The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival marked its opening Tuesday afternoon with a traditional red carpet ceremony that was heavy on Asian stars and filmmakers.
With the festival abandoning its modern, eco-friendly “green carpet” this year, domestic stars dominated the promenade at the Roppongi Hills Arena, with special attention given to director Shunji Iwai, whose films are being given a special retrospective.
Fans also clamored for a glimpse of Oscar-winning American actress Meryl Streep, whose “Florence Foster Jenkins” was the festival’s opening film.
Among the most popular stars on the red carpet was Korean actor Yesung of the K-pop boy band Super Junior, who stars in the Japanese movie “My Korean Teacher.”
Kumamon, the black bear mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, also showed up, wearing a tuxedo to promote the Kumamoto-based film “The Gift of Memory.”
TV personality Jun Miura, who wrote the domestic comedy “I Am a Pervert,” received an especially warm reaction when he showed up with the film’s cast.
The festival’s pan-Asian theme was best represented by the omnibus film “Asian Three-Fold Mirror: Reflections,” which was specially commissioned by TIFF and featured short films by directors Isao Yukisada of Japan, Brillante Ma Mendoza of the Philippines and Sotho Kulikar of Cambodia.
Kulikar told the crowd that “Cambodian and Japanese cultures are not that different” and was sure that the film would “inspire people” in both countries.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe closed the red carpet ceremony and then opened the actual opening ceremony across the street at Ex Theater Roppongi.
Flanked by Streep and actor Kenichi Matsuyama, who plays the title role in the closing film, “Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow,” about professional shogi player Satoshi Murayama, Abe said that “the red carpet here is so much more exciting than the carpet in the Diet.”
He said he told Streep that his favorite role of hers was Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” and even quoted a line from the movie, which amused Streep to no end.
Hiroshige Seko, the minister of economy, technology and industry, spoke at the opening ceremony about walking the red carpet with his wife “and nobody calling out to us,” but it didn’t seem to bother him. He said it has so far been a great year for Japanese movies, with the success of “Shin Godzilla” and “Your Name.”
After the emcee pointed out some Liberal Democratic Party bigwigs in the audience, Streep came onstage to say a few words about the opening film and added that she had to get back to the U.S. quickly “to help elect the next president.”
The festival runs through Nov. 3.
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