If there is one city that can be considered the “Cultural Capital” of Asia, it’s Tokyo, without a doubt. Japan’s capital has become the center of the latest trends in fashion, music and art, transforming into the symbol of modernity in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Tokyo International Film Festival is the event that brings together the best offerings from the movie industry from both, East and West. For just over a week, Roppongi Hills is decked out to screen films from all around the world, as well as Japanese cinema classics; all of them involving conferences and guest appearances from international celebrities.
Every autumn the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) brings directors, critics, actors and film fanatics from all over the globe. TIFF is the only festival accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations in Japan. It began in 1985 as the biggest Japanese film festival, and since then, it has grown to become one of the largest and most prestigious in the whole of Asia.
The festival lasts 9 days, in which film makers will be competing for the prestigious “Tokyo Sakua Grand Prix” award. Only in 2012, around 1,332 movies from around 91 different countries participated. Since its foundation, TIFF has also become a platform to support the new young talents of cinema, thanks to its “Young Cinema Competition;” providing a forum that allows the new generations to reach international audiences. Among previous years winners of the “Grand Pix” are Tian Zhuangzhuang, with his movie “Blue Kite” (1993), Alejandro Amenábar with “Open your Eyes”, and mexican film director Alejandro González Iñarritú, with its acclaimed movie “Love’s a Bitch” (2000), which gives you an idea of the great quality of the works shown at TIFF. In 2013, Swedish director Lukas Moodysson received the “Grand Prix” for his movie “We are the best,” which tells the story of three teenage girls, who started a punk band during the 1980’s.
TIFF is not only about screening movies, but it acts as a tribute to cinema itself, and as such, there are many activities for visitors to enjoy. For example, on the inauguration day, anyone visiting Tokyo should not miss out on walking on the green carpet, a distinctive feature of TIFF, where you can catch a glimpse of the many celebrities that visit the city. In addition to this, many public conferences are held. During most of them, celebrities of the Japanese Film Industry and from all around the world participate in a talks, either about topical issues relating to the industry or to promote a specific project or simply, to tell of their experiences during filming and to thank the audience for supporting them. This year American actor Tom Hanks presented the movie “Capitain Phillips,” directed by Paul Greengrass.
There are also parallel events, such as the Buncka-Cho (Cultural Affairs Agency) Film Week. We really recommend a visit to this event, which is also part of TIFF, but it focuses only on screening classic Japanese movies and is held in a different location, such as the Cinemart, also located in Roppongi. It’s not often you get the chance to appreciate these types of films on the big screen and more importantly, with English subtitles, making this a great opportunity, not to be missed. Movies such as the famous “Akahige” (Red Beard) of Akira Kurosawa are shown during this week.
Other events include tributes to the great icons of the silver screen. In 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous special effects crews in Japan, Tsuburaya Productions, a special event that celebrated Ultraman, the famous TV superhero, was held. Screenings of its three most famous episodes, along with live shows and conferences that included the original cast are just a few of the many events that took place, to honour this symbol of Japanese science fiction.
Without a doubt, the Tokyo International Film Festival is an event that film fanatics should not miss. It is a unique opportunity to appreciate the best of world cinema, because many of the screened movies are rarely shown in the West, making TIFF an event that everybody should experience at least once in a lifetime.