February 24, 2024

Snow Leopard,” the last film by Tibetan director Pema Tseden prior to his death in May, was awarded the Grand Prix at the closing ceremony of the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival on Wednesday. Premiering out of competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival and later screening at Toronto, the film depicts the argument between a father and his adult son of how to deal with the title beast, which has descended from the mountains to kill sheep in their village.

Winner of the second-place Special Jury Prize was “Tatami,” a drama co-directed by Guy Nattiv and Zar Amir about an Iranian judoka (Arienne Mandi), who is ordered by her government to withdraw from a match to avoid facing an Israeli opponent and decides to obey on the advice of her coach (Amir). Premiering at Venice, “Tatami” is the first feature film to be co-directed by an Israeli (Nattiv) and Iranian (Amir). Tokyo’s best actress award went to Amir for her performance as the coach.

Meanwhile, Yasna Mirtahmasb was named best actor for his work in the Iranian film “Roxana,” playing an unemployed gambler who helps a woman after her car has been broken into and accompanies her on her journey, to his eventual regret.

The Chinese film “A Long Shot” took the artistic contribution award while the Japanese drama “(Ab)normal Desire” scooped the audience award. The film’s helmer, Kishi Yoshiyuki, also took best director honors.

In the Asian Future section for films by up-and-coming Asian directors, the best film award went to “Maria,” a first feature by Iranian filmmaker Mahdi Asghari Azghadi.

As previously announced, the Kurosawa Akira Award for emerging filmmakers went to China’s Gu Xiaogang and Indonesia’s Mouly Surya, while the Lifetime Achievement prize was awarded to Zhang Yimou, whose new period film “Full River Red” screened in the Gala section.

Among the special sections was Shoulders of Giants, which celebrated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Ozu Yasujiro with screenings of 16 digitally restored films as well as a symposium on the late master’s work featuring directors Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Jia Zhangke and Kelly Reichardt. The festival also presented remakes of Ozu’s early silent films by six directors, including Director in Focus honoree Hideo Jojo.

Held this year from Oct. 23 to Nov. 1 at venues in Tokyo’s central Hibiya and Yurakucho districts, the festival unfolded under mostly sunny skies with the protocols and restrictions of COVID-era editions completely lifted.

The favorable conditions were reflected in the audience figures, with TIFF recording 78,841 admissions to 219 films. Comparative numbers for the previous edition were 59,541 and 174, respectively. Also, the number of international attendees ballooned from 104 last year to 2,000. Finally, the festival reported that 22.4% of the 219 films were directed by women.

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