The 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) came to a close after 10 days of physical screenings and a range of online events. The Audience Award, selected by audiences from among 32 titles chosen for the special Tokyo Premiere 2020 section, all of which were making either their world or Asian premieres at TIFF, went to the Japanese romcom Hold Me Back by director Akiko Ohku, whose Tremble All You Want won the same coveted trophy at the 30th TIFF in 2017.
Hold Me Back features popular young actress Non in the role of Mitsuko, a 31-year-old single gal who is never really alone, since her best friend is the voice in her head. Based on a novel by Akutagawa Prizewinner Risa Wataya, as was Tremble All You Want, the romcom focuses on Mitsuko’s dilemma when she falls for a younger man, providing insight into the inner struggles of working women in modern-day Tokyo.
Appearing with the film’s lead actress, Non, to accept the award, Ohku said, “I’m really honored to receive this award. My staff and I are really happy to receive the award for a second time. In these past 3 years, the world has changed, and while other festivals had to move online, TIFF was able to have audiences inside theaters, watching the films together. While there’s still anxiety about the coronavirus, I’m so grateful to all the audience members who bought tickets to watch them film, and then voted for it. I hope I’ll soon be able to shake all your hands.”
Remarked Non, who came to national prominence with her titular role on the popular morning TV show Amachan (2013), “I know there’s an Audience Award at TIFF every year, but this year it is the only award, so I really want to thank the audience for choosing our film. On a personal note, it’s been several years since I’ve played the lead role, and I’m so honored that Ohku-san asked me to do so in this film. A film is only complete when an audience gets to see it, so this award is really a precious thing.”
Tokyo Vice Governor Mitsuchika Tarao also presented Ohku with the Governor of Tokyo Award, and read a message on behalf of Governor Yuriko Koike: “I wish to congratulate the director, Akiko Ohko, and all her cast and crew for winning the Audience Award. The artistic and cultural activities of our country were deeply affected by Covid-19, and the battle is still continuing, but I’m delighted that the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival was able to hold a physical edition. When the world is confronted with a common crisis, the power of films becomes important to creating a brighter future.”