KIFF finding its distinct voice

Monzurul Huq
Thursday, October 26th, 2017

KIFF 2017 Taiwanese participant Yinfu receiving the original work award


In Japan film festivals are often seen by outsiders as a congested pack where each try hard to get its distinct voice heard far and wide. However, except for a handful of festivals like the Tokyo International, the majority of forty plus film festivals end up being also in the group that failed to attract wide attention of the media or general audience. Hence, for a new festival to make a breakthrough is extremely difficult. This is precisely the reason that when the city of Kyoto decided to launch a brand new international film festival in 2014, there was widely held apprehension about its success. Kyoto is the birthplace of Japanese film and many of the earlier pioneers of Japan’s celluloid world were closely linked to the city. Despite that glorious background, an earlier attempt to match that success in arranging a film festival did not work out well. However, now with the gap of four years, the organizers of the new festival have proven beyond doubt that whatever apprehension outsiders might have needs to be reassessed. The fourth Kyoto International Film and Art Festival (KIFF), which was wrapped up in Japan’s cultural capital on October 15, can easily be seen as a role model of what kind of festival is needed for making a breakthrough in this fast changing time of a new ear.


As the name suggests, the festival gathers films and other forms of arts under a common banner. The idea deviates from the conventional understanding of film festivals in various ways, including how to judge and reward the works submitted for competition categories. The fourth attempt this year was a dazzling display of various forms of art and culture that had shown clearly how the film industry of the twenty-first century is to move forward facing new challenges while continuing the preservation of the best from the past. Unlike many of the film festivals around the world, KIFF does not follow the same model of judging and awarding best films from the whole list off submitted titles. There are of course a number of awards that KIFF announces during the festival. However, all these awards are essentially for honoring those who have made significant contribution in film and art throughout a long period of their career, and also for encouraging the rising talents to continue producing works of significant depth. Hence, the idea of the festival is more of establishing a link between that past and the future, and thus paving the way for art and films to evolve at a time when different forms of new media are having a far reaching impact on our perception of art and culture. This is probably what the organizers had in mind when they thought about adding one more film festival in the packed list and the passage of time has clearly proven their ability to bring something new.


The four-day film festival had a total of 101 films screened at various locations of the city and 500 art works were also exhibited. The show had attracted more than 330,000 audiences. KIFF has two distinct awards that are very closely linked with the history of Japanese films. The festival has inherited Shozo Makino award from the earlier attempt and this award is given to a filmmaker as recognition for valuable contribution the person has made in the development of Japanese cinema. Shozo Makino was a Kyoto-born film maker who is regarded as the father of Japanese cinema. The award, thus, also stands as a token of respect to the person who had played crucial role in helping Japanese film industry finding its distinct identity. Producer Jiro Shindo was this year’s recipient of the award. The second award is in the name of Toshiro Mifune, one of the best known Japanese movie stars of all time, and is given to an actor who has made significant international contribution to cinema. Actor Tadanobu Asano was chosen for this year’s award. Both the awards were announced at the opening ceremony of the festival with the presence of winners.


An important part of KIFF is its Creator’s Factory that looks for upcoming talents and encourages them by bestowing special awards from a long list of submitted works. Four upcoming talents were chosen for this year’s award.  The festival is organized by Japan’s leading entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo and the organizer also has taken an important initiative to award winners of its Original Work Development Project. The project aims at finding the best young manga, novel and non-fiction writers and is open to Japanese and foreign applicants. 463 submissions were received for this year’s contest and 23-year old young Taiwanese Yinfu was chosen as winner of 300,000 yen prize for his submission “Dolls”, a manga story reflecting the love between a parent and a child.


KIFF also keeps in mind the social role that films are to play. Two different forms of displays reflected that idea and carried the message to the audience. On the concluding day of the festival, renowned director Kaizo Hayashi presented two of his short films from the planned trilogy focusing on the life inside the exclusion zone of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. The first of the two films, Good Year,  depicts the loneliness of the area, while the second piece Life focuses on the death of an old man who continued living there defying the evacuation order.


Earlier, a two part screening event focusing on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through comedy and laughter was organized by the event organizer as part of an awareness campaign. Through such innovative ideas and unique initiatives KIFF was able to proof that the festival is going to make its own mark in the world of films and arts.


(Tokyo, October 22, 2017)

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