Tommy Lee Jones, Asian Stars Kick Off Tokyo Film Festival's 30th Edition

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Tommy Lee Jones

"Personally, Japan is very dear to my heart — I feel at home here," Jones said about his role as jury chairman this year.

A persistent drizzle and the impending arrival of Japan's second typhoon in one week couldn't dampen the enthusiasm Wednesday at the Tokyo International Film Festival's star-studded opening ceremony.

Tommy Lee Jones, Chinese actress Zhao Wei and big-name talent from across the Japanese and broader Asian star firmament walked the red carpet at Tokyo's Roppongi Hills complex, where the festival rang in its 30th anniversary edition.

"First of all, I would like to congratulate the Tokyo festival on its 30th anniversary," said Japanese auteur and Cannes favorite Naomi Kawase, who walked the red carpet in a shimmering black sleeveless dress. "This is an important anniversary and a wonderful achievement."

"I'm also delighted that it has finally stopped raining," the director added, during a brief pause in the gentle Tokyo downpour.

Jones is attending the Tokyo festival this year as chair of the event's main competition jury. He walked the carpet alongside fellow jurors, Zhao, who is one of China's most beloved actresses as well as a director; Iranian filmmaker Reza Mirkarimi; French director/writer Martin Provost and Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase, known in the west for his role in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train.

Addressing the crowd gathered beside the carpet, Jones said: "I am deeply proud to be a part of a film festival's jury, which is celebrating emotional and intellectual understanding between people and which stands at the heart of a beautiful filmmaking tradition." 

"Personally, Japan is very dear to my heart — I feel at home here," Jones had noted in a jury chair statement in advance of the festival.

The 71-year-old actor is indeed a deeply familiar figure in Japan, thanks to his decade-long endorsement of Boss Coffee, a leading local brand. In a rather ingenious pairing, Jones' stony mien has appeared in countless campaigns for the working man's canned coffee brand across Japan — so much so that the actor has come to be seen as something of an icon of "boss-hood" and late middle-aged masculinity in the country.

Various power players from the international film industry were also on hand Wednesday night. 

Former Senator Chris Dodd, outgoing chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, walked the carpet, flanked by Mike Ellis, president of the MPA in Asia-Pacific. And Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, attended in support of Lumiere!, his feature documentary about the groundbreaking work of the Lumiere Brothers, the late 19th century French cinematic innovators.

"I'm very happy to be here on behalf of the Lumiere Brothers, whose work first came to Japan 120 years ago, shortly after the birth of cinema," Fremaux said. "As the director of the Cannes Film Festival, I am also here to support my colleagues at this important fellow festival. It's my first time at the Tokyo festival and I'm delighted to be here." 

The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival runs through Nov. 3 at Roppongi Hills and other central Tokyo venues.

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