REWIND FEATURE: Tokyo International Film Festival 2016

Introduction

The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival was held from October 25th to November 3rd 2016. REWIND’s James-Masaki Ryan was there to cover the red carpet, the films, the press conferences, the Q&As and eat the free food while mingling with journalists, filmmakers, and film stars during the weeklong event. Articles and photos covering the event were posted on Facebook in 5 parts during October and November, and here are the articles compiled with an addition 6th part of the article - covering the behind the scenes as a bonus. Note that there are additional photos of the event available on our Facebook page, so please check them out as well.

This coverage is divided into 6 parts:

 

TIFF 2016 - Part One: The Opening Day of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival

October 25th 2016 - The official opening day of the 29th annual Tokyo International Film Festival - over 200 films will be screened, films from all over the world showcasing new talent, veteran moviemakers, remastered classics, and even kabuki.

Here is a diary of the first day:

10:00AM - special screening of the opening ceremony film “Florence Foster Jenkins”

The biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins” starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and directed by Stephen Frears was chosen as the opening film of the festival. The official screening was at 7:00PM following the red carpet festivities but I caught the early press screening of the film. Already released in other countries such as the United States and the UK, the Japanese theatrical release date is on December 1st, making this the first Japanese screening of the film. The real Florence Foster Jenkins was like the Rebecca Black or William Hung of her day - a person who became a minor music celebrity by singing badly. How did someone who sounded like Clara Cluck from the old Disney cartoons end up playing at Carnegie Hall in 1944? The biopic explains it all and does it in a very entertaining, funny, and heartfelt fashion that may make you care just as much as you would like to mock. Streep and Grant are great as expected but the real steal of the show is Simon Helberg (from The Big Bang Theory) who gives an exceptional performance as McMoon.


The Red Carpet being set up

12:00PM - Press Room and Wandering Around

The press room is at the 49th floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Building, so I thought “Nice! We will get a sweet view of the city, have complimentary drinks, and get to mingle with the various other industry peeps. Well, the room was entirely enclosed and very tight with no windows, the complimentary “bar” was a refrigerator, and the WiFi was not working due to technical problems. Well, not what I expected but I got to charge my devices and schedule out the details for the rest of the day! From there on it was Thai food for lunch, wandering around, scoping out the construction of the main stage, the rolling out of the red carpet, and trying to enter restricted areas with my press pass. Most of the time, I wasn’t allowed in places.

2:00PM - The Red Carpet

For the Red Carpet coverage, we were given a choice of actually being at the red carpet or being at the press area in an indoor location with a live feed. I obviously opted for standing at the red carpet. And why wouldn’t I? I didn’t go there just to see the coverage on a TV screen! There was a lot of waiting around, being called, walking around, standing in line, and eventually getting to the spot for “journalists”. (Yes, I am tagged as a journalist - this is a journal, innit?) Finally arrived at the spot at exactly 2:59PM - only 1 minute before the start of the Red Carpet, and right at an intersection area of the red carpet which is where I took quite a lot of photos - though with some of the spotlights directed right at me, it caused a lot of unnecessary lens flares which ruined many shots. Oh well! Changing spots to next to the foot of the stage helped with some alternate angles so it was good to be able to have a different view point. The entire Red Carpet ceremony - it was a full 3 hours from 3 to 6PM. Around 4PM it started to rain and most of the crowd was soaking wet. Lucky for the press, we were under a roof. We received a list of all the people scheduled to walk on the Red Carpet. Pardon me for not tagging all the photos since there were over 500 names on the list and unfortunately there are quite a lot that I’m not familiar with. Not only were there actors and film crew, but politicians, film event organizers, neighboring film festival presidents, and other guests. The highlights of the Red Carpet walkers were Haru Kuroki - the “festival muse” and the star of “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle”, directors Shunji Iwai and Mamoru Hosoda who are both having retrospective screenings, Meryl Streep - star of “Florence Foster Jenkins”, Kenichi Matsumura - the star of the closing film “Satoshi: A World for Tomorrow” and Shinzo Abe - the Prime Minister of Japan. Interesting that both the opening and closing films are biopics - one about a not-so-great singer who died of an incurable disease, and one about a shogi master who died of an incurable disease. Like life, cinema is precious and they both complement each other.


The media is ready for the three hour red carpet walk of 500 guests

My secondary position at the base of the stage

Meryl Streep looking at me, expectedly

6:00PM - Dinner and Recharge

With the 3 hour event finished, it was time for dinner and also to charge up with my electronics losing battery life. The Indian place I went to was surprisingly empty. I guess all those hundreds of people by the Red Carpet either went home or somewhere else. There were only two customers in the place including myself, and two more came in later. Was a complete 180 in terms of environment of hundreds and hundreds of people waiting outside in the rain to a quiet Indian restaurant with amazing food. But who wants to hear about food? You want to know about the movies, right? So, back to the press area where the WiFi is at least fixed, so it was time to recharge electronics from a paltry 25% to something a bit higher, but since it was 7:00, it was off to the final event of the day…


Head juror of the festival, director Jean-Jacques Beineix gives me a good sign

7:00PM - Jury Press Conference

The following five people are the jurors of TIFF 2016:
Mabel Cheung - Hong Kong film director, “The Soong Sisters”, “City of Glass”
Valerio Mastandrea - Italian actor, “We All Fall Down”, “Pasolini”
Nicole Rocklin - American producer, “Spotlight”
Hideyuki Hirayama - Japanese director, “Samurai Resurrection”, “Everest”
Jean-Jacques Beineix - French director, “Diva”, “Betty Blue”

A 45 minute Q&A took place for the press where they talked about the importance of film as a part of culture, how they view film as form of freedom and expression, and even the difficulties due to financial reasons, technical reasons, and censorship. I had a few questions lined up - but two of the questions were already basically asked by other journalists - about the jurors favorite films, how they viewed films and the importance of filmmaking - stuff I wanted to ask. But, when they asked for a final question, I decided to raise my hand and ask my wild card question - not too difficult and more in tune of where this was. My question was for everyone except for Mr. Hirayama since it was aimed at the visiting jurors. I asked what they were interested in doing while in Japan for the festival. Cheung said she would like to climb Mount Fuji someday - which echoed what Beineix said how he climbed Mount Fuji three times and reached the top on one occasion. Mastrandrea said he would like to get rid of his jetlag as soon as possible which gave out a few chuckles. Beineix said he would gladly go with Cheung to Fuji. Rocklin said that she brought her 2 year old son and is showing him examples of “Japanese kindness” and Japanese culture. She also said she was looking for property to buy - just in case that a certain someone is elected as the President of the United States makes her want to emigrate to Japan. She didn’t say explicitly but she was obviously talking about Trump… To not let Mr. Hirayama out of the mix, the moderator also asked if he would like to climb Fuji with Beineix and Cheung, but he politely declined saying that he went to the Himalayas to shoot “Everest” last year, and is in no rush to climb another mountain again.

And that’s all for today! As for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I will be attending one film screening each day so don’t expect long winded journal entries or many photos for the next three days!

 

Part One: The Opening Day of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival
Part Two: A Special On-Stage Talk Show with animation directors Mamoru Hosoda and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi
Part Three: The Movies Watched
Part Four: The Closing Day of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival
Part Five: Stage Greetings and Q&As
Part Six: Behind the scenes of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2016

 


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