It is always mandatory for every movie festival to have a press conference of its jury and this takes place normally on day one or two. Friday’s media meet of the ongoing Tokyo International Film Festival jury was part funny, part serious. And obviously so, for the jurors were yet to begin watching movies and they could merely harbour guesses about what was in store for them.
The chairman of the jury, Bryan Singer (known for works like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil) began on a witty note by saying that he was so jet-lagged and so tired after partying on the opening night that he might fall asleep during the screenings, but he changed to a more serious track as he went along. “The film needs to keep me awake”, he quipped.
Vietnamese helmer Tran Anh Hung (whose 1992 The Scent of Green Papaya won him the Camera d’Or Prize at Cannes) said he could not be swayed by political or social considerations. The grammar of a movie must be correct -- no matter what its genre was or where it came from or what its political message was.
Director Susanne Bier from Denmark (renowned for works like In a Better World and After the Wedding) said she would prefer a film to engage her, even seduce her, but “not rape me”. She added that “one of the pleasures of being a jury member at festivals is being able to watch movies that are not necessarily aimed at commercial audiences”.
Interestingly, while most festivals around the world pick jurors who are also celebrities -- or who are above all celebrities and photo friendly -- the Tokyo festival has enlisted professionals, with excellent credentials and who reportedly have a passion to explore.
The jurors, including Director Kazuki Omori from Japan, were all influenced by some of the country’s legendary auteurs like Kurosawa, Naruse, Ozu and Mizoguchi.
Norwegian producer-director Bent Hamer (known for his 1001 Grams) went to the extent of saying that he was still fascinated with Kurosawa’s Rashomon and the way the helmer had packed several stories into one single film. Made in 1950-51, this great work was still relevant today.
Watch 1001 Grams trailer here:
Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi (The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, The Taking of Tiger Mountain) recalled an early encounter with Kurosawa in London. “I was still a schoolgirl then and despite his age at the time, I remember him saying ‘I’m still learning every day’.”
Watch Rashomon trailer here:
Shi and Singer added as a parting quip that for 300 million Americans, Godzilla “is still Japanese cinema”, not Kurosawa or any of the other masters!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Tokyo International Film Festival.)