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Tokyo festival for ‘alternative visions’ is loaded with art films

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Special To The Japan Times

The Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2016 is on until Feb. 20 and is taking place in one of Tokyo’s most highfalutin chunks of real estate: the area around Yebisu Garden Place in the Ebisu neighborhood.

The festival’s theme this year is “Garden in Movement” and it features not only films about the environment but also visual art exhibitions, which address ecological issues and are displayed in various venues around Yebisu Garden Place. The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography was one of the prime stages for the event, but now that it is being renovated (it’s slated to open again in 2017) some of the exhibits are displayed outdoors.

The festival is a treasure trove for art-film lovers, with 52 works that may likely never be seen on our shores again. Check out James Crump’s “Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art” playing at the Yebisu Garden Cinema. Crump is an art curator when he’s not making films, and he turned heads in 2007 with his film “Black White + Gray” about art curator Sam Wagstaff and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Crump’s latest looks at renegade American land artists of the mid-20th century.

Chantal Akerman’s “No Home Movie” is also essential viewing. This is Akerman’s last completed work before her suicide last year in Paris, and the film is a series of conversations the filmmaker had with her mother, who was an Auschwitz survivor. Akerman was an iconic figure in feminist cinema (arguably she created the genre) and it seems somehow fitting that her final work would be so intimate and personal.