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Three premieres, sci-fi classics to mark Tokyo festival

"Bloody Snake Under the Sun"
“Bloody Snake Under the Sun”

TOKYO (TR) – Three world premieres, including Yu Nakai’s “Bloody Snake Under the Sun” and “Dangerous Parking” by Peter Howitt, will highlight the competition lineup of the 20th edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival, an event that organizers hope will continue to expand in importance.

“I have tried to make this festival truly enjoyable for real cinema lovers,” said Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, who is in his final year as TIFF chairman, at a press conference earlier this week. “I have wanted to position TIFF as a significant event by giving birth to new talent and nurturing new cinema people.” But, he added, now is the time for TIFF to become truly international, something he feels this year’s schedule exemplifies.

“Midnight Eagle,” a co-production between studio Shochiku and Universal Japan, is a thriller by Izuru Narushima set in mountainous area of central Japan that will kick off the festival on October 20th. The closer will be “Silk,” a love story by Francois Girard that is a joint production between Japan, Canada, and Italy. The prison drama “Crossing Over,” the third premiere, is the Japan-China Friendship 35th Anniversary Memorial Screening representative.

“Since this is the 35th anniversary of the Japan-China friendship,” said Kadokawa, “we tried to present many works from China. We actually wanted to emphasize the importance of co-productions in strengthening the relationship between Japan and other countries.”

The “Winds of Asia-Middle East” section will focus on a wide range of countries, including Hong Kong, Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, Egypt, and Kazakhstan.

In addition to the premieres, the main competition will include 12 other films, with notables being the Jacob Thuesen’s “The Early Years — Erik Nietzsche Part I,” which is based on director Lars von Trier’s youthful experiences in film, and Li Jixian’s second film, “The Western Trunk Line.”

“Eat and Run — 6 Beautiful Grifters,” a six-story animation from Mamoru Oshii (“Ghost in the Shell”), highlights the Japanese Eyes section.

“Tokyo in Focus” will present films from such directors as Yasujiro Ozu (“Tokyo Twilight”), Shuji Terayama (“Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets”), and Wim Wenders (“Tokyo-Ga”) that depict Japan’s capital following World War II.

“Special Screenings” will feature colorized versions of science fiction classics from special effects guru Ray Harryhausen, who is one of the pioneers of stop-motion animation. These include “It Came from Beneath the Sea,” where a rampaging radioactive octopus ravages San Francisco, “20 Million Miles to Earth,” the story of a beast from Venus unleashed upon Italy, and “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” in which invaders from Mars are thwarted by a high-powered ultrasound device. “The Simpsons Movie” and “A Mighty Heart,” a thorough account of the last days of journalist Daniel Pearl, will also screen in this section.

This year TIFF will be a component of the Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta), an organization that combines 18 industry expos taking place throughout the Tokyo area under one theme: spreading Japanese coolness to the world. Over a 40-day period, which begins this week with the Tokyo Game Show, manga (comics), digital imaging, video games, music, and film are among the industries showcasing their wares for the first time under a single promotional umbrella.

Kadokawa emphasized that TIFF must continue to look forward by promoting Japanese content to the world – through such complementary events as CoFesta’s Tiffcom marketplace – and bringing top, cutting-edge films to Japan.

“TIFF should work on gathering highly graded works,” said the chairman. “Not just a variety of works, but highly regarded ones.”

Note: This article originally appeared in September 2007 on the Sake-Drenched Postcards Web page.