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Pia puts spotlight on young talent

by Eija Niskanen

Pia Film Festival, launched in the 1980s to support young filmmakers, has established itself as the platform to move from zero-budget indie filmmaking and film schools to professionalism. The Grand Prix of the festival gives the winner support for their first 35 mm feature film production.

The festival this year takes place at the National Film Centre in Kyobashi, where films will be screened July 17-31.

As with previous years, a former winner’s scholarship film will be screened. This year, the 2007 Grand Prix winner Yuya Ishii’s new film “Kawa no soko kara konnichiwa” (“Greetings from the Bottom of the River”) will premiere at the festival. The film is a tale of the workers at an oyster-processing plant.

The competition series consists of 16 films, selected from among 569 entries sent to the festival. These films reflect today’s Japan as seen through the eyes of young filmmakers’ (average age 25) cameras. The feelings and frustration and alienation in today’s society are reflected in several of the works. “Chain,” by Akihito Kajiya, centers on school bullying, work lay-offs and a chain of events that lead to a bloodbath, which echoes last year’s Akihabara incident.

Each year, PFF also highlights the style and evolution of selected master filmmakers. This summer, the Clint Eastwood series will document the actor and director’s progress between July 21 and July 29.

From another master, Nagisa Oshima, PFF has asked three Japanese directors to name their favorite pieces to be screened during the festival. Koji Wakamatsu has selected the controversial “Ai no Korida,” which, until recently, was only seen as a censored version in Japan. Kiyoshi Kurosawa will present Oshima’s formalist and political masterpiece “Death by Hanging” (“Koshikei,” 1968), and “Sing a Song of Sex” (“Nihon shunkako”) from 1967, and Hirokazu Kore-eda, who himself started as a documentary maker, will present a selection of Oshima’s TV documentaries.

Pia Film Festival takes place at the National Film Centre of the Modern Art Museum, a one-minute walk from Kyobashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line between July 17-31. Tickets cost ¥1000-¥1500 and are sold at the door and at Pia Ticket. Competition films have no English subtitles. t.pia.jp/cinema/cinema.html