Tokyo Int'l Film Festival

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Sandwiched between other major international film events such as Pusan and AFM, as well as this year overlapping with the Rome Film Festival, the Tokyo International Film Festival has sometimes struggled to make its mark on a busy festival circuit.

This year, however, a timely environmental focus, increasing attendance and a splashy opening night screening ensure the 21st edition of the event, which runs Oct. 18-26, will make a lasting impression.

"TIFF is kind of a latecomer to a crowded film festival calendar and located in the Far East, so we need to work hard to make the event as good as possible, which is what we've been doing for the last six months," says chairman Tom Yoda.

Indeed, in an effort to promote the new Natural TIFF section, organizers are rolling out a special green carpet -- made out of recycled plastic bottles no less -- to support this year's ecological theme of "coexistence of human and nature."

But despite the emphasis on everything green, TIFF will kick off with a decidedly crimson hue when John Woo's eagerly anticipated historical epic "Red Cliff" -- the most expensive Chinese movie ever -- opens the fest with the entire cast in attendance.

Elsewhere, the TIFFCOM market will be in its fifth year and looks sure to break records again in 2008.

"We already have a 10%-15% increase in exhibitors compared to last year, with nearly 172 companies, and all our booths for the market are now taken," says Yoda. "We have companies representing nine countries that will be at TIFFCOM for the first time, including Australia, Italy, Spain, Norway, Indonesia and Vietnam."

Yoda -- who is currently chairman of the board of Tokyo-based film distributor/production company Gaga Communications. -- brings a wealth of experience to the chairmanship, having held senior executive roles in a number of Japanese entertainment companies and associations, including a decade-long stretch as CEO of music giant Avex, which has recently been expanding into the movie business with its involvement in "Red Cliff" and other projects.

TIFF will form part of Co-Festa (Japan International Contents Festival), which runs from Sept. 30-Oct. 28, and also includes the International Drama Festival, the world-renowned Tokyo Game Show, Digital Content Expo, Tokyo Asia Music Market and the huge CEATEC consumer electronics exhibition.

Co-Festa, in its second year, will again try to form a link between the various content industries that come under its broad scope.

"When we look around at the content involved, setting film at the center, we can see that each industry, such as broadcasting, animation, game or music, are all closely connected with film production and influence each other. By having the big umbrella of Co-Festa, and the cooperation of each industry, we have a chance to introduce and promote these Japanese contents as a unified Japan brand," explains Yasue Nobusawa of Co-Festa and Nikkatsu, Japan's oldest major movie studio.

Given the tenuous state of the global economy at the moment, Yoda concedes that this may not be the optimal time for a film festival, but he believes the strength of the TIFF program -- and some brisk business in the market -- will eventually put festivalgoers' anxieties to rest.

"It's a tough time economically, but the movie business is in the business of dreams and we have to project a positive image, maximizing our impact so we can get our investments back through boxoffice takings and sales," says Yoda.

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