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Tokyo film fest kicks off, Abe fetes potential of industry in Japan’s rise

TIFF kicked off Thursday at the Roppongi Hills complex
TIFF kicked off Thursday at the Roppongi Hills complex
TOKYO (TR) – An appearance by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday highlighted the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo International Film Festival, an event in its 26th year.

The prime minister said the content industry, which includes films, will play a crucial role in the nation’s economic rise.

“There is great potential for the Japanese film industry and we welcome talented people who will play a central role,” said Abe, speaking at the Roppongi Hills complex, which serves as the nine-day event’s primary screening venue.

Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, expressed the importance of government activities in supporting the film industry. “Japanese films have been receiving attention and high acclaim internationally,” said the minister. “And METI is promoting the ‘Cool Japan’ strategy to showcase Japan to the world. Our job is to revive our economy by working in unity to aim for a Japan full of hope.”

Though the festival unrolled its signature Green Carpet to promote ecological awareness, as it has done since 2008, this year the films themselves will take center stage.

“Making a film is like shining a ray of light into the darkness — you are depicting people’s emotions, confessions, and sacrifices,” said Chinese director Chen Kaige, who will head the jury in the “Competition” section. “Tom Hanks said in ‘Forrest Gump’ that ‘life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you are going to get.'”

Among the 15 entries competing for the “Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix” prize and $50,000 are six world premieres, including Japanese helmer Koji Fukada’s coming-of-age drama “Au revoir l’ été,” Behnam Behzadi’s story of generational struggles in Iran “Bending the Rules,” and Ning Ying’s “To Live and Die in Ordos,” a Chinese drama in which a writer seeks information on a policeman who died in Inner Mongolia.

Kicking off TIFF in the “Special Screenings” section was “Captain Phillips,” the action-thriller by Paul Greengrass that stars Tom Hanks. The section is also highlighted by “The Bling Ring,” the latest film by Sofia Coppola, and “Beyond the Candelabra,” Steven Soderbergh’s biography of Liberace. Closing the fest will be Koki Mitani’s historical comedy “The Kiyosu Conference.”

In addition to a change in theme, this year’s TIFF has reworked some of its film lineups.

The “Japanese Cinema Splash” section (formerly “Japanese Eyes”) will feature eight independent films, including “There’s Nothing to Be Afraid of,” helmer Hisashi Saito’s story of love and loneliness, and “Walking with a Friend,” a look at the friendship in the lives of four men.

The “Asian Future” section, known as the “Winds of Asia-Middle East” at previous festivals, will screen productions by directors with two or fewer films to their credit. Internationally acclaimed films seeking Japanese distribution will be showcased in the “World Focus” section.