Hashimoto Ai: A-List Film Nerd is Inspired Ambassador for Tokyo Festival

Festival Ambassador for this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, Hashimoto Ai is an inspired choice for the role and not only because she is an A-list actor who has starred in hit TV series (“Amachan”) and worked with internationally acclaimed directors like Nakashima Tetsuya (“Confessions”) and Yoshida Daihachi (“The Kirishima Thing”).

She is also a certified film nerd, who has proclaimed her love of everything from 1970s “pink” (softcore adult) classics to low-budget indie films made by her contemporaries, which she sees in theaters, not on her smartphone.

Now 25, she has a career going back to 2009, when she made her screen debut as basketball-loving deaf girl in Mori Ho’s “Give and Go.” Speaking to Variety prior to the line-up press conference for TIFF,

Hashimoto said that from then to now she has seen windows of opportunity opening up in the Japanese film world. “Anyone can make a film now,” she says. “It could be an old man or an old woman or even an elementary school kid. There has been less a changing of the guard from a previous generation to a new one than a steady expansion of opportunity – that’s really important, I think.”

Meanwhile, TIFF has provided Hashimoto with a platform for her work and, in 2020, invited her to speak at a talk event with Korean filmmaker Kim Bora. Did she accept the Ambassador job to pay back the festival for past favors?

“There was a bit of that, yes,” she says. “I do have a strong connection to the festival. They’ve shown my films and I’ve gone to a lot of screenings as an audience member. It been a wonderful experience for me. So when I was asked to be Ambassador my feeling was ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ I’m looking for ways to make my own contribution (to the festival).”

She has a strong interest, she says, in helping “the roots of film and traditional culture to expand and grow.” “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to do that,” she adds. “I hope to find out what I can do by listening to the people I meet at the festival.”

Meanwhile, Hashimoto has been expanding her own activities to music, making media waves by singing tunes by singer-songwriter Ringo Sheena at a concert in Tokyo this May. “I just love singing, so I’m happy to be able to do it,” she says. “When I was acting, I used to feel that if I made one mistake, it was all over for me. I was under that kind of pressure in every scene and it made me really tense and tired. But by singing I can expand my range of expression. It also helps me relax so I can act better. I’ve been able to get closer to my ideal performance. It’s been a big plus for me.” She did not say, however, whether she planned to be TIFF’s first singing ambassador.

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