November 10, 2014 7:00 pm JST

Tokyo Film Fest presents Asian movies, anime to the world

NORIKO SEKIHARA, Nikkei staff writer

Amirhossein Asgari's "Borderless" won the Best Asian Future Film Award at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival.

TOKYO -- At the annual Tokyo International Film Festival 2014 held Oct. 23-31, the Asian Future section has gained presence, auguring the future course of the festival. The competition section, which targets the first or second feature-length films of budding movie directors from Asia, was set up last year. The category, the spiritual successor of the now defunct Young Cinema Competition section, is aimed at discovering promising talents and introducing them to the world.

     For the competition, 10 movies were nominated this year, two more than last year. Of them, nine films have been publicly screened at the festival for the first time ever. Last year, half of the nominated movies had been so, underscoring that the festival organizers have grown even more eager to bring new talents into the world through the festival.

     The Best Asian Future Film Award went to the Iranian movie "Borderless," directed by Amirhossein Asgari. The film is a story about a lonely boy who lives on a grounded ship floating in a border river. An unknown girl appears on the ship and settles there, claiming it as her territory. Speaking different languages, the two confront each other. The movie depicts the two eventually meeting halfway, as well as the harsh reality surrounding them, with overwhelmingly powerful imagery.

     A new award created this year, the Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Center, went to "The Last Reel," a Cambodian film by female director Sotho Kulikar. A girl student finds a movie produced in the 1970s whose last reel is missing. She attempts to reshoot the lost scenes. In the process, the dark and tragic past of Cambodia, with its massacres and betrayals, is revealed.

     Both movies are the two directors' first feature-length films to have premiered at the festival. Some other nominated films rivaled the two prize-winners despite their flaws -- "Borderless" somewhat slackens off in the latter half. Still, the two films received the awards because they outstripped their competitors in that their subjects are highly compelling.

     Director Asgari said, "Even if we speak different languages, we can understand each other. 'Borderless' is what I wish I could see." Director Kulikar, who grew up in Cambodia's civil war era, noted, "Cambodian people still do not want to talk about those years. I made this film as I think we should get over the past by linking the past and the present and understanding that age."

     Kenji Ishizaka, programing director of the Asian Future category, said, "Our drive to unearth new talents has been well received by other Asian countries. So I'm convinced that there is a need for this competition among fledgling Asian filmmakers." Progress in digitization has boosted the number of movies produced and venues to present the works are in strong demand, and Japan has by far the largest audience for independent movies in Asia. Tokyo still should be able to contribute in its own way to the discovery of hopeful movie directors.

     Declaring an emphasis on animation films, the festival began this year enhancing the lineup, holding a seven-day retrospective on Hideaki Anno, renowned as the director of the Evangelion series. The special event covered all the movies he has made since he was a high school student, including live-action films. Anno himself appeared at a theater nearly every day during the event to tell attentive audiences about episodes behind the production of the films.

     Mamoru Oshii's science-fiction blockbuster "Garm Wars: The Last Druid," a combination of live-action and CG, also attracted a lot of attention, including from foreign media.

     At last year's festival, festival Director General Yasushi Shiina told the press enthusiastically, "We plan to launch an anime selection in the future." The future direction of the festival, which seems to be still groping for ways to present anime films, should be closely watched.

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