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After walking the red carpet on the opening night of the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival, Yu Aoi pointed out to the emcee that she and the other three “muses” of the festival — fellow actresses Sakura Ando, Hikari Mitsushima and Aoi Miyazaki — were all born in the same year, 1985, thus lending this year’s festival a generational point of reference.

However, Ando added that, according to the lunar calendar, 2017 is not a particularly “lucky” year for her cohort, so she hopes the festival — being held at Roppongi Hills — will make the best of it.

Considering that it was raining on the red carpet when she said this, Ando’s comment was perhaps a little pessimistic, but the weather didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of fans, who strained against the ropes along the red carpet, begging for autographs and shaking hands with filmmakers and actors who were more than happy to oblige.

Whatever you want to say about the status of TIFF with regards to other international film festivals, it provides excellent “fan service” and, despite the rain, the guests made the most of their time on the red carpet.

Competition section filmmakers promoted the topicality of their films, from the dangers of GMO-based agriculture in Turkey’s “Grain” to the plight of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia’s “Aqerat (We the Dead)” to the moral murkiness of pornography in the Japanese entry “The Lowlife.”

The cast of “Alifu, the Prince/ss,” a Taiwanese production, directed by Wang Yu-lin, in the Asian Focus section making its world premiere at TIFF, talked effusively about the film’s take on its transgender characters. And 79-year-old director Nobuhiko Obayashi, resplendent in a purple scarf and a white fedora, talked about what is probably his last movie, “Hanagatami,” a World War II epic, from the comfort of his wheelchair surrounded by his superstar cast.

But there was also levity. Popular TV personalities such as comic impersonator Akimasa Haraguchi mugged his way down the line, and director Keiichi Hara was joined by his own muse, manga/anime superstar Crayon Shin-chan, who represents everything naughty about Japanese pre-schoolers — and rubbed backsides with everyone willing to do so.

During the opening ceremony across the street at Ex Theater, various government ministers were introduced. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko pointed out that one of the opening films, “Legend of the Demon Cat,” was a joint China-Japan production and marked 45 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Though due to production delays, only 10 minutes would be screened.

China’s ascendancy in world cinema was indirectly remarked upon by actor/director Tommy Lee Jones, the head of the Competition jury, when he mentioned that Hollywood, of which he is the sole representative this year, may have a lock on the world market, but that TIFF symbolized what movies will mean in the future.In a word, the meaning of films is accessibility, according to Aoi Miyazaki, one of the muses, who commented during the opening ceremony that what the red carpet showed her was that “films were something everyone felt close to.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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