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Kyoto International Film and Art Festival Wraps

By Liza Foreman
KYOTO - The first Kyoto International Film and Art Festival (October 16-19, 2014) came to a close on Sunday, with an awards ceremony in Gion with its cobbled lanes and Geisha.
The festival celebrated Kyoto both as the birth place of Japanese cinema and for the refined craftsmanship the former capital is known for.
The main award, one of several here, was presented by Japanese talent on stage during the ceremony.
"Since a few years there was a lot of talk about creating the  Toshiro Mifune award," the festival's executive producer Kazuyoshi Okuyama told guests about this prize for acting talent. "We we very careful about choosing the recipient as this is the first festival."
Also visible on stage alongside Shiro Mifune, the son of Japanese legend, Toshiro Mifune, was an artful flower arrangement, the elongated branches stretching up to the theater roof, which celebrated a second art form born here in Kyoto where Geiko or Geisha dress in handmade kimonos made by local artisans.
Mifune starred in 150 films including 16 Kurosawa titles.
The screenwriter and jury member Teruyo Nogami who served as a screenwriter for the director Kurosawa, was on hand to present the trophy to actor Koji Yakusho.
"Kyoto was considered the Hollywood of Japan and I seriously hope the festival prospers and grows," said Yakusho.
Clint Eastwood was a winner in absentia of Most Respect Award. The Most Respected in Paris award was given to actress Irene Jacob. It was awarded in honor of a twinning of Kyoto and Paris.
The white trophy was made by a local artisan, Takahiro Kondo. And a scarf was presented which was created by a Greek artist, Michail Gkinis working in Tokyo, who oversaw a special program Creator's Factory in Kyoto.
48 films were shown during the festival, including a special screening of the Kurosawa classic "Rashomon" and new films like "Kyoto Elegy."
International and Japanese stars attended the festival, including Jacob who took time to talk to reporters.
Art could be seen in special exhibitions around the city and included a Saturday night techno extravaganza in front of City Hall which featured a vast robot that integrated moving images and live performance.
The rebirth of the festival was made possible by the Japanese media group Yoshimoto which manages more than 6,000 comedians. 
The company also runs the annual Okinawa Film Festival which features many of its performers who fly down to entertain the general public.
"In Kyoto, the focus is on films and art,"said Yoshimoto CEO Hiroshi Osaki who welcomed reporters from around the world to celebrate this boutique festival which took guests inside old Kyoto.
The delicate Kaiseki dinner served in a secluded tea house, Hachi, gave VIPs a taste of the fine food culture of Kyoto and could be considered a contender for the most beautiful work of art here.
Another was the festival opening which featured a beautiful Maiko dance performance in the city's most legendary theater, Gion Kobo Kaburenju.
There were vast drums used as part of a traditional performance art at the opening banquet at the Westin Hotel which followed, as well as a whacky performance from men in boiler suits creating music from a weird range of objects.
Other art events included a screening of Chie Matsui's video art at the Kyoto Museum and an exhibition of the artists Hiroko Ichihara and illustrator Hajime Anzai.
A closing party took place at the Okura Hotel, one of the most sophisticated hotels in Kyoto with views of the mountains.
On stage at the closing ceremony, guests exchanged anecdotes about drinking bottles of whiskey and parties held by Kurosawa.
The original Kyoto Film Festival was launched in 1997. It was relaunched this year through Yoshimoto which takes an active role in supporting Japanese culture and in its exposure to an international audience through initiatives like this.
Yoshimoto  produced 40 television shows in Tokyo and 26 in Osaka as well as films.
Okuyama is CEO of Katsu-do, a just launched Yoshimoto company to produce, distribute and promote films. The new label aims to work with existing Yoshimoto talent and people with a passion for film. The company name translated means, "Action to Win." 
The idea is to drawn on the tradition of Japanese filmmakers of old to take action to make sure the public saw their films, the company said.


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