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Koreeda Hirokazu on the Importance of Conversation at Tokyo’s Asia Lounge

Koreeda Hirokazu on the Importance of Conversation at Tokyo’s Asia Lounge

The winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or for his dark family drama “Shoplifters and one of Japan’s most outspoken filmmakers, Hirokazu Koreeda is also a moving force behind “Asia Lounge.” This is a new series of online conversations being held over eight days at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.

In addition to helping to organize the event and select the panelists, Koreeda signed on as moderator for the first conversation, between Korean director Kim Bora and Japanese actor Hashimoto Ai, as a panelist with Taiwanese director Huang Xi (Nov. 2), and with five industry figures for a roundtable titled “The Future of Cinema and Streaming.” (Nov. 4).

Variety: You’ve just finished your second event, with Huang Xi. How is it going so far? Is it frustrating not to be with the other person in the same room?  

Koreeda: I don’t like online, but we can still communicate something – it’s better than not speaking. It has meaning.

My basic idea was to have a definite place in the film festival where you can get people (like the panelists) together. I wasn’t the only one making the lineup, though. Various people in the community, such as (producer) Ichiyama Shozo, participated. We made the selections using their contacts.

The conversation you moderated between Kim Bora and Hashimoto Ai was a bit unusual since one is a director and the other is an actor. Other conversations have a similar variety. Was this your idea?

I decided on Kim and Hashimoto, yes. I thought it would be good to have people speak about films from slightly different angles. Hashimoto saw a lot of films when she was younger, and I was sure she would like Kim’s work if she saw it, so I invited her.

And Huang Xi?

She’s a lot younger than me – we’re like half-siblings of two mothers far apart in age. We’re somehow alike but our names are different. Do you get it? (laughs) Wow, this is hard. (laughs) To put it another way, she’s heavily influenced by Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang. If you see her work, you’ll understand. She was actually with them on the set. So getting people like her together makes for an interesting group.

In addition to these one-on-one conversations, which are rather freeform, you have a six-person panel on a set topic: The future of cinema and streaming. Is that mix important to you?

Film festivals are places for people to gather and think about films. Of course, you should talk about the films that have been selected – that’s what Cannes and Venice and everyone does. The true test of a festival director lies in the ability to present a line-up of films that expresses a philosophy about what films are. The Tokyo Film Festival still has a way to go in that regard. But at least we can set aside time for talking with the people gathered here about what is happening with films now and how they should develop in the future. Festivals just aren’t about handing out prizes; I would like to create a bit more recognition of that fact.

Would you like to see “Asia Lounge” continue next year?  

I would like it to continue, but in a different form. For a festival it’s best if people actually get together in the flesh. It depends on the situation with the pandemic, but next year I’d really like to eat sushi with the people here at the festival. And not just from Asia.

Written by Oli Coleman

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