Tokyo International Film Festival Aims for Gender Parity Among Major Reforms

Tokyo International Film Festival

As part of wide-ranging reforms for the well-regarded Japanese film event, Tokyo International Film Festival is replacing its programming director and has become the first Asian film festival to sign a gender parity pledge for showcased productions.

Every film festival around the world had a tumultuous existence in 2020, and it’s somewhat impressive that Tokyo International Film Festival was one of the more standard festivals of the year in spite of that. It was held entirely in person with an audience, and though the awards and lineup were scaled down, with only an Audience Award at the 2020 event alongside the market being moved online, it was mostly business as usual. It doesn’t mean that changes weren’t occurring outside of public view, however.

Hiroyasu Ando’s appointment to festival chairman in 2019 came with an aim to boost the festival’s global relevancy. The reforms to Tokyo International Film Festival that were announced today are part of a wide-ranging cultural shift in the festival’s bid for greater worldwide regard.

These changes will begin with the 2021 rendition of the event. Tokyo International Film Festival 2021 will move from the event’s long-standing home in Roppongi to the historic epicenter of Japanese film, Ginza, where many major studios continue to host their headquarters even today. The hope from this move is to increase the event’s connections to the Japanese industry and increase the excitement surrounding the event. They hope that by putting it on the doorsteps of the major Japanese studios and some of Tokyo’s most high-end stores, restaurants and cinemas will aid in this mission.

In the long-term, major shifts in the programming for the festival are being signaled by staffing changes within the event’s organization. Experienced producer Shozo Ichiyama and previous head of Tokyo Filmex will replace Yoshi Yatabe as programming director, who had held the role since 2004 prior to this announcement. There has been a growing companionship between the two Tokyo festivals in recent years, showcased by the partnership between the two events running simultaneously in 2020. This companionship will continue into 2021 as both events are held in the Hibiya Ginza area alongside one another.

Takeo Hisamatsu is stepping down from his role as festival director, while famed Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, known for his work on films like Shoplifters, will continue to work closely with the festival and continue his Asia Lounge Conversation series, a series of talks with directors from Japan and around the world on filmmaking and more.

Having recently watched the conversation between Jia Zhang-Ke and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, it would be interesting to see more of these conversations giving insights into the careers of various directors, away from direct ties to the promotional cycle of new films. It would be a unique aspect of the film festival worthy of expansion.

All of this comes alongside a general review of the Tokyo International Film Festival’s reform to their programming. It includes the festival’s signing of the 5050×2020 pledge, which commits the festival to working towards gender parity in various areas such as on executive boards, compiling statistics on the gender of the filmmakers and crew members of all films submitted as part of an aim for parity on these areas as well, alongside increasing selection transparency. It’s a rather late decision, considering the charter has already been signed by 156 film festivals including events like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice Film Festival, but it puts Tokyo Film Festival ahead of other major Asian festivals as the first to sign the pledge.

Unlike last year’s fully in-person event, the 2021 Tokyo International Film Festival will be a hybrid digital and in-person event that will run from 30 October until 8 November, giving a first indication on how these proposed reforms will impact the festival going forwards.

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