The 36th Tokyo International Film Festival, which showcased and competed films selected from
both domestic and international sources over a period of ten days, concluded successfully with
a significant increase in the number of works and guests. The question arises: how were the
participating works, which were based on the philosophy of "broadcasting the possibilities of
cinema from Tokyo and contributing to exchanges with diverse worlds," selected and chosen?
Insights were sought from programming director Shozo Ichiyama, senior programmer Kenji
Ishizaka and directors Yohei Kotsuji and Hiroshi Shoji.
SHOZO ICHIYAMA - The significance of Basque Film Feature
Born in 1963. Ichiyama was responsible for selecting films for the Tokyo International Film Festival from 1992 to 1999. He founded the "TOKYO FILMeX" festival in 2000 and became the programming director of the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2021. "This year, we are implementing many special programs supported by various governments and organizations from Spain, Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. Among them, the TIFF Ethical Film Award ‘20000 Species of Bees’ received significant attention as Sofia Otero became the youngest lead actress award winner at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival at age eight. The idea came from a proposal by José Luis Rebordinos of the San Sebastián International Film Festival, with whom I have long been acquainted. We were able to feature five strong films from the Basque region of Spain in the World Focus section, including ‘20000 Species of Bees.' The Basque government not only promotes films but also budgets for promoting culture in music and arts, and we should value partnership with them. In 2011, we started 'Talents Tokyo,' a workshop inviting 15 young Asian filmmakers every year. We also want to provide learning opportunities for aspiring young directors at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The first master
class for Asian film students by director Hirokazu Kore-eda, which we held this time, is something we want to expand further with more lecturers and students. Film festivals should contribute to the future of cinema."
YOHEI KOTSUJI - Experimental Improvisational Directing
Born in 1985, Kotsuji, who worked as a teacher in a special needs school, released the short film "Room on a Shore" in 2017. His first feature film, " A Foggy Paradise," which took four years to script, was selected for the competition section of the Tokyo International Film Festival. "My grandfather, suffering from dementia and muscular dystrophy, was bedridden, so every time I returned to my family home in Fukui, I would visit his sickroom. Just sitting quietly together... that 'nameless time' stayed with me, gradually forming scenes in my mind. The main theme is life and death, but there's a conviction in the parallel flow of two stories. I always felt like experimenting, rehearsing and dialoguing with actors, focusing on improvisation on set, and creating together. The most memorable moment was the final scene where a character named Jellyfish takes a deep breath in a van. Lee Sung min said, 'Leave it to me,' and I was excited thinking we might have captured something incredible. I'd be truly happy if the film becomes something that people interpret in various ways, accessing individual memories."
HIROSHI SHOJI - The Beauty of Self - Sacrifice
Born in 1986. His debut feature film, "Ken and Kaz," won the Japan Splash Section Best Picture Award, the Kinema Junpo Award Silver Prize, and the Japanese Directors Association Newcomer Award at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2015. His new work, "Tatsumi," released after an 8-year hiatus, was entered in the "Asian Future" section. "Thanks to crowdfunding for independent production, we raised a significant amount of money, and the number of audition applicants was more than ten times that of the previous work. Talents like Yuya Endo and So Mori, who starred in 'ONODA: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle' (2021), attended for the leading roles of Tatsumi and Aoi. A common theme with 'Ken and Kaz' is whether one can sacrifice themselves for others. Tatsumi and Aoi, amidst their strife, build a relationship, and ultimately Tatsumi chooses to live for Aoi. The greatness and beauty of self-sacrifice is what I want to convey the most. I've always been told by Doug Campbell, a director and lecturer at JIKEI COM International Center: Tokyo Filmcenter College of Arts, to 'shoot what you love' and 'trust your own sense of what's good.' Therefore, even 15 years after graduating, I believe I can freely make films without conforming to a specific mold."
This year's festival featured a plethora of topics, including Wim Wenders as jury president, a special project commemorating the 120th anniversary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth, the Tokyo Grand Prix winner "Snow Leopard," the acclaimed performance of an 8-year-old struggling with gender identity in "20000 Species of Bees," and the introduction of the Ethical Film Award. Furthermore, the festival has enhanced its value as a venue for international exchange and talent development, through interaction lounges and student exchange programs. Young creators who have emerged from the Tokyo International Film Festival might soon be shaping the future of cinema.