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Tokyo fest opens with ‘Cirque du Soleil,’ Chinese pic ‘Feng Shui’ to screen

Aya Ueto, Andrew Adamson, Jacques Methe and cast from "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" at the Tokyo International Film Festival opening on Saturday
Aya Ueto, Andrew Adamson, Jacques Methe and cast from “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” at the Tokyo International Film Festival opening on Saturday

TOKYO (TR) – Approximately 6,000 film fans gathered on Saturday in the Roppongi entertainment district of Tokyo for the opening night of the 25th Tokyo International Film Festival, a week-long event that will feature more than 200 films.

Just outside one of the main screening theaters, biz luminaries strode along the ceremonial “green carpet” — a symbol of the fest’s ecological theme — laid upon Keyakizaka-dori at the Roppongi Hills complex in Minato Ward as the assembled crowd snapped photos and sought autographs.

Kicking off the event in the “Special Screenings” section was the world premiere of the James Cameron-produced 3D pic “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away.”

“It is as if you are transported to another world — a world of dreams, a world where anything is possible,” said helmer Andrew Adamson of the film about the popular dance troupe. “The performers work hard to make the impossible look so easy and combine danger with beauty in a way.”

“Japan in a Day,” a crowd-sourced pic produced by Ridley Scott that chronicles the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, is slotted as a special opener.

“It was essentially an experiment,” said Scott, who was unable to attend the ceremony, in a statement read at the ceremony, “a chance to reach out to the world and ask for their personal responses to what it was like to be living on Earth that day. What we never could have imagined was that it would become such a powerful way to engage people in sharing their lives.”

In the main competition, organizers received a total of 1,332 titles — roughly double the figure from five years ago — from 91 countries and regions. Five world premieres will be included among the 15 entries in the main competition, including helmer Tetsuaki Matsue’s “Flashback Memories 3D,” in which a didgeridoo musician rehabilitates a brain dysfunction, the Chinese family drama “Feng Shui,” Wang Jing’s story of struggles in a working-class household, and Michael J. Rix’s “Accession,” in which a South African man copes with being HIV positive.

Though news outlets have reported that “Feng Shui” had been pulled from the fest due to the ongoing territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea, TIFF organizers maintained that the film will be screened as insufficient notice of withdrawal had yet to be received from the producers.

Heading the jury will be Roger Corman, the producer and director of over 500 films, many of which were low-budget, B-movie efforts.

TIFF chairman Tatsumi “Tom” Yoda emphasized how far the fest has come since its inaugural year of 1985. (The annual event was held every other year until 1992.) The chairman said that “Untouchable,” last year’s winner of the fest’s top price, the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix, “was a huge success worldwide, notably in Tokyo and France, as well as in Germany.”

Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, expressed the importance of government activities in supporting the film industry. “We are implementing the ‘Cool Japan’ project to promote entertainment and film to promote the Japanese industry,” said the minister. “Particularly, anime is one of the bigger content medias made in Japan, and so is J-Pop. Film is a powerful medium to deliver with the combined efforts of various talents. TIFF truly plays an important role in leading the film industry in Japan.”

The “Japanese Eyes” section will feature eight local pics, including “Chasing Santa Claus,” helmer Hiroki Iwabuchi’s documentary about the first Christmas in Sendai following the devastation of last year’s earthquake, and Tomomi Ishiyama’s “Last Days of Summer,” the story of a junior-high school girl coming of age in a mountain village.

TIFF will also feature footage from the latest James Bond pic “Skyfall,” which marks 50 years for the franchise.

This is the sixth consecutive year that the festival has included an environmental mandate. The “Natural TIFF” section showcases films with environmental themes, such as “Trashed,” a look at how the food chain is being impacted by pollution. Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles will be provided, and filmmakers and celebrities, walked over a green carpet composed of recycled materials during Saturday night’s festivities.

Closing the fest will be Robert Lorenz’s “Trouble with the Curve,” a baseball pic in which Clint Eastwood portrays a baseball scout reuniting with his daughter.