Tokyo Film Festival to Showcase Rising Arthouse Director Koji Fukada

Koji Fukada - Publicity - H 2020
Mehdi Benkler

Koji Fukada

The filmmaker's latest feature, 'The Real Thing,' which would have screened in Cannes main competition this year, will be included in a screening selection of his work to date.

The Tokyo International Film Festival, which plans to forge ahead with a physical edition in late October, will showcase the work of rising Japanese arthouse director Koji Fukada.

Fukada will be this year's director in focus of the festival's Japan Now section, which will include a gala selection of his films, ranging from his debut feature, Human Comedy in Tokyo (2008), to his much anticipated latest work, The Real Thing (2020).

International cineastes have been tracking Fukada's work ever since his black comedy Hospitalité won the Tokyo's festival's best picture award in the Japanese Eyes section in 2010. The Hollywood Reporter's critic described it as a "droll and intelligent film" that takes a "strange and sly dig at Japanese xenophobia." His follow-up, Au Revoir L'Été (2013), a socially critical coming-of-age drama, collected various honors at smaller events on the festival circuit, while Sayonara (2015) generated attention as the first movie to feature an android performing a leading role.

But Fukada's big breakthrough came in 2016 with Harmonium an enigmatic drama featuring an unforgettably chilling turn from Tadanobu Asano as a mysterious stranger who arrives into the home of a troubled Japanese family. The film premiered at Cannes, winning the jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

Fukada's latest effort, The Real Thing was selected to screen in Cannes' main competition, had the event not been derailed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The film follows a listless office worker who becomes involved with a woman he saves from being killed on a railroad crossing.

Although the pandemic precluded Fukada's step onto Cannes' main stage, the health crisis also prompted his taking an even more prominent role in Japan's independent film community. In April, he co-launched the Mini-Theater Aid Campaign a crowdfunding effort to prevent the imminent collapse of Japan's shuttered arthouse cinemas. The campaign raised over 300 million yen and put pressure on the Japanese government to do more to aid the country's creative sector.

"The Tokyo International Film Festival is honored to showcase the works of director Koji Fukada, who is influencing film culture in various forms in Japan and abroad," the event said Wednesday.

Added Fukada in a statement: "I feel I am making a fresh start for the next decade through TIFF’s invitation in this milestone year of 2020. The threat of COVID-19 is still continuing, and not only the film industry but many other industries are facing difficulties. But I hope that you will come to the film festival to broaden and refresh your outlook."

This year's Tokyo festival will be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 9 at Roppongi Hills and other venues across the Japanese capital.