The 35th Tokyo International Film Festival has named acclaimed stage and film director Julie Taymor as the president of its main competition jury. Taymor will be the festival’s third consecutive female jury chief, following French screen icon Isabelle Huppert in 2021 and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi in 2019 (the festival didn’t hold a competition in 2020 due to the pandemic).
Taymor is perhaps best known on an international basis as the director of the wildly successful stage musical version of The Lion King, which has played continuously for 25 years in over 100 cities in 20 countries. As a filmmaker, she has directed the Anthony Hopkins Shakespeare adaptation Titus (1999), the Oscar-nominated biopic Frida (2002), the Beatles jukebox romantic drama Across the Universe (2007); and the recent Gloria Steinem film, The Glorias (2020).
Tokyo’s festival chairman Hiroyasu Ando highlighted Taymor’s connections to Japan when unveiling her appointment.
“Ms. Taymor has directed not only musical theater but also many excellent films,” he said, adding: “She has a particularly strong connection with Japan, having studied Ningyo Joruri traditional puppet theater here as a student and later applying it to her own works.”
The Tokyo festival said earlier this week that it will open on Oct. 24 with Takahisa Zeze’s postwar drama Fragments of the Last Will, and closed on Nov. 2 with Oliver Bill Hermanus’s Living, a reinterpretation of the Akira Kurosawa classic Ikiru. Further program announcements are expected next week.
In response to her appointment, Taymor shared the following statement on Friday: “The arts are the beacon that brings us out of the chaos, leading the way. In a darkened theater the images flickering before us draw us both deeply into and also out of ourselves, our isolated and single selves. Hold onto the film theaters, the palaces that bring us together to cross the boundaries of what we don’t know at all, what we think we know and what we have personally experienced. Become the lives and loves of others and let them inspire and torment you. It is a thrilling honor to come to Japan to preside over the international competition jury for the 35th Tokyo International Film Festival.”