The 41st annual Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) opened to giant crowds, and the week of movie screenings saw hundreds of people including international directors, actors and producers descend on Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills complex.

Prime Minster Yukio Hatoyama opened the event after walking down the now famous ‘green carpet,’ made entirely from 23,000 recycled PET bottles. The main event of the evening was undoubtedly the special screening of James Cameron’s new sci-fi epic AVATAR. Those lucky enough to get a ticket saw an extended preview of the as yet unfinished 3D movie, an exclusive at TIFF. The cast of the movie, including Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington, also strode the green carpet before hundreds of awaiting paparazzi.


The organizers took the eco theme very seriously this year. As well as recycled sculptures that decorated the area, renewable energy was also used to help power the actual screenings. The incredible and beautiful Oceans by French directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud opened the festival, the closing film was the new Pixar animation Up, already popular with critics worldwide.

Although not as well known as the likes of Sundance or Cannes, the Tokyo event was certainly world class. Weekender interviewed several critics, up-and-coming actors, lesser known directors, and producers. With over 270 different titles being shown, discovering a new film can be daunting, so what better way to learn more about foreign cinema than to ask an industry insider?

Here is a summary of recommended films from the festival by attendees:

Eija, a film critic from Poland

Live Tape was a really interesting movie for me. The whole film was shot as one long take, as the star walks through Kichijoji, strumming his guitar.”

Michal, a film critic from Prague

The Night of Whirlwind Restaurant, in the Japanese eyes selection. A nice, discreet story of an outsider alone and the troubled relations he has with his dead father, a magician. He is literally disappearing from real life. This film is a really accessible way into new Japanese cinema and has a very poetic spirit.”

Yuko Kitamoto, a Japanese journalist

“The Spanish movie Rabia was very good, with a scary performance by the lead actor and beautifully filmed.”

Raul D. Arellano, and actor from Manilla Skies

“The Polish movie The Dark House was the most interesting for me. I had a real feeling of drunkenness by the photography and camera work and the shift in time that takes place throughout the story. The acting was top quality and unpretentious. At the end of the film I felt sobered by the outcome of events.”

A special mention must go to the most hyped movie at TIFF, The Cove. The excitement began when TIFF refused to show it, then at the last minute added a couple of screenings, which according to the New York Times was because of lobbying by actor Ben Stiller. The shocking and well produced dolphin rights film focuses on a tiny fishing village in Taiji, Japan, where fishermen capture dolphins and either sell them to resorts for large sums of money or kill them for consumption as sashimi. The movie makes an emotional appeal to end the killing, but showed to mixed reviews in Japan. The best way to judge is to make up your own mind. This is not a film for the squeamish, and time will tell if it will affect Japanese eating culture.

Not yet as influential as other international festivals, next year’s TIFF will nonetheless surely count in exposing new talent and raising the profile of deserving independent films.


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