Over the past two years, more than 2.5 million movie lovers have come to see films screened at the Hibiya Cinema Festival, which is organized in part by Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd., Tokyo Midtown Management Co., Ltd. and Hibiya Area Management Association. This year, with Covid-19 restrictions in place, the festival was held from October 16 to November 8 on a smaller scale, but the audiences were no less enthusiastic. The festival has strong international roots—one of the standout programs during the event features films that are also screened with English subtitles at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival. Throughout the event, members of the GoConnect community had the opportunity to pick up VIP passes to screenings that included free vouchers for food and drink. Before the screenings, guests were treated to informative Q&A sessions with the films’ directors.
Depending on the weather, screenings were either held in the atrium of Tokyo Midtown Hibiya or outside, at Hibiya Step Square. For Miho Sainoki, video producer at Custom Media, the combination of the outdoor setting and a movie she’d long wanted to see was ideal: “I've been so excited to see One Cut of the Dead since it came out in 2017 and received international recognition. Director Shinichiro Ueda mentioned in his Q&A that he thought the setting that you see a film in for the first time is all part of the experience and I couldn’t agree more! Sat under the stars in Hibiya Step Square, I couldn’t have imagined a more memorable viewing experience.” Sainoki’s friend Matt Booth, a senior teacher at Shane English School, was equally enthusiastic: “It was great to finally see One Cut of the Dead at a screening with subtitles. I have wanted to see it for years. And it was incredible to experience an outdoor cinema in the heart of Tokyo.” Masumi Kitsukawa, director of A&People Corporation, saw Fuzjko Hemming: A Pianist of Silence & Solitude. She said that the movie was wonderful and she found the interview with the director, Soichiro Komatsu, to be fascinating. When Yoshiaki Fujimura, marketing manager with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, saw The 47 Ronin in Debt, it was raining, which meant that the screening was held indoors. This didn’t dampen his enthusiasm, and he found that the interview with director Yoshihiro Nakamura allowed him to discover elements of the movie that he might have missed otherwise. And finally, Milton Isa, director of the international division of Isa & Partners Co. Ltd., who watched the screening of Bento Harassment, said that what stood out the most was being able to see the movie outside—he said that the open-air setting was reassuring during the times of the coronavirus. He also found that hearing director Renpei Tsukamoto’s remarks before the screening added to the experience, as did being able to pick up some free refreshments. His only complaint? “The director’s chairs that we sat in might have been a little too comfortable!” It’s clear that, even under the constraints brought on by the coronavirus, the Hibiya Cinema Festival was a great success this year. And as we look ahead to 2021, all of us at GoConnect are eagerly looking forward to another excellent event.