Saturday, October 18, 2008

[TIFF 2008 Day One]

Although's Lokman and myself flew in the day before, today marks the official first day that we're engaged in the festival proper, which started off completing our administration with the Press Office in the morning, followed by a Breakfast Meeting for all foreign media. We're given the press schedule which contains even more events for our coverage, which at this point one has to realize that you can only do that much, given the more than 300 screenings, and a multitude of cast and crew greetings from the stage, Q&A sessions, press conferences, and of course, not forgetting to enjoy the experience altogether.

While chilling out at the Movie Cafe during breakfast and strategizing our plan for the day (making painful decisions to drop off some events), I can't help but to admire the Japanese efficiency, where events are planned to the minute, and punctuality is key. There's really no room for being slack in this area for things to move like clockwork, and frankly speaking, it's just the way I like it, as it doesn't wreck havoc to your schedule, and you can really plan back to back events without worry that something will overlap.

The other thing that struck me was the volunteers that the festival armed itself with. Granted the logistics for an A-list festival is huge, I thought what made the experience even more pleasant was the army of volunteers at every corner readily helping out clueless individuals (ahem, like myself) who step into a cinema staring at everything like a deer caught in headlights.
I leave my adulation for their theatres at Roppongi Hills, where most of the event is held, for another post. Not to worry if you don't speak Japanese, as there are enough English-proficient volunteers to help you out every step of the way. And I guess even if there's the inevitable chicken-and-duck talk, it always help the situation when you recipocrate the smile dished out, and taking things at your stride by laughing, then learning from it. Events while on a map may be on sprawling grounds, but I've come to realize that eveything's pretty compact on the ground.

My first screening, and my first viewing of a Japanese movie in a Japanese theatre, was Atsuro Watabe's Echo of Silence, making its World Premiere at the festival, and in competition as well for the Grand Prix Award. Starting things off slowly, my only other screening for the day was the omnibus movie contaning 4 shorts, by directors Kenta Fukasaku, Takanri Tsujimoto, Monoru Tahara and Mamoru Oshii! Also a world premiere and in competition for the Japanese Eyes Best Picture Award, like any omnibus feature, my feelings toward it was a mixed bag. My reviews should be up soon, and you can read about my thoughts over there.

The highlight of the day was of course the opening Green Carpet event, where the carpet was well, green (replacing red) since this year's Festival theme is focused on ecology, the Earth and the environment.
Made of recycled plastics, the Green Carpet event required all members of the press to register early, and basically stand in the line for a briefing and for the early birds to decide where they would want to position themselves either along the carpet, or in front of the stage. I'll cover this in more detail in my Green Carpet report, and one of the plus points is the involvement of the public, allowing lucky and determined folks who queue up early, to share in the festivities and get seats in front of the stage, and some very good seats too I may add. I guess security was also tight today as the Prime Minister of Japan himself was gracing the occasion.

The Early Birds

Meanwhile, I've left some markers in the earlier posts that I will try to fill up as the days go by. I'm already drowning in the sea of activities (not to mention too, the glorious cuisine) from the main event arena as well as the various fringe activities, and for more selfish reasons, to take in the sights that this cosmopolitan city has to offer. This is Day One, from the Tokyo International Film Festival.

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