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Tokyo Olympics documentary film debuts in Japan; heads to Cannes

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Tokyo Olympics documentary film debuts in Japan; heads to Cannes

By Associated Press

TOKYO – A documentary film about the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics was shown to reporters and other invited guests in the Japanese capital on Monday.

The 120-minute film, directed by Naomi Kawase of Japan, examines the Olympics from the perspective of the athletes — not just the winners.

After Tokyo, the film will be shown in the Bunuel Theater at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, named after Spanish-born iconoclastic filmmaker Luis Bunuel.

“The Olympics are not just about winning prizes, being first, and chasing a victory that is right in front of you right now,” Kawase said in a recent interview. “I also attempted to depict the pursuit of becoming a winner in life.”

Judo, softball, surfing, women’s basketball, and skateboarding are among the sports included in the video. It avoids the medal ceremonies, flag waving, and who won — and who lost — for the most part, instead focusing on the drama of competing.

In the last minutes of the video, before the titles rolled, Yiannis Exarchos, the CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services, attempted to summarise the documentary’s objective.

Olympic athletes, he noted, frequently “perform something utterly unexpected.” This is a stroke of brilliance. Yes, we must complete all of these activities in order to gain a new perspective on the world. Even if it’s only for a millisecond.”

Judo, softball, surfing, women’s basketball, and skateboarding are among the sports included in the video. It avoids the medal ceremonies, flag waving, and who won — and who lost — for the most part, instead focusing on the drama of competing.

In the last minutes of the video, before the titles rolled, Yiannis Exarchos, the CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services, attempted to summarise the documentary’s objective.

Olympic athletes, he noted, frequently “perform something utterly unexpected.” This is a stroke of brilliance. Yes, we must complete all of these activities in order to gain a new perspective on the world. Even if it’s only for a millisecond.”

The film focuses on a variety of sports, including judo, softball, surfing, women’s basketball, and skateboarding. It avoids the medal ceremonies, flag waving, and who won — and who lost — for the most part, instead emphasising the drama of competing.

Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services, attempted to summarise the documentary’s mission in the final minutes before the credits rolled.

He stated that Olympic athletes frequently “do something completely unexpected.” This is a stroke of genius. Yes, we must go through all of these exercises in order to see the world in a new light. Even if only for a millisecond.”

The video featured flashes of the Tokyo Games’ controversies, including protesters calling for their cancellation and scenes questioning the appropriateness of holding the Games in the midst of a pandemic.

The “Side B” version is likely to address other issues, including Yoshiro Mori’s resignation as president of the local organising committee.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Mori resigned five months before the Games began after making insulting remarks about women, claiming they “speak too much.”

Kon Ichikawa’s documentary “Tokyo Olympiad,” on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, is widely recognised as one of the genre’s most influential works. Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936 Berlin Olympics film “Olympia” is also included in this category.

Kawase stated she was honoured to follow in Ichikawa’s footsteps and wanted to show both what could be seen and what could not be seen.

“How human beings reach the zenith of physical beauty affected me,” Kawase added. “I thought they were all incredibly gorgeous to watch, not just the winners,” she said. And the time they spent getting there was equally lovely.”

The documentary by Kawase is simply titled “Official Film of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

She was named to direct the film in 2018, and it looks briefly at the one-year postponement announced in March of 2020, as well as the buildup to the opening ceremony — largely without fans on July 23, 2021 — and the closing on Aug. 8.

According to the synopsis, the film took 750 days to shoot and 5,000 hours to film.

According to Cannes, the film captures “not only the athletes from all over the world, but also their families, people involved in the Games, volunteers, media personnel, and protesters calling for the Olympics to be cancelled.” The film depicts the passion and anguish that resulted from the Olympic Games.”

Kawase is a well-known director who, with her 1997 film “Suzaku,” became the youngest director to win the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

“Sweet Bean” and “Still the Water” are two of her most well-known recent flicks.

The documentary is a requirement of the hosting contract and is funded by the International Olympic Organization and the local organising committee.

When Kawase was launched four years ago, Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organising committee, noted that the IOC owns the rights to the video and “has the authority to make critical decisions in the making of the film.”

Kawase claimed she was upset by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, questioning the purpose of entertainment in the midst of wartime death.

“I hope that when people view this film 50 or 100 years from now, they will appreciate the importance of conserving that small piece of happiness,” Kawase added.

 

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