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Tokyo International Film Festival: Kenji Ishizaki on the Present and Future of Asian Cinema

On October 23rd, the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival splendidly opened, welcoming numerous guests from Japan and abroad on the red carpet in Hibiya. We spoke with Kenji Ishizaki, who has been the programming director of the Asian section for 16 years since 2007, about this year's participating films, trends, and emerging talents.

東京国際映画祭 アジア部門のプログラミング・ディレクター 石坂健治氏

Kenji Ishizaki, the programming director of the Asian section of Tokyo International Film Festival

Gen de Art: What are the themes and highlights of this year's film festival?

Kenji Ishizaki: The overall theme is the first step in international exchange. This year, we have established the fundamental principle of "broadcasting the possibilities of cinema from Tokyo and contributing to diverse global interactions". Although we have suffered from the pandemic for several years, people from around the world have finally gathered in Tokyo for ten days to watch and discuss films together. In the "Future of Asia" section that I oversee, I strongly feel that films featuring female protagonists are more interesting. Many of these works depict women fighting against societal issues, giving a clear insight into the problems currently faced worldwide.

Gen de Art: How do you perceive the current trends in Asian cinema?

Kenji Ishizaki: Even though we talk about Asia as a whole, it varies by country and region. A major common challenge is how to recover and revive from the damage caused by the pandemic. Not limited to Asian films, there are now many works that focus on the position of women, and the number of female directors has also increased. Additionally, it is characteristic that many works reflect the current world situation, depicting wars, refugees, and immigrants.

Gen de Art: What do you think are the essential elements for the success of a film festival?

Kenji Ishizaki: Of course, having many attendees is one factor, but it's also very important for the film festival to have a clear character and color and to be supported globally. Rather than following the large European film festivals, I think it's crucial to firmly introduce Asian films and to emphasize our focus on Asia.

Gen de Art: How are you working on discovering new talent?

Kenji Ishizaki: We created the "Future of Asia" section 11 years ago. This is another competitive section where we select 10 films from hundreds, targeting works from emerging directors with up to three feature films. We are continuously working to discover new talents. We have also started the "Asian Film Student Exchange Program," gathering students studying film in Asia.

This year, we were able to hold a lecture by director Hirokazu Kore-eda, which became a step forward. This program not only nurtures new talent but also emphasizes the importance of Asian cinema. We want to expand it even further in the coming years.


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