'Heaven Knows What' Wins Best Film Award at Tokyo Festival, Tim Burton Gets Honored

La Biennale

James Gunn headed up the jury, which also gave the film about love between addicts a best director award

The Tokyo Film Festival on Friday announced its winners and celebrated Tim Burton.

Heaven Knows What, a tale of love between addicts in New York from brothers Joshua and Benny Safdie, won the grand prix and $50,000 for best film, presented by jury president James Gunn. The film also won the best director award and $5,000, presented by Singaporean director Eric Khoo.

"This is a film that bursts with life about people who are on the brink of death...and the music is disruptive, in all the best ways. I'm excited about the futures of all the filmmakers involved in this project," said Gunn.

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"When we got selected for Tokyo film festival, we really thought this film would go over well with Japanese audiences, with the love for extremes, the love for the wonder of life," said Joshua Safdie.

The Lesson took the special jury prize and $20,000 for Bulgarian director Petar Valchanov, who collected the award with lead actress Margita Gosheva. "This is our third award, and we've come a long way seeing as this film was made on a nano budget," said Gosheva.

Robert Wieckiewicz won the best actor award for his portrayal of an alcoholic in Polish film The Mighty Angel.

Director John H. Lee presented the best actress award for what he said was a unanimous jury decision to Rie Miyazawa for Daihachi Yoshida's Pale Moon, which also won an audience award, voted by festival viewers, announced earlier in the day.

"Being my first film in seven years, I was really nervous on set. But director Yoshida was really supportive, though quite demanding," said Miyazawa.

A new audience award, along with $10,000, chosen by six selected subscribers of pay-TV network Wowow, went to Test from Russian director Alexander Kott, which also won $5,000 for the artistic contribution category in the main competition.

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The ceremony got underway with the presentation of the previously announced new Samurai Award to Tim Burton and Takeshi Kitano for their contribution to filmmaking.

"I feel like it's the first time I've been at the Tokyo film festival," said Kitano. "It's not really, but now they've got rid of that green carpet it feels more glamorous. There's no money with this award, and the statue looks like it was cut from what was left from another statue...but as I heard that a big director like Tim Burton was getting one too, I wasn't embarrassed to collect it."

Burton followed with a more conventional acceptance speech, thanking the festival and saying he was honored to be on stage with Kitano and to get the award.

Human drama 100 Yen Love by Masaharu Take won the Japanese Splash award and $10,000 for upcoming local directors. Jury president Tony Rayns also gave a special mention to Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday by Shinichi Okita.

The new Spirit of Asia Award for new Asian directors went to Sotho Kulikar's The Last Reel, a film about the Cambodian Civil War. "I hope the success of this film will boost the film industry in Cambodia," said an emotional Kulikar before thanking her family and production team.

Debut feature Borderless from Iranian director Amir Hossein Asgari took the Best Asian Future Film Award, which he dedicated to world peace, along with $10,000.

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The fest's usual nine-day length was effectively extended to 11 due to the TIFFCOM content market, which started two days before the main event kicked off this year.

In its second year under the stewardship of Yasushi Shiina, the festival appeared to be building on the five-year tenure of Tom Yoda in further raising its international profile.

Following the opening screening of Big Hero 6, attended by its two directors and producer John Lasseter, actor Owen Wilson joined director Peter Bogdanovich at a Q&A this week.

The Japanese stars in attendance also seem to have been chosen with a focus on international appeal, with director Kitano, anime auteurs Mamoru Oshii and Hideaki Anno, along with legendary Nintendo game creator Shigeru Miyamoto all participating in events, and Anno and Miyamoto making themselves widely available to the media.

The TIFFCOM market also appears to be making progress, including better integrating the Tokyo International Music Market, which has joined it. Leaving aside the standard announcement of record numbers of buyers and exhibitors, the venue was busy with meetings on its final afternoon.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair