Tokyo Film Festival programmer event revamp – the Hollywood reporter

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Had the Tokyo International Film Festival organizers been able to pick the backdrop for a major overhaul of the event, a global pandemic likely wouldn’t have been high on their list of choices. But sometimes life gives you lemons.

Last year, new president Hiroyasu Ando took the reins of a hybrid edition impacted by the coronavirus. This year, the event moved to the Hibiya-Ginza neighborhood in hopes of creating a more festive vibe, while the man tasked with revamping the content is new programming director Shozo Ichiyama.

A veteran of film festivals, Ichiyama is also known for his work as a producer with Chinese author Jia Zhangke, acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and Japanese Takeshi Kitano.

For Ichiyama, the remoteness of the Roppongi Hills complex after nearly two decades is sort of a throwback to the feel of the festival’s roots.

“In Shibuya, where he was held until the early 2000s, when we went to see films, we could also enjoy the city. In addition to theaters, there was a stage in front of the station, flags and banners in the street, and cafes where people gathered, ”Ichiyama recalls.

“Roppongi was convenient, but isolated from the city; for a festival, you have to connect with the city. Like in Cannes or Berlin, where the places are scattered within walking distance, ”explains Ichiyama, who hopes that such an atmosphere can be fostered in his new home.

However, this year’s fresh look festival is going to be a bit of a dry run. Despite more than 70% of the Japanese population being fully vaccinated, daily cases of COVID-19 in Tokyo are in double digits and cinemas are opening at full capacity, travel restrictions mean only a handful of foreign guests Will be present.

Those who have received special permission from the government to enter Japan, such as French actress and jury president Isabelle Huppert, will be quarantined for three days, then their movements will be restricted – the same rules applied to athletes and officials. Olympic.

On the positive side, the pandemic has led some festivals to reduce the number of films screened, giving Tokyo access to a wider choice for its competition.

“We tried to keep a [regional] balance for the competition, but it resulted in a very strong Asian formation, ”explains Ichiyama. “Again, it’s as it should be, we are an Asian festival.”

On the other hand, Hollywood productions will open and close the festival – Clint Eastwood’s crying macho and the musical by Stephen Chbosky Dear Evan Hansen, respectively – a kind of break from the past few years, when Japanese films often filled these niches.

Ichiyama oversees and revamps the programming of all sections of the festival, which he says were “not well connected in the past.” As part of the new look, the very mainstream food screenings that were launched in an effort to attract local audiences have been removed, although he says there is still a place for “good commercial films.” “.

The Tokyo festival has been the subject of criticism in the past that it was primarily run by and for the benefit of the “big four” Japanese studios. Ichiyama is a former employee of Major Shochiku and first worked at the festival in this capacity in the 1990s. But he has since established impeccable independent and international credentials by directing the Tokyo Filmex festival (which takes place alongside his more important counterpart as the two events continue to deepen their cooperation) for 20 years and his extensive work with foreign directors.

“I try to rule out films that only work for Japanese audiences,” Ichiyama explains.

For the international sections, he “included a few genre films,” which Ichiyama said “may have people wondering why I did that, but I think these are films that can be successful at the festival.” .

Ichiyama says he’s curious how audiences and programmers at other festivals are reacting to his selection.

As for the future, once the pandemic is over, it intends to continue to take advantage of its international relations to enhance Tokyo’s visibility on the festival circuit.

“If influential people from the industry come, that gives another reason outside of the movies for other people to make the trip,” suggests Ichiyama.


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