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In a welcome return to normalcy, the Tokyo International Film Festival rolled out the full red carpet, all 541 feet of it, for the first time since 2019, once again welcoming guests from around the globe to a new venue for its opening ceremony on a brisk autumn evening in the Japanese capital.
The COVID-19 pandemic had kept international visitors away for the last few editions, but the opening of the 35th Tokyo festival felt like old times. More than one hundred overseas guests are joining the proceedings this year — some paying their own way to Tokyo as sky-high airline ticket prices drained the event’s budget — up from just eight at the 2021 edition.
The red carpet, which clocked in at almost two hours, snaked its way from Toho’s famed Godzilla statue in front of Hibiya Midtown to the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater. Once a fixture of Roppongi, the festival moved to its venue in the upmarket Ginza district last year.
Over a hundred people walked the carpet, according to the festival. Among the notable appearances were director Ryūichi Hiroki, who had three films in the gala selection of the festival — Phases of the Moon, 2 Women and Motherhood. Hiroki was flanked by the various actors from his three films including Yo Oizumi, Ko Shibasaki, Shinobu Terajima, Etsushi Toyokawa and Ryoko Hirosue.
Iconic Japanese tokusatsu superhero Ultraman made an appearance on the red carpet, marking the festival’s special 55th anniversary screening of Ultraseven.
Members of Tokyo’s international competition jury also appeared, led by jury president Julie Taymor, actor Shim Eun-kyung, director João Pedro Rodrigues, director of photography Katsumi Yanagijima and former director of Institute Français Marie-Christine de Navacelle. Taymor hailed the international flavor of the team that will decide the fest’s top film prize, saying it would reflect as diverse a range of viewpoints as the productions in the competition.
Following the jury on the red carpet was Milcho Manchevski with stars from his latest feature Kaymak, which is in competition. The New York-based Macedonian polymath is also delivering a masterclass during his stay.
Among the other international guests to walk the carpet were Bui Thac Chuyen, director of the competition film Glorious Ashes; Anastasia Tsang, director of A Light Never Goes Out; This Is What I Remember director Aktan Arym Kubat; The Fabulous Ones director Roberta Torre; Tel Aviv Beirut director Michale Boganim; and Life director Emir Baigazin.
Takahisa Zeze, director of the opening film Fragments of the Lost Will, and the war story’s lead Kazunari Ninomiya, were still on the red carpet answering questions from local media when everyone else had made their way into the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater.
Before the opening ceremony began, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, currently in Australia concluding a security pact, sent a congratulatory video message to the assembled guests and dignitaries. “Film has the power to restore hope and to help us overcome the difficulties that we’ve faced due to COVID-19. The government will do its utmost to create an environment in which people can once again enjoy film going and have peace of mind,” Kishida said. He also lauded the Oscar success of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, describing it as a symbol of the strength of Japanese cinema.
At the end of the ceremony, the official opening declaration was delivered by festival chairman Hiroyasu Ando. “We’ve had two difficult years due to the pandemic, but we are now able to hold the festival close to the way we did before COVID-19,” said Ando. “Our theme this year is “Leaping Forward,” and over the next 10 days, we will screen many films and hold a variety of events.”
TIFF will run through to Nov. 2, when Living, Oliver Bill Hermanus’s Bill Nighy-starring take on an Akira Kurosawa classic, will bring the curtain down on the festival.
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