Marrakesh film festival changes tack, swings the spotlight on Japan

Japanese film director, screenwriter and producer Hirokazu Kore-Eda (R) receives a trophy from the hands of French actress Isabel Huppert (L) during a ceremony in tribute to the Japanese cinema at the 14th Marrakech International Film Festival on December 9, 2014 in Marrakech. AFP PHOTO /FADEL SENNA

By Guillaume Klein ,AFP

MARRAKESH, Morocco — The 14th Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco is paying tribute to Japan by showcasing a retrospective of 27 movies at an event traditionally dominated by Arab, French or American cinema. ��Along with American, French and Italian cinema, Japanese cinema is among the four that have established a cinematographic language,�� festival director Bruno Barde said. ��It is maybe even the biggest,�� he added at the onset of the nine-day festival that wraps on Sunday. Takuya Misawa’s debut feature ��Chigasaki Story,�� a romantic comedy, is among 15 films vying for the top prize to be decided by a jury headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert. A large Japanese delegation, led by director Hirokazu Koreeda, has traveled to Marrakesh, and many among them have expressed pride and also surprise that they were being honored. ��This year, they paid tribute to Japanese cinema �X 27 Japanese films have been shown here. I think it is really impressive,�� said film-maker Hideo Nakata, who directed the 1998 cult horror film ��Ring.�� Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who was honored four years ago at Marrakesh with a personal tribute because of his work, remembers being told in 2010 that the festival planned to pay homage to Japanese film.

‘Just being polite?’ ��I thought they were just being polite,�� he added with a smile. Japanese films listed in the retrospective included Mikio Naruse’s 1955 black-and-white ��Floating Clouds�� and Naomi Kawase’s 2014 release ��Still the Water.�� Japanese animation films, which have won the country kudos around the world, are also being showcased. Among them is manga artist Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 fantasy movie ��Spirited Away,�� his greatest commercial success. The tribute to Japanese cinematography comes at a time when its industry is facing a box office crisis and struggling to win the trust of the West.