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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001

FILMeX kicks off Sunday

Tokyo's alternative film festival, Tokyo FILMeX, returns for its sophomore year with a lineup of Asian cinema as solid as that shown at its debut. With six special screenings, 10 films in competition and two hefty retrospectives, FILMeX has a lot to offer Asian film buffs, and -- as many readers will no doubt be delighted to learn -- English subtitles as well as Japanese.

News photo
A scene from Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "Kandahar"

And it gets better: Nearly all of the films being shown will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, who are generally candid, given the more relaxed and casual atmosphere of FILMeX. No doubt Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, whose film "Kandahar" deals with the plight of Afghan refugees, will offer a much-needed perspective. Ditto for his compatriot Abolfazl Jalili, whose "Dance of Dust" was the most inventive and profound film to open in Tokyo in 2001; his latest, "Delbaran," concerns a dislocated Afghan boy working at a cafe in Horassan and has already taken a prize at Locarno.

Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien heads this year's jury, and his acclaimed new film, "Millennium Mambo," a tale of an emotionally numb girl set amid Taiwan's club scene, will screen alongside "Kandahar" and new works by acclaimed directors Stanley Kwan and Amos Gitai in the Special Screenings selection. Gitai's "Eden" was adapted from an Arthur Miller play and features up-and-coming actress Samantha Morton ("Sweet and Lowdown") in the lead, as well as Miller himself. Kwan's "Lan Yu," set in Beijing, is Kwan's version of a popular Internet novel that features a gay businessman falling for a student activist.

While such serious, artistically minded auteur works are still the mainstay of FILMeX, there's some lighter fare on offer as well. The opening film, "Musa," is an action-packed historical epic of Korean warriors escaping from a Chinese desert, with Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") playing the Ming Empress. The closing film, meanwhile, is "La Stanza del Figlio," this year's Palme d'Or winner at Cannes. An emotional yet intelligent melodrama about a parent who loses a child to an accident, this one left the jaded Cannes audience weeping.

For those craving something truly silly, try "Tears of the Black Tiger," a camp Thai western shot in outrageously gaudy colors with enough kitsch content to make a Bollywood director wince. John Wayne is no doubt rolling in his grave.

Tokyo FILMeX runs Nov. 18-25. All films screen at Asahi Hall in Yurakucho, except for "The Son's Room," which is at Marunouchi Piccadilly 2, and a few competition screenings at Cine La Sept. Call (03) 3560-6393 for details, or visit the Web site ( www.filmex.net) for the full schedule. Ticket prices are 1,200 yen in advance, 1,500 yen at the door. Note: "Kandahar" will not be shown with English subtitles.

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