Last week, Tokyo International Film Festival’s new director general Yasushi Shiina and International Jury member Shinobu Terajima spoke with the press to answer questions about their roles at the festival and discuss their hopes for this year’s event.

By Christopher O’Keeffe

Ms. Terajima is a popular actress and star of such award-winning films as Caterpillar and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. The actress is no stranger to TIFF: she was here in 2003 with the Ryuichi Hiroki directed film Vibrator, for which she won the Best Actress Award. The story of an emotionally distressed woman who makes an impromptu journey with a trucker she meets in a convenience store was shown here tonight and it was Terajima’s bold yet fragile performance that made the film such a hit at festivals around the world.

As a member of the five-person International Jury tasked with judging films in the Competition category, Ms. Terajima said that “my role will be to see each film clearly from my own perspective and be straightforward with my opinions.” Yasushi Shiina spoke at length about providing a platform for Japanese filmmakers in which they can represent the country of Japan in their work and have the opportunity to take their films outside of the country to reach a wider international audience. With this in mind a new category, “Japanese Cinema Splash,” has been created for new filmmakers to “show what Japan is like through their eyes, and if we can get these creators to bring their work into overseas countries in the hopes that they can make a splash on the international scene.” Shiina’s goal for his three-year term as director general is to make TIFF even more accessible for the general public: “I want this festival to be an opportunity for people to enjoy and appreciate films. These are my hopes for the festival.” This year, TIFF has more Japanese films than ever in its lineup, including two in competition for the festival’s top prize.

In looking at the 25th anniversary material, there has been something missing if you compare recent events and those of the late 80s/early 90s—the presence of some major Hollywood A-listers. Festivals of the past saw the likes of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger bringing their latest releases across the sea, but there have not been many superstars in the last few years. This year TIFF is bucking that trend as two screen legends, Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro come to Tokyo. Hanks will be here to promote his latest work: the festival’s opening film, Captain Philips, in which the actor stars as the captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. De Niro is here to promote The Family, Luc Besson’s tale of a mafia family under witness protection in France.

These stars and many more can be seen at the annual green carpet opening ceremony at Roppongi Hills when the festival kicks off next week.

Main Image: Terajima and Shiina at last week’s press event (by Christopher O’Keeffe)