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Kaplanoğlu’s Sci-Fi ‘Grain’ Wins Top Honour At The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival

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The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) draws to a glorious conclusion on the night of November 3, after 10 days of screenings and
special events.

Winners of the awards at the 30th TIFF were announced during the Closing Ceremony.

The ceremony kicked off with the announcement of the four winners of the first-ever Tokyo Gemstone Award, created to honor up-and-coming actors and actresses.

The announcement of main-category winners began with the Japanese Cinema Splash Best Picture Award, which went to the section’s only documentary, Of Love and Law, the tale of a gay couple who run a law firm and fight for the right to raise a family. The award was accepted by director Hikaru Toda,
who remarked, “The subjects of the film are watching eagerly on YouTube, so it’s nice to be able to share this moment with everyone.”

Next, the ceremony moved on to the Asian Future section. Jury members were clearly impressed by Passage of Life, the film about a Burmese family living in Japan, directed by Akio Fujimoto. The
director was awarded The Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Center, while the film itself won the Best Asian Future Film Award. Said jury member Nick Decampo: “This film
captures the delicate balance between reality and fiction.”
When accepting the latter award, Fujimoto, a first-time director, was joined on stage by the family who appeared in the film, all of whom were non-professional actors, and said, “I’m happy we were able to make this film in cooperation with Japan and Myanmar.”
Jury member and film director Isao Yukisada added that because of the jury’s passionate discussion, they ultimately selected another film for a Special Mention — first-time director Zhou Ziyang’s Old Beast. Jury member Oh Jungwan praised the film for its portrayal of modern Chinese society, while the director, accepting the award, recalled a touching moment he had with a viewer of the film at the festival, who was so moved, she merely handed him paper for an autograph.

It was then on to the main event: the winners of TIFF’s Competition section. The first announcement was for the Audience Award, which went to Japanese feature Tremble All You Want. Director
Akiko Ooku said: “This film was shot in a very short period of time with a tiny crew, so I really didn’t expect this. It feels like a dream come true to be even nominated, let alone win.”

Next came the Best Screenplay Award by WOWOW, presented to Finnish thriller Euthanizer. The award was accepted by the film’s producer, Jani Pösö, who thanked the jury on behalf of director and screenwriter Teemu Nikki, joking, “Teemu and I usually co-write our films. This is actually the first film he wrote without me, and he won an award right away!”

The award for Best Artistic Contribution went to The Looming Storm, the film noir set in a Chinese factory town in the late 1990s. Dong Yue, the film’s first-time director, was quite emotional as he remarked, “It was thanks to the excellent performances that I was able to make a film I can be proud of.”

That remark seemed almost prescient, as the next award, the Award for Best Actor, was announced for The Looming Storm’s lead actor Duan Yihong. Jury member Zhao Wei, who made the announcement, said “Deciding on this award took us the least amount of time. It was an excellent
performance.”

Best Actor

Best Actor

Yihong commented: “Making a film depends on the hard work of the entire team, and I want to thank everyone who helped create it.”

The winner of the Award for Best Actress went to Adeline D’Hermy for her performance in Maryline.  D’Hermy, currently on stage in Paris, joined the ceremony via video message, saying, “I’m glad Maryline was able to reach out to the hearts of the audience.”

The Award for Best Director went to Edmund Yeo of the film AQÉRAT (We the Dead), who came to the stage emotionally, joking, “I’m not crying, I’m sweating.” Yeo went on to thank his small crew, who he referred to as his “AQÉRAT family,” and TIFF, stating, “I
sometimes think filmmaking is a lonely endeavor, but then I come to film festivals and realize we’re all connected by our love of cinema.”

The Special Jury Prize, which was awarded to Italian film Crater, directed by Silvia Luzi and Luca Bellino. Co-director Luzi expressed surprise at winning, saying “We shot with a very small crew — actually, just the two of us up here right now.”

Finally, the night’s highest honor, the Tokyo Grand Prix Award, went international sci-fi co-production Grain, directed by Semih Kaplanoğlu. In awarding the prize to Kaplanoğlu, jury president Tommy Lee Jones said, “We were impressed by this movie’s appreciation of the common understanding among all people through a shared mythic experience.”

Kaplanoğlu was also lauded by Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, who presented him with the Governor of Tokyo Award and Kirin trophy, and the Director of SEIKO, Hiromi Kanagawa, who gave the director a SEIKO ASTRON watch.

Kaplanoğlu said the message of the film, which deals with environmental issues, is that humanity must ask “where we came from and where we are heading. The power of film helps us ask these questions.”

With the awards section of the ceremony complete, Governor Yuriko Koike congratulated Kaplanoğlu and the rest of the festival’s filmmakers while wishing TIFF and its participants continued success, stating: “It’s great to see filmmakers with outstanding talent starting their journeys at this festival.”

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Akin Akingbala is an international journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Aside being happily married, he has interests in music, sports and loves traveling.

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