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Closing weekend at TIFF to showcase Asia, ecology theme

by Eija Niskanen

One of the advantages of film festivals in Japan is the chance to see Japanese and Asian cinema with English subtitles. The 21st Tokyo International Film Festival may be ending this Sunday, but it still has such cinematic treats to offer.

The “Winds of Asia” Middle East film series covers films from Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere. The series has been notable for presenting some interesting female directors, such as Malaysia’s Jasmin Ahmed, and on Friday it’s the turn of Hong Kong’s Ann Hui, whose long career in TV and film centers on Hong Kongese identity, often seen through women’s eyes. “The Way We Are” depicts a middle-aged widow and her teenage son.

Kim Ki Young (1919-98) was a leading Korean director, and a retrospective is offering some of his best-known works, including the Cannes 2008 digital restoration of his famed “The Housemaid” (1960), one of his so-called woman series. In this film, the pillars of a bourgeois family’s life start shaking when a servant joins the household.

On Saturday, the Asian series offers a compilation by six filmmakers, not all of whom are Asian, as Belgium’s Chantal Akerman, among others, joins Thailand’s Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, with each director bringing a 15-minute piece under the general title, “The State of the World” — an uneven, but interesting coproduction.

The Natural TIFF showing offers films centering around the festival’s 2008 theme of ecology. Akira Kurosawa’s “Dersu Uzala” (1975) shows that the master director was an environmentalist long before that was fashionable. Here we follow a Russian Army mapmaker being guided through Siberian wilds by Dersu, a native hunter who, instead of following the scientific straight ways, navigates their route through unbounded nature by intuition and respect for the wild.

TIFF screens at Roppongi Toho Virgin Cinema and Roppongi Cinemart and Shibuya Bunkamura theaters. For schedules and more details, visit www.tiff-jp.net/en/