KIFF Daily Report Day 1, Thursday October 12, 2017
The 2017 Kyoto International Film and Arts Festival opened on October 12 with a beautifully curated ceremony held at the Minami Noh Butai of Honganji, the head temple of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and a revered World Heritage Site.
At the national treasure of the Konoma (audience seats), the crowd witnessed an elegantly orchestrated performance by a group of geisha known as “Kuruwa no Nigiwai,” including the two songs, “All the Flowers” and “The Seven Happy Gods” played on flute, taiko drums and shamisen. They then elegantly walked out of the temple while showcasing the art of teu chi hand clapping, creating a most picturesque and timeless scene.
Shortly thereafter, Sadao Nakajima, Honorary Chairman of the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival Executive Committee, took to the stage and began by sharing his appreciation of being able to hold the event in the temple. “This year is the 120th anniversary of the first film to be shown in Kyoto, and I am glad that this festival focuses on both art and movies,” he said. “I’m honored to officially open this year’s event.”
It was then announced that before 2021, the Agency for Cultural Affairs will move from Tokyo to Kyoto, which may have a significant impact on cultural development in the city, which KIFF hopes to be a big part of.
The prestigious awards related to KIFF were announced. Begun in 1958, this year’s Shozo Makino Award is the 50th edition. Created to praise behind-the-scenes professionals, it is named in honor of the Kyoto filmmaker Shozo Makino.
Producer Jiro Shindo was this year’s recipient. He noted, “My father was awarded this prestigious award too. Without Kyoto we wouldn’t have our lives as filmmakers.”
The Toshiro Mifune Award, named after Japan’s iconic actor, was awarded to Asano Tadanobu. It included a one million yen prize Selected by a committee including Teruyo Nogami, Tadao Sato, Daisaku Kimura, Rikiya Mifune and Kazuyoshi Okuyama, the award was presented by film critic Sato.
“I’m so happy, these days I got a lot of offers and I am really glad to be here,” said a clearly delighted Asano. “I am always fighting hard to find the character I’m playing, and though I never met Mifune, I sometimes ask him how to deal with this, and I get the answer from his acting” he added.
KIFF 2017 kicked off its screening schedule Thursday night with a dearly loved classic from director Hideo Gosha call Tenchu! (Hitokiri). The film is part of the Gosha retrospective the festival is putting on. In addition to screening the 1969 classic the opening film saw a special stage appearance by Kazuyoshi Okuyama, Tamao Nakamura and Tomoe Gosha. Okuyama is a legendary film producer in Japan, Nakamura a beloved actress active in the 1950s who was married to actor Shintaro Katsu, and Tomoe Gosha is the daughter if the director.
The production of Tenchu! saw a historic cast assembled. It included renowned Japanese actors Shintaro Katsu, Tatsuya Nakadai and Yujiro Ishihara as well as the celebrated novelist and activist Yukio Mishima. Okuyama recounted a story from the production of Tenchu! where Gosha cast the three actors but was looking for a fourth person. He asked Mishima to be in the film but the famous writer thought he shouldn't assent right away. But he was so eager to take the role he couldn’t wait and he called on the same day the offer came to accept.
The guests thrilled the crowd by providing some photos from the set of Tenchu!. One in particular shows Katsu, the massive star Yujiro Ishihara and Mishima relaxing together on the set and may be the only photo of these luminary figures in Japanese popular culture together.
The film is one of the finest examples of the Chambara (Japanese samurai/sword fighting) genre. Filled with tension, intense performances and beautifully staged fighting, the film is an all-time masterpiece of Japanese cinema.
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