TAB 201101 TOKYO FILM-1604211970551
Cast members Tao Tsuchiya and Exile Naoto from the movie 'Food Luck' enter between plastic walls on the stage, installed in order to prevent infections following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as they attend the opening ceremony of the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival, in Tokyo, Japan October 31, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

The Tokyo International Film Festival kicked off on Saturday with live screenings and a host of coronavirus prevention measures to ensure the show could go on.

Audiences were barred from cheering festival guests, required to wear masks, have their temperature taken and use hand sanitiser.

TAB 201101 TOKYO FILM563-1604211989798
Cast members from the movie 'Underdog', Takumi Kimura, Kumi Takiuchi and Mirai Moriyama who is seen on screen via live stream, attend the opening ceremony with director Masaru Taken, screenwriter Shin Sdachi and producer Gen Sato at 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival. Image Credit: Reuters

Foreign guests were mostly absent given Japan’s international border closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, although a small number of directors opted to quarantine for two weeks in order to attend the 33rd annual festival.

Many screenings during the 10-day event were sold out.

“The fact that in these challenging times that you’ve found a way to honour and enjoy watching films on the big screen is a source of inspiration to myself and filmmakers around the world,” said ‘Tenet’ director Christopher Nolan in a video message at the opening ceremony.

The decision to push ahead with the festival highlights the relative progress toward a post-COVID life in Japan and other Asian countries, while surging infections in the United States and parts of Europe prompt renewed lockdowns.

TAB 201101 TOKYO FILM1-1604211974086
Media members wearing protective face masks sit on the floor as they wait for the opening of the venue before the opening ceremony. Image Credit: Reuters

As Hollywood struggles, Japanese animated film ‘Demon Slayer’ is breaking box office records at home after the government recently allowed cinemas to operate again at full capacity.

Festival Chairman Hiroyasu Ando said organisers had agonised over what to do after many other international festivals were cancelled or restricted to online events. With the pandemic easing in Japan and cinemas reopened, they decided to go ahead and provide courage through the “power of the arts,” he said.

“More than anything, going to the cinema, everyone sitting together and laughing and crying together, the feeling that comes from that is so important,” Ando told Reuters in an interview. “This excitement you feel in the cinema — it’s a happiness you just can’t get from watching something alone online.” Organisers did make one major concession because of the pandemic, scrapping most of the competition sections because of the lack of an in-person jury with foreign members. Instead, 32 of the films screening through November 9 will compete for an Audience Award.