Boundaries might be immutable in Japan, but they are negotiable. So it was that despite the fact that TIFFCOM (Tokyo International Film Festival’s Commercial Market) did not start until the 20th of October, the creative initiative of TIFFCOM, the TPG (Tokyo Project Gathering) actually launched on the 19th. Across the road (and to the left if you’re ever going to go looking for it) from the towering monolith that is the Roppongi Hills complex, the launch venue was at the ‘A Life’, a two storey bar that specializes in Halloween theme parties at this time of year.

Word is that the TPG entrants had a larger list of meeting going in than in previous years. But it’s not enough to see the names or read the synopsis. TIFFCOM likes to put its contestants on show. One by one as the marketeers chowed down on tofu and rice or beef salad the TPG personnel were brought to the stage and asked to take a bow so that all and sundry would know who they were meeting with. Some made their bows more comfortably than others.

In true market presentation style, while all of that was going on, everyone who wasn’t taking a bow, or being prepared to scale the stage, were busy talking to someone else. If one had to say who was the most popular producer in the room, I’d have to say it was neck and neck between Tokyo Sonata’s Yukie (that’s pronounced Yu-ki-ay ) Kito and Peggy Chiao (Beijing Bicycle and Clara Law’s recently completed Like a Dream) who continues to work across the Chinese territories. Not quite as popular, but frequently commented on were Venice Film Festival’s Paolo Alessandro Herras and Screen International’s Tokyo correspondent Jason Gray both of whom have put on producer’s hats to attend TPG. They might not be considered “real” producers now, but by the end of the week who knows?

Tokyo Sonata producer Yukie Kito and Jason Gray Screen International’s Tokyo correspondent who has his first producing project in this year’s TPG


It could have happened to anyone. While waiting for the market to heat up (no one wants to talk to critics on the first day of a market unless things are really bad) I decided to sit in on a D-cinema Universal System demonstration being held by SKIP City. SKIP is an awkward acronym for Sai-no-Kuni Visual Plaza which is on the outskirts of Saitama Prefecture’s Kawaguchi City. They hold an annual film festival which plays digital features only. But SKIP is also interested in digital technology for other reasons than to create avenues for up and coming film-makers A DVD was being played as part of the demonstration. There we were learning how classrooms can be equipped with technology for remote teaching and seeing how individual headsets – complete with eyepiece – can be utilised to present multi-language subtitles or multi-language dubbing to movie or conference audiences comprising of individuals from around the globe to simultaneously watch a film or presentation with the same level of ease.

And then the visuals and the sound started to do a DJ scratch mix that would make any hip-hopper proud. Quick fade to black. It’s only the proclamation that technology is flawless that makes such moments embarrassing. And to his credit, the SKIP presenter made a joke and moved on to the next visual file in his presentation. And of course I am sure that the Lumiere Brothers had more than their fair share of hairs getting in the gate or snagged film that ended in a Bonanza like ring of fire.


Press conferences at the Tokyo International Film Festival are held every day in the Movie Café which is on the walkway to the festival screenings and to the elevators of the 40th floor of the Roppongi Hills complex where TIFFCOM is being held. But by night the place comes alive. Too slow on the upswing on opening night of TIFF I missed Asano Tadanobu’s DJ set. However I made up for it tonight by getting down there to see a pair of young DJs who went by the name “I’m Tokyo. He’s Osaka”. The guys played a whole lot of English music from my wild years in the 80s that I’d almost forgotten about. The DJs were followed by a rocking female trio called Nisennenmondai. The band performed over a funky tape with a techno beat and they layered music that recalled both The Shadows and The Velvet Underground. The base and lead guitar didn’t move much but the drummer – she moved enough for six people! I skipped the final DJ set for a late night ramen in a favourite chain store of mine. The place was dotted with exhausted salarymen and a couple of Nigerian guys – presumably from the numerous Nigerians who spruik for Roppongi’s bars – and blissfully quiet. No cell phones, little and sometimes no chatter, and the boisterous slurping of noodles. The stuff that dreams are made of.

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