Tokyo Intl' Film Fest Hit by China-Japan Tensions


Hong Kong-China film pulled from festival, with more withdrawals looking set to occur as row over islands spills into the entertainment world.

HONG KONG/TOKYO – The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) appears to be getting caught in the backlash of recent political tensions between China and Japan, with one Hong Kong–China co-production withdrawing from the festival on Tuesday and other Chinese visitors reportedly on the verge of pulling out.

Floating City, written and directed by Hong Kong’s Ho Yim, was due to screen in the Winds of Asia-Middle East section.

“Although we have strongly made a request to those involved not to call off the plan to take part in the festival, the cancellation has unfortunately been finalized. We offer our sincere apologies to all those cinema fans who have been looking forward to seeing this film, and we ask for your kind understanding,” TIFF wrote in an issued statement

One of the directors that emerged during the late 1970’s Hong Kong New Wave, Yim was best known for Homecoming (1984), which took six Hong Kong Film Awards, and Red Dust (1990), starring Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung.  

Yim has shifted his focus in recent years to studying and writing about Chinese medicine, and Floating City marks his first film since A West Lake Moment in 2004. 

Yim’s father fought in the Sino-Japanese war during the 1940s.  

Known for taking pride in his Chinese heritage, Yim told Hong Kong’s Sky Post in May 2012, “patriotism is not a choice, a person should love his country."

The ongoing dispute over a group of uninhabited rocks, that the Chinese call Diayou and the Japanese Senkaku, appears to be spilling over into other parts of the festival, with journalists from China’s state-run CCTV now unlikely to make the trip to Tokyo, believing their bosses in Beijing will be unwilling to show any reports from TIFF, given the current climate.

TIFF has been unlucky with the timing of recent incidents linked to the islands. Weeks before TIFF 2010, a Chinese fishing boat crashed into a Japan Coast Guard ship, leading to the arrest of the fishing boat’s captain and sparking a diplomatic row between the two Asian powers. There were some subsequent calls in China for boycotts of TIFF, with Chinese state media stating that its companies had pulled out. However, in reality, a record number of Chinese companies attended the festival’s TIFFCOM market and were seen doing business even as reports of the boycott were circulating.

Nevertheless, the anti-Japanese protests in China over recent weeks were much more widespread and vociferous this time, erupting into vandalism and arson in some places. Some Chinese companies are rumored to be on the verge of nixing their participation in the TIFFCOM contents market, with the China pavilion likely to be affected.

TIFF will run in Tokyo from Oct 20 to 28.

Karen Chu contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


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