Russia-Kazakh Drama 'Ayka' Wins Grand Prix at Tokyo Filmex

Cannes - IN COMPETITION – FEATURE FILMS - AYKA Still 1 - Publicity -H 2018
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Sergey Dvortsevoy's film competed for the Palme D'Or and won best actress for Samal Yeslyamova at Cannes.

Ayka by Sergey Dvortsevoy won the grand prix at Tokyo Filmex, which wrapped Sunday after seeing a 26 percent jump in attendances over last year.

The Russia-Kazakhstan drama follows a Kyrgyz woman who abandons her newborn at a hospital and moves to Moscow to make money to repay a debt. The film was in competition for the Palme D'Or at Cannes this year and won best actress there for Samal Yeslyamova. Ayka is this year's Kazakh entry for foreign language Oscar.

Tibet-China film Jinpa by Pema Tseden, which won best screenplay in the Horizons section at Venice, won the special jury prize.

Showing films that had screened at major European festivals helped to build a buzz around Filmex this year, according to festival director Shozo Ichiyama. The 45 screenings at the fest attracted more than 13,500 attendees this year, up 26 percent on 2017.

His Lost Name by local director Nanako Hirose, a protege of Palme D'Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, won a special mention from the jury, calling it, "a perfectly written and executed family drama."

Complicity by Kei Chikaura, a China-Japan co-production about a Chinese immigrant working illegally at a soba noodle restaurant, won the audience award.

The future of the festival had been in doubt after founder and organizer Office Kitano pulled out due to Takeshi Kitano's leaving the company. However, the Kinoshita Group, a real estate company that also has interests in elderly care facilities, furniture retailing, cosmetics and entertainment, stepped in to manage the event. Kinoshita Group is a longtime sponsor of Tokyo International Film Festival.

Subsidiary Kino Films has been stepping up its acquisition and production activities recently and is set to open new art house-focused theaters in Tokyo next year. Kino Films will distribute Ralph Fiennes' The White Crow, which competed at TIFF this year, in Japan in 2019.