Fest Nix Yak Pix

This week the Captain refills his flask and hits the festival circuit. Join him in Tokyo's sin city of Kabukicho, where the CineCity film festival is working to reshape the area's notoriously negative image.

In days past, a film festival held within rough-and-tumble Kabukicho might be assumed to feature a sampling of the work from gangster-flick director Seijun Suzuki ("Tokyo Drifter," "Branded to Kill"), or perhaps "Yojimbo," the Akira Kurosawa classic where a samurai arrives in a village run by two groups of gambling mobsters.

But with its smiley tag line, "Let's go to Kabukicho!" the Tokyo International CineCity Film Festival, which begins Nov. 23 at the Shinjuku Milano 1 theater, will be focusing on giving a more positive image of the district.

"This is part of a renaissance taking place in Kabukicho," says Yasushi Yamashita, the festival's chief, who is expecting 7,000 patrons to attend the three-day event. "It will help us send a safe, comfortable impression nationwide."

Now in its second year, the six-film festival will screen the Japan premiere of "Day Watch," a Russian thriller based on the novels of Sergei Luyanenko. Its other major film is "X-Cross," a drama from the Toei studio that stars one-time pop princess Ami Suzuki.

Given the dark cloud that still hangs over the district, getting sponsorship was a challenge, says Yamashita, who was able to attract the likes of Mitsubishi Motors and Tokyo Gas.

A "family cinema jazz concert" featuring saxophonist Saori Yano will be a part of the festivities on Sunday (11:30 a.m.). In subsequent years, the event hopes to expand to include comedy and theater events.

Note: Tokyo International CineCity Film Festival takes place Nov. 23-25. Information can be found online at ticf.info (Japanese only). Movie screenings are ¥1,300 and ¥1,500. This story originally appeared in the November 22nd issue of The Japan Times.

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