KIFF 2019 Daily Report Day 1: Thursday, October 17
The sun broke through the clouds to illuminate the red carpet on Thursday October 17, 2019, as the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival (KIFF) kicked off in front of waiting media at the historic Nishi Hongwanji Temple.
It is the 6th event since Yoshimoto Kogyo revived and built upon the historic Kyoto Film Festival, also adding arts in to the event, and the red carpet saw representatives from both the Art and Film sections of the festival appear in front of the cameras.
Kazuyoshi Okuyama welcomed the return of the event and spoke to media from across Asia who gathered for the lavish ceremony. Geisha were on hand to accompany each guest in beautiful white make-up and kimonos, walking alongside guests including Executive Committee Honorary Chairman and legendary film director Sadao Nakajima, Kyoto International Film and Art Festival Executive Committee Chairman Ichiya Nakamura and Mayuko.
Actor Kiichi Nakai, this year’s recipient of the Toshiro Mifune award, the acting prize named for the great Japanese actor, walked the carpet solo. He talked extensively to the media, at first discussing his admiration for renowned Mifune. “Mifune embodied the Japanese fighting spirit like John Wayne did the cowboy spirit in the US,” he said.
Nakai discussed his interest in Myanmar with Mari Midorikawa, a Yoshimoto comedian and actress who was brought to Myanmar under Yoshimoto’s program of placing Japanese comedians in Southeast Asian countries. She’s lived there for a year. Nakai acted in the remake of the renowned film “The Burmese Harp” by legendary director Kon Ichikawa in 1985. Ichikawa remade his own film from 1956, the first one being in black and white and second color. The two discussed a desire for him to meet up with Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, which Midorikawa suggested she could arrange, to Nakai’s delight.
The red carpet is the beginning of this year’s 4-day event, held in venues right across Kyoto.
Next came the elegant and traditional Opening Ceremony for KIFF2019 held at the Minami Noh Butai of Hongwanji, the head temple of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.
Actors, directors, artists, guests and media gathered at the prestigious World Heritage Site to witness the opening presentations of the four-day festival, as performances and speeches were held on the konoma (stage).
As in previous editions, an ensemble of geisha known as “kuruwa no nigiwai” performed first, playing traditional songs on flute, taiko drums and shamisen, setting the tone for the ceremony. Their 15-minute performance had the audience in silent rapture, ending with teu chi handclapping as they walked off stage.
Kazuyoshi Okuyama, who has long worked with Yoshimoto at both their Okinawa and Kyoto Film Festivals, took to the stage to discuss the ongoing Creator’s Factory project, which has helped develop new young talent in the Japanese film industry over the last decade.
Each year the festival awards one actor with the prestigious Toshiro Mifune Award in honor of the great Japanese actor. This year, the winner was announced as Kiichi Nakai, 58, who previously has won multiple awards at the Japanese Academy awards, including Rookie of the Year in 1981, Best Supporting Actor in 1994 (for “47 Ronin”) and Best Actor in 2003 (for ”When the Last Sword is Drawn”).
After the Red Carpet and the Opening Ceremony KIFF celebrated with a jam-packed Opening Party. It was held at the stately Hotel Granvia Kyoto, which is connected to the bustling Kyoto Station. Luminaries from the Japanese film industry, including many directors, production people and actors from the films being presented, lined the great room of the gala listened to opening remarks from the festival executives. Kyoto. Film legend Sadao Nakajima, the Organization Committee Honorary President, took the stage and noted that KIFF was a very “Kyoto-like” film festival in its elegance and commitment to film art. He went on to say that the festival honors the legacy of Shozo Makino, considered the father of Japanese film, but also is actively involved in creating a new world of film, continuing the tradition of Japanese film started in Kyoto.
Kyoto International Film and Art Festival Executive Committee Chairman Ichiya Nakamura then took the stage and expressed his deep vision for the festival. He explained the event is not just a film festival, and not just an arts festival, but a combination of them where the two halves spur each other on to greater heights. He noted the fest has had an influence on film, animation and pop culture, and suggested it is a foundation of creativity where all these types of work can flourish.
The throngs of luminaries enjoyed mouth-watering sushi and other Japanese delights before a string of creators took the stage to express their appreciation. The director of Kusama Infinity, a documentary about renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, Heather Lenz addressed the throng of VIPs at the party. She noted how happy she is to screen her work at the festival and reminded the crowd the film will open nationwide on November 22. She related it was a great opportunity to learn about Kusama from the women herself.
The breadth and depth of visions being offered at KIFF became apparent as directors, productions professionals, and actors introduced their work in anticipation of another engaging festival.
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