Julie Gayet for her turn as a woman searching for her identity in Eight Times Up, Rabia a film by Ecuadorian Film-maker Sebastian Cordero won a special jury prize, but Kamen Kalev’s Eastern Plays scooped the pool with gongs for best film, best director and best actor (Christo Christov). Interestingly the jury did not feel sufficiently moved to give an award for Best Artistic Contribution.

The Winds of Asia jury (film critic, Ueno Koshi, PIFF programmer, Kim Ji-seok, director, Shinohara Tetsuo) gave best film to South Korean/French APSA nominee for Best Children’s Feature Film, A Brand New Life, and a special mention (sure sign of a divided jury) to Turkish Kurdish migration drama I Saw the Sun.

In the Japanese Eyes section, the alleged best of a bad lot Live Tape won out over a pool of films so bad that only a Rotterdam programmer could watch them all. Said sidebar has steadily declined to the point of being no more than a collection of video works by students of film or people who never bother to study film. Even amongst a group of art-minded programmers and critics from Japan to Barcelona, Live Tape was the only feel to get a consistent thumbs up in the week long event. Irony is that it was the first film I missed when – after three films and two walk-outs in the Japanese Eyes section – I turned my attention to real Japanese films – melodramas, crime films etc that are likely to be watched by millions of people rather than amateurish video doodles that are unlikely to be seen by more than 100 people – worldwide.

Finally on the ecological front: The Grand Prix in honour of Tokyo’s pro-Earth ecological focus went to Wolf a French film about a boy who is given the role of protecting reindeer from wolves. It didn’t win the prize but Japanese people got their opportunity to see dolphin slaughter and Japan-bashing film The Cove. This hopefully will prevent any other grandstanding “environmentalists” from next year pulling the same stunt of trying to embarrass the festival by spreading rumours about unsubstantiated bans that did not exist.