Subtitles Galore

A week of foreign films.

poster for

"22nd Tokyo International Film Festival"

at Roppongi Hills
in the Roppongi, Nogizaka area
This event has ended - (2009-10-17 - 2009-10-25)

In Reviews by TABuzz 2009-10-22

The 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), which spans from October 17 to 25, offers Tokyoites a selection of over one hundred films in six categories. The varied selection goes — happily — miles beyond the aggressively marketed American blockbusters and romantic comedies that appear unfailingly late at Tokyo’s cinemas. TIFF has something to offer nit-picky viewers, those with a mainstream palette and anyone reasonable in between.

Under the “World Cinema” category one can find the comfortably Hollywood film A Single Man, based on a Christopher Isherwood novel and starring A-listers Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Those yearning for something authentically Eastern European, on the other hand, can chose from four Polish-language films by the celebrated director Jerzy Skolimowski, including Hands Up! — a drama in black-and-white that was banned for over a decade in his native Poland.

By far the largest category of the festival, “Winds of Asia – Middle East,” showcases thirty-nine films ranging from Hong Kong’s Kung Fu Cyborg (an action film that takes place in 2046) to the Egyptian comedy Hassan and Morkos, to the two-part documentary A History of Israeli Cinema. “Winds of Asia” features films in over a dozen languages, including Kurdish, Tagalog, Hindi and Thai. There is a separate category — “Japanese Eyes” — for films specific to Japan.

Living up to its motto “Action! For Earth”, in the cinemas TIFF claims that their films are powered by green energy. The Festival’s committee has created an eco-promoting category called “Natural TIFF supported by Toyota”, whose nine films have a loose theme relating to nature. Belonging to this line-up, I saw the world premiere of the documentary Oil Rocks – City Above the Sea, the work of Swiss journalist Marc Wolfensberger. A pleasant surprise came immediately following the film: there was a Q & A section with the director that allowed viewers insight into the efforts that made the film possible, including an eight-year wait on the part of Wolfensberger before the Azerbaijani government granted him a meager two-day permit to film at the Stalin-built oil rock city — a floating site above the Caspian sea that is unseen and virtually unknown to the world.

All in all, TIFF provides a rare opportunity to view on the big screen carefully selected films from a truly international scope that provides food for thought on contemporary concerns and celebrates multiculturalism.


TABuzz. Tokyo Art Beat invites movers and thinkers from the Tokyo art world to contribute to this column. Our guest bloggers give their recommendations and thoughts on who to watch and what to see. » See other writings


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