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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Japanese silent movie shows at gay film fest

Special to The Japan Times

Regardless of whether or not they are out at work, Tokyo's lesbians and gays come out by the thousands to the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival every summer. And they are not alone, with straight movie lovers joining as well. The awkwardly abbreviated TILGFF, celebrating its 18th year of bringing queer-themed films to Tokyo, is spread over two weekends: July 10-12 at Shinjuku's Wald 9 cinema and July 16-20 at Aoyama's Spiral Hall.

Having long ago eschewed the theme- driven film festival model because it's "too limiting," the film selection committee aims to bring films that are new, award winning or likely to appeal to a diverse audience.

This year's line-up promises to focus on "upbeat, happy films" according to one of the TILGFF organizers. "We just want to show good movies to people who like good movies — the idea is that any kind of people can come."

Highlights among this year's foreign films are: The opening film, "An Englishman in New York," which won a Special Teddy at the Berlinale international film festival earlier this year for John Hurt's performance as gay icon Quentin Crisp; the controversial documentary "Outrage," which promises to expose the hypocrisy of closeted gay politicians in the United States; and the closing film, "I Can't Think Straight," a British film about the entanglement of two women from different backgrounds fighting to reconcile their feelings and their families.

A unique treat at this year's fest is the 1935 silent Japanese film "Fukujusou" ("Pheasant's Eyes"). Based on a novel by lesbian writer Nobuko Yoshiya, the story revolves around a "heart-aching relationship" between a teenage girl and her brother's wife. True to Japanese silent-film tradition, both screenings will feature a benshi — a live silent-film narrator — and have musical accompaniment. The renowned Midori Sawato, one of the few active benshi left in Japan, will narrate the first screening, and her pupil, Ichiro Kataoka, will narrate the second.

For details on these and the other films screening this year, all of which are Japanese premieres, visit www.tokyo-lgff.org For more indie or low-budget films, keep an eye out for the Asian Queer Film Festival coming up this fall, and for more politically minded films don't miss the Kansai Queer Film Festival in winter.

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