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Tokyo International Film Festival gets underway

The 25th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) opened on Saturday night (Oct 20) with the world premiere of 3D extravaganza Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, executive produced by James Cameron.

In a video message, Cameron touched upon his special relationship with TIFF which started when Titanic opened the fest 15 years ago.

Cirque Du Soleil director Andrew Adamson was on hand with lead actress Erica Linz and executive producer Jacques Methe. A longtime fan of the Cirque du Soleil performances, Adamson said: “When I was asked to direct a film on Cirque du Soleil, at first I thought, “Why would you do that?”

But then I realised I could take it as an opportunity to share this incredible dreamlike world. The performers work incredibly hard to make the difficult seem easy. They combine the beautiful with the dangerous, which makes it thrilling.”

TIFF chairman Tom Yoda declared the opening of the fest’s 25th anniversary edition, marking the fifth year of the inauguration of the ecology-focused green carpet. He introduced director/producer Roger Corman, the Sakura Grand Prix jury head along with his fellow jury members: producer Luc Roeg, director Yojiro Takita, production designer Kyoko Heya, and director/writer Emanuele Crialese.

“Last year, The Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix went to Untouchable. The film was a huge success worldwide, notably in Tokyo and France as well as in Germany with an audience of 20 million and 6.5 million for the United States and Korea,” said Yoda, emphasising that TIFF’s films tend to draw distributor attention and can show early signs of popularity.

“Because of these factors, we had a 36% increase to 1,332 entries this year, double that of five years ago. It proves that filmmakers really have their eyes on TIFF,” said Yoda.

TIFF this year will screen 103 films in the official selection. 15 of these are competition films, five of which are world premieres. Of these, the Chinese film Feng Shui, directed by Wang Jing, has been surrounded by concerns of late that it would be pulled for reasons similar to those of the withdrawal of Hong Kong-China production Floating City.

The latter film was pulled last month from the Winds of Asia-Middle East section for reasons connected to the escalating tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku (a.k.a. Diaoyu) islands.

The fest issued a statement Oct 19 that despite announcements in the media, it had “not received any official notice to this matter from the production side of the film” and so would be proceeding with the screening of Feng Shui.

As of the night of Oct 20 in Tokyo, the fest’s press department says that of the original ten Chinese films selected to the programme, only one – Floating City - has been cancelled.

Director Wang Jing has cancelled his trip to TIFF, but Feng Shui is still due to make its world premiere Oct 22.

In commemoration of the 25th edition, TIFF awarded a letter of appreciation to Hong Kong filmmaker Raymond Chow. Unable to attend due to a what was announced as a chronic middle ear infection and a no-fly order from his doctor, Chow sent a message read by Hong Kong film festival chairman Wilfred Wong, thanking the fest for the honor and saying: ”My filmmaking career taken me all over the world but the Tokyo International Film Festival holds a special place in my heart.”

TIFF will run Oct 20-28 with the TIFFCOM market Oct 23-25 in its new Odaiba venue.

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