A press conference was held today announcing the launch of an all-new Kyoto International Film and Art Festival to take place in the autumn of next year.
Kyoto Movie Festival was started back in 1997 but never troubled the international press or made much of a splash outside of the Kansai area. This year Yoshimoto Kogyo—the Osaka-based entertainment company behind some of the biggest names in Japanese comedy talent and also the people behind the Okinawa International Film Festival—have got involved to give the event a boost. Under its new motto, “Movies, Art and Everything Else,” the festival will aim to promote Kyoto as the birthplace of some of Japan’s finest arts and the ancestral home of manga, kabuki and film in Japan.
A string of industry insiders were present to talk about the festival, and what film in general means to the city. Kazuyoshi Okuyama, a producer best known for his work on Beat Takeshi’s early yakuza hits Violent Cop and Sonatine pointed out the festival’s logo and how it represents a breaking out of the old and creating something new, a reference to both the new direction of the festival and advice for young Japanese filmmakers. Veteran film director Sadao Nakajima, who made a string of samurai and yakuza hits throughout the 60s and 70s for legendary studio Toei, spoke about the need for Japanese works to reach an international audience and for the young people of Kyoto to see exciting new films, both from here and abroad.
Last onstage was 74-year-old actor Masahiko Tsugawa in leather pants and studded shoes, who enjoyed his time on stage so much that the host stepped in to interject. Tsugawa began his career with Crazed Fruit in 1956 and continues to work on film and television to this day. The actor drew from his history in the business to tell anecdotes of shoots being interrupted when a local yakuza might turn up to throw his weight around a set and the talented technical crews of the old jidaigeki (period drama) hits. Interestingly the star questioned why it is that old people get to pay 1,000 yen to see a film when young people who struggle for cash have to pay 1,800, suggesting the rule should be reversed.
As anyone who has been knows, Kyoto is an incredible city that’s always worth a repeat visit. Next year the city can offer more than just the changing leaves to visitors in its Autumn months if the festival manages to live up to its promising potential.
By Christopher O’Keeffe