Thomas, Umehara join TIFF panel

Fest looks to continue raising profile

TOKYO – Celebrated British producer Jeremy Thomas and veteran Japanese buyer Ken Umehara, have been tapped to boost the film selection panel for this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.

The festival, and its TIFFCOM contents market, has made big strides to raise its profile in recent years, but has struggled somewhat to attract tent-pole premieres and titles in a crowded festival calendar.

Organizers will be no doubt hoping the beefed-up panel will help in that direction.

Thomas, who will be executive advisor, has a history with Japanese films going back to 1982’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” by Nagisa Oshima. He also produced Oshima’s “Gohatto,” Takeshi Kitano’s “Brother” and more recently, Takashi Miike’s “Thirteen Assassins.”  He also served as president of the jury for TIFF in 1998.

Thomas’s biggest success, among his prolific output, was nine-Oscar-winning “The Last Emperor” by Bernardo Betolucci.

Umehara, who will act as Advisor for Programming, has worked as a buyer of foreign films at Shochiku, Nikkatsu and Gaga, and is currently a senior director of acquisitions at Avex Entertainment.

They will join TIFF chairman, Tom Yoda, competition program director, Yoshi Yatabe, and Kenji Ishizaka, programming director for Winds of Asia and the Middle East.

TIFF’s 23rd edition will run from October 23 to 31 in the Roppongi Hills complex in central Tokyo.