TOKYO (TR) – Raising awareness of the plight of the world’s refugees is the goal of the third annual Tokyo Refugee Film Festival, which begins on June 20 at five halls and theaters throughout the metropolis. Supported by the United Nations Refugee Agency, the festival’s theme is “Refugees — the human side.”
Festival organizers feel that Japan’s reluctance to accept refugees makes it a perfect location for such an event.
“With 33 million refugees around the world, Japan does a lot to help financially to work on the refugee issue but our hope is that the doors of this country would be as open as the wallets to actually welcome more refugees to Japan too,” said Kirill Konin, the festival’s director. “So far, it has not been easy for asylum seekers to get refugee status here.”
The United Nations reported that last year Japan approved only 41 of 816 refugee applications. During the same time, France accepted over 10,000 applications and the United States over 20,000 applications.
The eight-day festival, which was attended by 7,000 visitors last year, will include 40 documentaries, shorts, and features. Organizers feel that the films convey the suffering and despair of refugees yet provide hope.
“There are a lot of films available here in Japan but there are just a few that talk about social issues,” said Konin. “RFF is an event which promotes socially conscious films.”
The festival kicks off with the documentary “War/Dance,” the winner of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award that chronicles a song and dance competition in Uganda. Japan premieres include “Heart of Fire,” the story of a child forced into battle in Eritrea, and “Ezra,” a fictional tale in Sierra Leon about a village ravaged by soldiers. “Kite Runner,” the film based on the Khaled Hosseini novel, closes the event. Directors will be on hand for question-and-answer sessions following the screenings, which are free of charge.
Backers of the festival include broadcasters Fuji Television Network and TV Tokyo and electronics giants Sony and Canon.
Konin hopes the event will grow next year. “We are looking for more companies to work with us in organizing the event, getting more directors to come, and screening the films in bigger venues,” he said.