Tokyo International Film Festival 2021 must go on

Tokyo International Film Festival 2021 must go on

For the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival, the show must go on
For the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival, the show must go on

1 Nov – Following last year's festival that was highly restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) kicked off its 10-day run on 30 October with similar feel, but with a new sense of confidence.

Despite many of the foreign guests unable to attend the event due to travel restrictions, many celebrities and filmmakers alike still graced the red carpet at the International Forum in Hibiya, including French actress Isabelle Huppert, who is serving as the 34th TIFF Jury President, and industry stalwarts from Europe and Asia.

Due to the pandemic, strict safety measures were in place at the forum. Some Q&A sessions will be taking place online to accommodate filmmakers who are overseas, and other events will be livestreamed. The festival will be screening 126 films physically, including outdoor screenings. Fifteen titles are competing for the Tokyo Grand Prix in the International Competition drawn from 1,533 submissions from 113 countries and regions.

TIFF Festival Ambassador Ai Hashimoto on the red carpet

Isabelle Huppert serves as the Jury President

Isabelle Huppert with fellow jurors; director/ screenwriter Shinji Aoyama, film critic/programmer Chris Fujiwara, film score composer Hiroko Sebu and producer/curator Lorna Tee

The Red Carpet festivities got under way with stars of "Gensan Punch" - Kaho Minami, Shogen and Takuhei Kaneko, a film by award-winning Philippine director Brillante Mendoza. A Gala Selection marking the Japanese premiere of the film, it was inspired by the true story of a disabled Japanese athlete, played by Shogen, who goes to the Philippines to pursue a career as a boxer.

Other Japanese stars who were seen at the ceremony include first time director Nohara Tadashi, his "Third Time Lucky" stars Kawamura Rira and Kobayashi Katsuyuki, "Just Remembering" actors Ikematsu Sosuke and Ito Sairi, directors Ishii Yuya Yukisada Isao, as well as actresses Watanabe Makiko and Hashimoto Ai, the latter who is the 34th TIFF Festival Ambassador.

Stars of "Gensan Punch"

In his speech, TIFF Festival Chairman Ando Hiroyasu stated, "We wanted to cultivate a greater audience for film, and as I was strolling around tonight, I saw the TIFF banners fluttering and felt such excitement. Also, for the first time in 17 years, we have a new Programming Director, Shozo Ichiyama, and he has made great efforts reorganising the various sections and clarifying the selection policies for each. In the New Testament, there is a parable, 'New wine must be served in new wineskin.' I hope that this festival, with its new venue and new films, will be a place of enlightenment and empathy for all film lovers, regardless of national borders, for the next ten days."

The ceremony then turned to the night's biggest draw: the 34th TIFF's Opening Film, "Cry Macho". Marking the 50th anniversary of his career as a director, Clint Eastwood has returned with the said film, in which the 91-year-old legend also stars.

TIFF screened a brief video tribute to Eastwood, and celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson and Hilary Swank, discussed his ongoing legacy.

Steven Spielberg paid tribute to Clint Eastwood

So did Hilary Swank

Mel Gibson too

Finally, a letter from Eastwood himself appeared onscreen. "Hello Japan," it began. "I'm very honoured to know that my latest film, Cry Macho, has been selected as the Opening Film for the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival. I wish I could have been there in person to attend the festival. Through this film, I would like to deliver my interpretation of 'true strength.' Cry Macho was shot during the pandemic, and I hope it can be one of the films to bring courage and strength to the film industry. Please enjoy the film."

The 34th Tokyo International Film Festival will be showcasing films from around the world in the Hibiya-Yurakucho-Ginza area from 30 October to 8 November 2021.

A letter from Clint Eastwood

The Opening Ceremony began with a live performance by the Women Orchestra Japan

The Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida appeared via video to welcome the delegates and audiences

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