Tokyo Olympic Film Debuts in Japan; towards Cannes

From Japanese director Naomi Kawase, the 120-minute film examines the Olympics primarily from the perspective of the athletes, but not just the winning athletes.

After Tokyo, the film will be screened on Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival in the Salle Bunuel, named after the iconoclastic filmmaker of Spanish origin Luis Bunuel.

“The Olympics isn’t just about winning prizes and being first and going for a win that’s right in front of you right now,” Kawase said in a recent interview. “I also tried to describe the quest to become winners in life.”

Kawase also made another film about events away from the athletes, titled “Side B”. It will debut in Japanese cinemas on June 24. The film screened on Monday will be released in select Japanese theaters from June 3.

Kawase said he made the film in two parts because, after the Games were postponed by the pandemic, its subject matter became too complex.

The film, which is only in Japanese unless the speakers use other languages, focuses much of its attention on Japanese athletes and female athletes around the world. It also looks at refugee athletes, athletes who have defected and athletes competing as mothers who have brought their babies to the Games.

The film targets an array of sports, particularly judo, softball, surfing, women’s basketball, and skateboarding. For the most part, it avoids the medal ceremonies, the waving flag and who won — and who lost — and prioritizes the drama of competition.

Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services, attempted to sum up the mission of the documentary, speaking in the film’s final minutes before the credits roll.

He said Olympic athletes “often do something completely unexpected. It’s a moment of genius. Yes, we have to go through all these exercises in order to be able to see the world in a different way. Even for a millisecond.

The documentary showed flashes of the controversy that rocked the Tokyo Games with protesters demanding a cancellation and scenes that questioned the wisdom of holding the Games amid a pandemic.

The “Side B” version is expected to cover more issues, including the resignation of Yoshiro Mori as chairman of the local organizing committee.

Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, resigned five months before the Olympics opened after making disparaging comments about women, saying they “talked too much”.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics documentary directed by Kon Ichikawa, titled “Tokyo Olympiad”, is generally considered one of the most important of its kind. Also in this category is “Olympia” by Leni Riefenstahl from the Berlin Games in 1936.

Kawase said she was honored to follow in Ichikawa’s footsteps and tried to show what was visible, and also what is beyond sight.

“I was moved by how human beings achieve the pinnacle of physical beauty,” Kawase said. “I felt they were so beautiful looking at them; all athletes, not just winners. And the time they spent to get there was also magnificent.

Kawase’s documentary is simply titled “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Official Film”.

She was tapped in 2018 to direct the film, which briefly examines the year-long postponement announced in March 2020 and the build-up to the opening ceremony – largely without fans on July 23, 2021 – and closing on August 8. .

In a synopsis, Cannes said the film took 750 days to shoot with 5,000 hours of shooting.

Cannes said it captured “not only the assembled athletes from around the world, but also their families, those involved in the Games, volunteers, medical staff and protesters crying out for the cancellation of the Olympics. The film shows the passion and the angst that came out of these Olympic Games.

Kawase is highly acclaimed and became the youngest female director to receive the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival with her 1997 film “Suzaku”.

His most famous recent films are “Sweet Bean” and “Still the Water”.

The documentary is funded by the International Olympic Committee and the local organizing committee, and is a requirement of the hosting contract.

Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, said during Kawase’s presentation four years ago that the IOC owns the copyright for the film and “has the right to make key decisions in the creation of the film”.

Kawase said she was affected by the invasion of Russia or Ukraine, wondering what entertainment means amid the killings of war.

“I hope when people see this movie in 50 years, in 100 years,” Kawase said, “they will understand the importance of protecting this piece of happiness – so small it can fit in the palm of your hand. .”

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