Skip City focusing on up-and-coming talent

Films will compete for a new award and a cash prize

TOKYO -- The Skip City International D-Cinema Festival is expanding and shifting its focus to nurturing new young talent, festival director Yuji Takizawa said.

The festival -- which was the world's first to show exclusively digital productions on 4K projectors -- has added two extra days this year as submissions topped 1,000 films for the first time.

The 26 digital films screening in competition will vie for ¥12 million ($124,000) in cash prizes and a new Skip City Award, which will give a new domestic director access to the state-of-the-art on-site production facilities in Kawaguchi, north of Tokyo.

"The new award is something we can only do at Skip City," Takizawa said, "we don't have the tourist appeal of other locations, but the film festival is held around the site of a digital movie production facility."

In line with the festival's increasing emphasis on upcoming talent, entries for the Grand Prize are all by directors with three or fewer features to their name.

The Grand Prize jury will be headed by Mataichiro Yamamoto, producer of Takashi Miike's "Crows Zero" -- the first time someone from the domestic industry has taken the role.

Since the festival began in 2004, the profile of digital filmmaking has grown exponentially, which is both a boon and a challenge to the festival.

"When we first launched Skip City IDCF in 2004, I went around Cannes handing out invitations myself to our party on a boat I'd borrowed from Sony (festival sponsor)," explains Takizawa. "People asked me what d-cinema was, some thought it meant D-grade films -- much worse than B-films."

However, with digital productions becoming the norm, Takizawa concedes that side of Skip City IDCF's uniqueness has diminished. "We are concentrating more on developing young talent, especially domestic directors, that's why we've expanded those sections of the festival."

July 12 will feature a D-Contents market, allowing young filmmakers the chance to showcase their productions to industry executives.

IDCF will hold its first 3D screening this year with Belgian animation "Fly Me to the Moon" in digital 4K.

The festival opens on July 10 with the 4K projection of Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," digitally remastered in cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It wraps July 20.