Tokyo Film Festival Opens With Distinctly Asian Focus

Tokyo Film Festival Opening Gala - Getty - H 2019
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Chinese star Zhang Ziyi, president of the jury, said that watching the competition films "will be a very special prenatal education" for her unborn child.

Stars from Japan and Asia, along with a sprinkling of Europeans, walked the red carpet for the opening of the 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival on Monday.

Veteran director Yoji Yamada and the cast of his Tora-san, Wish You Were Here, the reboot of the much-loved franchise that opened proceedings, was the center of attention for much of the assembled media at the event held in Tokyo's Roppongi Hills. The 88-year-old Yamada paused to sign autographs and have photos taken with fans, in between fielding questions from the press.

Fellow octogenarian director Nobuhiko Obayashi, whose films are being showcased at the fest, rode the red carpet in a wheelchair, as did his producer wife Kyoko. Obayashi has terminal cancer but his mischievous sense of humor appears undiminished. Asked by the event host how audiences should enjoy his latest production, Labyrinth of Cinema, he quipped in English, "It's a movie."

Koji Yakusho (Babel) was joined by producer Terence Chang (Mission: Impossible 2) and first-time director Fay Yu, whose China-Japan co-production Wings Over Everest will screen at the fest.

Masayuki Suo, who directed Yakusho in Shall We Dance? in the role played by Richard Gere in the Hollywood remake, was representing Talking the Pictures, which will have a gala screening.

"This film portrays the 'katsudo benshi' who used to provide live narration for silent movies in Japan, then we went to movies being seen at home, and now people watch them on smartphones. That is how much the world of film has transformed," said Suo.

At the opening ceremony, Chinese star and jury president Zhang Ziyi said of her coming deliberations on the main competition, "Watching the 14 films for the 30-week-old baby in my stomach will be a very special prenatal education."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was again absent from proceedings, with culture minister Koichi Haguida representing the government in his place.

Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider) brought some international glamour to the red carpet. She appeared alongside Naoki Kobayashi, as she does in the Tokyo-set Netflix mystery Earthquake Bird, one of three films from the streamer unrolling at the fest, including closer Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.

Hong Kong's Aaron Kwok was joined by guests representing films from the Philippines, China, Italy and Norway, while an ongoing Tokyo-Seoul trade spat may explain the lack of a South Korean presence at the festivities.

Festival director Takeo Hisamatsu brought a personal touch to the ceremony with his opening remarks.

"My first grandson was born this year and so I became a grandad. I realized looking at him that if he lives the average life span of a Japanese person, he'll live into the 22nd century. It made me think I was somehow linked to the 22nd century, which was something I'd never considered, and about what kind of future we'll have. Not all of it was positive, but I did imagine a world where people across the globe could live without wars," said Hisamatsu. "On that note, I declare the 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival open."

TIFF runs until Nov. 5 in central Tokyo.