The Tokyo International Film Festival made a series of bold changes in 2020 to expand its international reach, including a location change and major staff and programming changes. For the global film community, however, much of the overhaul went unnoticed due to travel restrictions due to the pandemic. The chairman of the Tokyo festival, Hiroyasu Ando, emphasized at a press conference in the Japanese capital on Wednesday that the event wants to “take a bigger leap” this year with the upcoming 36th edition, fulfilling its ambitions for a transformation.
“We are really focusing on international interaction,” Ando said, noting that this year’s festival would welcome some 600 foreign guests, including filmmakers, jury members and industry professionals, a big increase from the 104 international industry VIPs attending in 2022.
The Tokyo International Film Festival opens on October 23 with a gala screening of the Tokyo-set drama by acclaimed German author Wim Wenders Perfect dayswhich has been selected by Japan as the official entry for the Oscars for the best international film race. Perfect days‘ star, local film legend Koji Yakusho, won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his role in the film. Wenders will also serve as head of Tokyo’s main competition jury this year.
The 15-title competition selection in Tokyo includes a diverse mix of filmmaking with a deliberate emphasis on Asia, Ando said. Three films from Japan: Tomina Tetsuya’s existential romance Who were we?the drama of Kishi Yoshiyuki (Ab)normal desireand the slow, realistic drama of Kotsuji Yohei A misty paradise – are supplemented with three feature films from China (last year there were no competition films from China), including Snow leopard, the last film by celebrated Tibetan author Pema Tseden, who passed away in May. Other highlights include the war drama by Russian director Alexey German Jr Sky; Israeli sports drama Tatami; and the American film by Maryam Keshavarz The Persian versiona comedy-drama about the family life of an Iranian woman in New York.
The gala part of the festival is packed with crowd-pleasers, including the winner of the Golden Lion of Venice by Yorgos Lanthimos Poor thingsTran Anh Hung’s The taste of things (winner of best director at Cannes), Taika Waititi’s football comedy Next goal winsChinese blockbusters Full river red And The Movie Emperorand Japanese kaiju film Godzilla Minus one, which is set to close the festival. The Japanese titles at the gala include a selection of well-known local authors: Shinya Tsukamoto with Shadow of fireTakashi Miikes Lumberjack the monsterTakeshi Kitanos Kubi and Shusuke Kaneko with Golden boy.
Veteran Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is once again assisting the festival with programming and hosting the Asia Lounge talk series, which this year will feature conversations with directors Zhang Yimou, Tran Anh Hung, Yoji Yamada, Gu Xiaogang, Mouly Surya and Yang Yonghi.
Hong Kong film legend Tony Leung will also give a masterclass.
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of classic Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. To mark the occasion, the festival will screen a vast collection of restored Ozu classics – 33 titles in total – and host a panel discussion on the filmmaker’s enduring influence.
Wenders will introduce the lecture, with commentary from three other esteemed directors: Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata), Chinese author Jia Zhangke (A touch of sin) and Kelly Reichardt (First cow).
The World Focus section balances contemporary international features with a selection of restored classics from other sidebars. Highlights of recent festivals include those of Frederick Wiseman Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros; by Ira Sach Passages; by Pedro Almovodar Strange way of lifeLav Diaz’s Essential truths of the lake and two additional titles from Wenders: his new 3D documentary Anselm, about the great German sculptor and painter Anselm Kiefer; and the world premiere of his short film, Someone is coming into the lightstarring Japanese dancer Min Tanaka.
Other sections include the newly renamed Nippon Cinema Now strand, dedicated to contemporary Japanese films (including the documentary Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus, which premiered in Venice with great success); a new internationalized entertainment program; a selection of films in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Italian master Franco Zeffirelli; a Basque cinema showcase; and selections of contemporary Taiwanese and Hong Kong films.
Competition section of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2023
(Ab)normal desireKishi Yoshiyuki (Japan)
SkyAlexey German Jr. (Russia)
Blind at heartBarbara Albert (Germany/Switzerland/Luxembourg)
House on the WestmeerGu Xiaogang (China)
A misty paradiseKotsuji Yohei (Japan)
GondolaVeit Helmer (Germany/Georgia)
The Gospel of the BeastSheron Dayoc (Philippines)
A small chanceGao Peng (China)
The Persian versionMaryam Keshavarz (USA)
RoxanaParviz Shahbazi (Iran)
Preach to the birdsHilal Baydarov (Azerbaijan)
The colonistsFelipe Gálvez (Chile/Argentina/Netherlands)
Snow LeopardPema Tseden (China)
TatamiZahra Amir Ebrahimi, Guy Nattiv (Georgia/USA)
Who were we?Tomina Tetsuya (Japan)