Tokyo Olympic Film Debuts in Japan; towards Cannes
The documentary film about the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics premiered on Monday, showing reporters and other guests in the Japanese capital.
Produced by 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 Bunuel Theater, 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, called “Side B”. It will debut on an unspecified date.
Kawase said he made the film in two parts because, after the Games were postponed by the pandemic, its subject matter became more complex.
The film looks at refugee athletes and athletes who have defected. She also touched on gender equality, athletes competing as mothers, and covered the resignation of Yoshiro Mori as president 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 appointed in 2018 to produce the film, which examines the postponement to March 2020 and the turmoil leading up to the opening – 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.
It captures “not only the gathered 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 anguish that emerged from 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 film 50 years from now, 100 years from now, 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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