Sunday, October 2, 2011

The 33rd PIA Film Festival wraps, Hitoshi Kitagawa’s “Damn Life” takes top prize

by Nicholas Vroman

The 33rd edition of the PIA Film Festival wrapped on Friday, September 30. PIA is the showcase where new Japanese film talent gets their chance to strut their stuff. It’s here where a lot of talent has gotten its kickstart over the years. The festival not only has a competition for new films – 17 this year – but also features a few sidebars. This year, there was the “Temptation of Black and White,” a odd, but fun celebration of the monochrome with screenings of Bela Tarr’s monumental “Satantango” and silents by Naruse and Lubitsch. “Cinema Lessons” featured the likes of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto commenting on some of their favorite films. The new PIA scholarship film, Shoko Kimura’s “Ordinary Love” was also shown (missed it!). These films get the funding a promotional arm of PIA to launch them into distribution.

As for the competition, a jury consisting of producer Shuji Abe, directors Shinya Tsukamoto and Takahisa Zeze, and actors Kaho Minami and Eita gave out awards for the top films at an award ceremony at the National Film Center. The “Grand Prix” winner was Hitoshi Kitagawa’s “Damn Life,” (above) a dark and broad surreal comedy. Other top prizes went respectively to Shintaro Hihara’s “As the Season Goes Around,” Kashou’s Iizuka’s “Our Future,” Michitoshi Nambu’s “Passion” – featuring a brilliant performance by Isumi Takahashi collaborator Hiromasa Hirosue – and Rokuro’s “(Taito).”

It’s always a mixed bag of films, but PIA’s an intimate showcase where one can rub shoulders with the newest and freshest indie talents alongside a who’s who of established filmmakers. At the beginning of the festival season here in Tokyo, it’s an appropriate way to start off the fall viewing.

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