Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Toronto International Film Festival announces first Japanese titles

by Chris MaGee

We're a month away from one of the biggest film festivals on the globe, and it just happens that it's in the J-Film Pow-Wow's own backyard -- Toronto. The 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival is set to take over the city between September 8th through to the 18th, and speculation has been running wild as to which titles from Japan its programmers would be bringing to audiences. Well, the wait is now over, at least for a few Japanese titles. Today TIFF, as it's know here (and not to be confused with Tokyo's TIFFCOM), announced its first two film titles from Japan.

The Midnight Madness program, curated by genre film expert Colin Geddes, is usually the home of the off-beat, the horrific and the zany at TIFF and this year is no different. In amongst the 10 films announced is the world premiere of "Smuggler" (above) the latest film by "Taste of Tea" and "Funky Forest" director Katsuhito Ishii. As we've reported since December, "Smuggler" is Ishii's live-action adaptation of Shohei Manabe’s manga about an actor who finds himself working for the yakuza; his job -- dispose of the mob's human "refuse" once they've been bumped off. Satoshi Tsumabuki stars in the lead with a supporting cast that includes Masatoshi Nagase, Hikari Mitsushima, Masanobu Ando, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Fumiyo Kohinata and Ishii regular Tatsuya Gashuin. After a run of meditative video projects and the 2008 Takashi Shimizu remake "My Darling of the Mountians" it looks like Ishii is getting back to what he does best -- get an audience laughing with truly surreal humour. Check out the full Midnight Madness line-up here.

Joining "Smuggler" at TIFF will be another hotly anticipated project. As part of its TIFF Kids programme Toronto IFF will be presenting the world premiere of Hiroyuki Okiura's animated feature "A Letter to Momo". The film chronicles the life and adventures of Momo, a young girl who has recently lost her father. Momo is left only with the last words her father left her written in an unfinished letter, "Dear Momo...". Momo's mother believes that a fresh start will help her and her daughter and the two relocate to a quaint island village. It's here that Momo discovers an old book in the attic of their new home, a book that sends Momo on a fantastic journey. "A Letter to Momo" is the first film to be directed by Hiroyuki Okiura since 2000's "Jin-roh: The Wolf Brigade". To check out the full TIFF Kids programme click here.

Needless to say that it is early days for Toronto International Film Festival programming announcements, so expect more Japanese film titles to be announced in the days and weeks to come. Until then check out the teaser trailer for "A Letter to Momo" below. Also, thanks to Anime News Network for additional details on this story.

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