The festival opening ceremony was held in the enormous main hall of the Fukuoka Convention Centre in Marine Messe. The entire auditorium was full to the rafters. The festival is obviously a fairly big draw.
The ceremony began after a bilingual introduction in Japanese and English, by calling all the attending cast and crew of the films being shown. It was a nice touch. They were introduced one by one and got to give an awkward little wave and a nod. They were shepherded off to their seats and , after a little more introduction, Hiroshi Yoshida, the mayor of Fukuoka City took to the stage. He made a speech about how he was proud to have all of these film-makers in Fukuoka and how this demonstrates what a great city Fukuoka is. He also hammered home what seems to be the company line from the press pack that, the festival is all about exchanging cultures. It's a nice sentiment and very Japanese.
After this we were shown a twentieth anniversary video of the festival's history. It was pretty low budget but it was nice to get some perspective on the event. It's clearly growing in size on a yearly basis. The video detailed a little about the impressive Fukuoka film library, a collection of prints of rare and classic movies accessible to all Fukuoka citizens.
A bit more talk from the two announcers and the director of the festival, Hariki Yasuhiro came on for his speech. He was by far the most interesting part of ceremony and talks passionately and at length about the development of the festival and its aims. He explains that it his desire that the festival act as a meeting point for film-makers and their audience. He implores us, "to look closely into the eyes of each other". He argues that films are more than just merchandise and commodity. Particularly with world cinema we are being presented with the opportunity to experience another culture, Yasuhiro argues. He finishes by asking, "When we watch movies we are asked questions by the creators, how well do we understand them?" An interesting speech and a good mood setter for the start of the festival.
Finally, it is time for the films to start. The opening film is the Indonesian The Dreamer / Sang Pemimpi by Riri Riza. He arrives on stage to introduce the film. He comes across as a nice guy, very humble. He says how proud he is to be involved with the festival and explains how he first found out about it in his first year at film school and made it his goal to be selected. Admittedly, he doesn't say much of interest with relation to tonight's film, but has a certain charisma. This is his fourth film here and the sequel to last years film The Rainbow Troops / Drupadi 2008. After he is done his producer comes on stage, Mira Lesmana. She asks everyone in the crowd to wave so she can take a picture for twitter. They get a big round of applause as their film starts.
Review for The Dreamer will be up shortly.