​'Snow Leopard' wins top award at Tokyo film festival

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 6, 2023
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Late director Pema Tseden's final film, "Snow Leopard," received the Grand Prix at the closing ceremony of the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) on Nov. 1.

A still image from "Snow Leopard." [Photo courtesy of Great Luck Films]

The Tibetan-language drama is the eighth film by the acclaimed Tibetan director who passed away this May. The idea for the film emerged in 2020 during his stay in Xining, Qinghai province, with the entire project spanning three years, from finalizing the script to completing production.

The film centers on a dispute between a father and son after an endangered snow leopard enters a sheep pen and kills nine rams, delving into diverse perspectives, choices, and escalating conflicts about whether to release the leopard trapped in the sheep pen. The film explores the interconnectedness of "heaven, earth, humans and animals" and questions the nature of the human-animal relationship.

Pema Tseden's 26-year-old son, Jigme Trinley, who is also an emerging film director and recently released his debut film "One and Four" in China, stated that "Snow Leopard" represents a new breakthrough in his father's filmography, allowing the audience to feel the hope of love amid the cool-toned environment and witness Pema Tseden's fresh understanding of life, the world, and Tibetan culture. Jigme Trinley is also the executive director of "Snow Leopard."

The cast and crew accepted the award on behalf of Pema Tseden at the 36th TIFF. "You are not here today, but our film has won this award," the lead actor Jinpa said, directing his words to the heavens. Meanwhile, his fellow actor Tseten Tashi said he could still feel Tseden's presence spiritually. "Thank you for guiding me, an average man who knew nothing, into the world of cinema," he said. "'Snow Leopard' is about the love for nature and how great that love is."

The cast and crew of "Snow Leopard" pose for photos holding the Tokyo Grand Prix and the Governor of Tokyo Award during the closing ceremony of the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 1, 2023. [Photo/VCG]

As a director, Pema Tseden created several highly acclaimed and award-winning films, such as "The Silent Holy Stones" (2005), "The Search" (2009), "Old Dog" (2011), "Tharlo" (2015), and "Balloon" (2019). His credits also include "Jinpa" (2018), which won the Best Screenplay Award when it premiered in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival in 2018. "Snow Leopard," completed before the director's passing, premiered out of competition at this year's Venice Film Festival and was later screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, receiving critical acclaim.

This year's TIFF also had a notable Chinese presence. Chinese film "A Long Shot," representing the feature directorial debut of Gao Peng, took home the Best Artistic Contribution Award, while Chinese director Gu Xiaogang and Indonesian director Mouly Surya received the honorary Kurosawa Akira Award, recognizing emerging filmmakers who have made significant contributions to cinema and are expected to shape the industry's future. 

Additionally, Zhang Yimou, whose latest period film "Full River Red" screened in the Gala section, received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement prize. Renowned Hong Kong-based actor Tony Leung participated in a masterclass event and his film "2046" received a special screening during the festival. Chinese director Jia Zhangke also participated in communication events and a symposium commemorating the 120th anniversary of the birth of the late master filmmaker Ozu Yasujiro.

This year's TIFF, held from Oct. 23 to Nov. 1, saw COVID-19 restrictions lifted, resulting in 78,841 admissions for 219 films screened during the festival. Furthermore, the number of international attendees increased from 104 last year to 2,000. TIFFCOM, the affiliated content market, returned in-person from Oct. 25-27 for the first time since 2019. Additionally, the organizers noted that 22.4% of the 219 films were directed by women.

36th Tokyo International Film Festival winners

Tokyo Grand Prix: "Snow Leopard"

Special Jury Prize: "Tatami"

Best Director: Kishi Yoshiyuki, "(Ab)normal Desire"

Best Actress: Zar Amir, "Tatami"

Best Actor: Yasna Mirtahmasb, "Roxana"

Best Artistic Contribution: "A Long Shot"

Audience Award: "(Ab)normal Desire"

Asian Future Best Film Award: "Maria"

Amazon Prime Video Take One Award: Tang Liping, "Gone With the Wind"

Amazon Prime Video Take One Award, Special Jury Prize: Yasumura Emi, "Be Prepared"

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