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Lineup of titles unveiled for nostalgia-packed 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival

From left, Kazuki Nakashima, Yoji Yamada, Macoto Tezka and Shin Adachi, are seen at the press conference to announce the program lineup for the 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival, in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Peter Masheter)

TOKYO -- This year's 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) will be a historic affair looking back at the tradition of Japanese cinema as the new Reiwa era begins, its organizers said at a news conference to announce the program lineup on Sept. 26.

Cinematic kabuki, historic anime, a strand of ghost stories all directed by women, and revealing documentaries populating sections such as Japanese Cinema Splash, The Evolution of Japanese Animation and World Focus, will feature among the movies shown at the festival, which will run from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5.

Fourteen features will be shown in the Competition section vying for the festival's Grand Prix -- half of which will be world premieres. Two Japanese films, "A Beloved Wife," directed by Shin Adachi, and "Tezuka's Barbara," helmed by Macoto Tezka, son of iconic manga artist Osamu Tezuka, are included in the Competition lineup. The finalists were whittled down from 1,804 entries in 115 countries and regions.

Both Adachi and Tezka attended the news conference, along with writer Kazuki Nakashima, who is famous for screenplays for popular anime including "Gurren Lagann," and the new animated film "Promare," which Nakashima said has already developed a cult following of "crazy, devoted fans." "Promare" will be shown in a special screening where fans can shout along and interact with the film as it plays.

Chinese actress and model Zhang Ziyi will head the International Competition Jury this year. She's joined by U.S. film producer Bill Gerber, French actress Julie Gayet, Danish director Michael Noer, and Japanese director Ryuichi Hiroki.

Speaking at the conference at Roppongi Academyhills in Tokyo's Minato Ward, Festival Director Takeo Hisamatsu, now in his third year, emphasized that this year's festival will be the first of the Reiwa era, and explained that part of the aim for this year was "remembrance and rediscovery of the attractions of Japanese cinema and visual culture."

True to that focus, the festival's opening film, "Tora-san, Wish You Were Here," is a celebration of the "It's Tough Being a Man" comedy film series by legendary director Yoji Yamada. The first installment was released in 1969, 50 years ago, and follows the repeated romantic failures of Tora-san, a traveling salesman played by Kiyoshi Atsumi, who died in 1996.

Yamada has helmed all but two of the now 50 films, said to be the longest running series starring the same actor, Kiyoshi Atsumi. At the press conference, Yamada said of the opening film, "I feel like I've been making this film for the last 50 years." He added that he hoped both seasoned fans and young people encountering Tora-san for the first time would enjoy the series' "strangeness," too.

Among other jaunts into cinematic history will be a gala screening of "Talking the Pictures," a comedy about a man who aspires to be a narrator for silent movies. The animation section has been changed too, with showings of films seen as milestones for the industry: 1958's "The White Snake Enchantress," 1979's "Aim for the Best, Theatrical Version," and 1988's "Akira." There will also be a special exhibition of documents from the making of the films.

Actress Alice Hirose was revealed as the 32nd Festival Muse, making her the face of this year's proceedings. Unable to attend the press conference, she described in a video her delight, honor and surprise at being offered the position. She praised the event's international outlook and atmosphere, saying, "The festival has a distinctive atmosphere, warm welcome, and a feeling of coziness that I genuinely love."

A total of 170 films will be screened over the nine-day festival. Events will also be held every day, including outdoor screenings, a VR Idol show, a celebration of Godzilla's 65th birthday, master classes and symposia featuring world-famous guests.

The 32nd TIFF will run at cinemas in Roppongi Hills, EX Theater Roppongi in the capital's Minato Ward, Hibiya Step Square in Chiyoda Ward, and other locations.

Below is the full lineup of films in the Competition section, their directors and countries of origin:

-- "Advantages of Travelling by Train" / Aritz Moreno, Spain/France / International Premiere

-- "Atlantis" / Valentyn Vasyanovych, Ukraine / Asian Premiere

-- "A Beloved Wife" / Shin Adachi, Japan / World Premiere

-- "Chaogtu with Sarula" / Wang Rui, China / World Premiere

-- "Disco" / Jorunn Myklebust Syversen, Norway / Asian Premiere

-- "Food for a Funeral" / Reis Celik, Turkey / World Premiere

-- "Just 6.5" / Saeed Roustaee, Iran / Asian Premiere

-- "La Llorona" / Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/France / Asian Premiere

-- "Mananita" / Paul Soriano, Philippines / World Premiere

-- "Nevia" / Nunzia De Stefano, Italy / Asian Premiere

-- "Only the Animals" / Dominik Moll, France / Asian Premiere

-- Tezuka's Barbara / Macoto Tezka, Japan/UK/Germany / World Premiere

-- "Towards the Battle" / Aurelien Vernhes-Lermusiaux, France/Colombia / World Premiere

-- "Uncle" / Frelle Petersen, Denmark / World Premiere

For more information on the films screening at this year's TIFF, visit the official site at http://2019.tiff-jp.net/en/

(By Peter Masheter, Staff Writer)

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