Special Guests at the 2015 Toronto Japanese Film Festival

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The Toronto Japanese Film Festival is very excited to be welcoming three exceptional guests for this year’s festival.

Director Masato Harada will be here for opening night to present the International Premiere of his new flm KAKEKOMI. Director Masayuki Suo and actress Tamiyo Kusakari bring the North American Premiere of their LADY MAIKO for our closing night.

Award winning director Masato Harada was born in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. He studied English in London and attended the Tokyo College of Photography and Pepperdine University, where he trained as a filmmaker. He has also worked as a film critic and an English to Japanese subtitle translator for number of American films. One of Japan’s most accomplished directors, Mr. Harada’s films have been celebrated both domestically and internationally. His films include Bounce Ko Girls, Kamikaze Taxi, Inugami, Climbers High, A Chronicle of my Mother which won the Special Grand Jury Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival. His new film Kakekomiopening in May 2015 in Japan and he currently at work on another major film The Emperor in August. As an actor, he appeared in Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai in 2003and Ronny Yu’s Fearless in 2006.

After a childhood spent living and breathing movies and baseball, Tokyo-born Masayuki Suo entered Rikkyo University where lectures by esteemed movie critic, Shigehiko Hasumi inspired him to become a film director. His Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (1992) won Best Film at the Japanese Academy Awards and was a surprise hit at Cannes. 1996’s Shall We Dance? swept nearly every category of the 20th Japanese Academy Awards and became a social phenomenon. Suo married Tamiyo Kusakari, the lead actress in Shall We Dance? that same year. 2007’s I Just Didn’t Do It won a numerous awards including the Japanese academy Awards for Best Film. In 2012, he reunited the two lead actors from Shall We Dance? in A Terminal Trust, a love story in the context of terminal hospital care. That film was a popular favorite at the 2013 Toronto Japanese Film Festival. Suo returns to this year’s festival with his light-hearted musical Lady Maiko, a major hit in Japan that unsurprisingly won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Music.

Tokyo-born, Tamiyo Kusakari began ballet at the age of 8 before joining the prestigious Asami Maki troupe. By 1991 she was invited to perform with the Stanislavsky and Nemorivich-Danchenko Music Theatre in Moscow; between 1997 and 2009 she was a regular performer with the Leningrad National Ballet. As an actress starred in the multi-award winning Shall We Dance? winning the Best Actress Award at the Japanese Academy Awards in 1996. As her active dancing career came to a close, she focused her energies on acting. In 2010 she joined the cast of the prestigious NHK historical drama Life of Sakamoto Ryoma. 2011 and 2012 saw her return to the big screen in two of Masayuki Suo’s movies, Dancing Chaplin and A Terminal Trust. For the latter she received her second Japanese Academy Award. She is now established as one of the leading screen talents of her generation.

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