After the much-discussed article we ran about the end of Third Window Films
called into question, among other issues, the market for challenging
Asian films in the UK, it's interesting to see what a strong focus this
year's Edinburgh Film Festival has put on Asian film.
In addition to a number of competition titles from all over Asia, the festival is showing a restored print of Shin'ya Tsukamoto
's Tetsuo, the Iron Man
a complete retrospective of Shinji Somai
's (Sailor Suit and Machine
, Love Hotel
) films and an expansive sidebar dedicated to the
Filipino New Wave. For more details, recommendations and some further
perspective on Asian film in the UK, we turned to the festival's
artistic director Chris Fujiwara
ScreenAnarchy - While it's an incredibly expansive lineup, there's definitely a focus on
Asian film in this year's Edinburg Film festival. Was this intentional
from the beginning or did it just happen to play out this way?
I've been interested in Asian cinema for a long time. It's not
too much to say that since the 1980s, East Asia has been the richest,
most exciting region for filmmaking. Before coming to Edinburgh I'd been
living in Tokyo for six years so I've had the chance to get to know a
number of filmmakers, film critics, and film programmers in the region.
Can you talk a bit more about your goals and the reasons behind this programming?
I wanted to introduce to Edinburgh some of the best
contemporary work from East Asia. Some of the directors whose films we
are showing are well known, such as Lav Diaz, Shinya Tsukamoto
, and Wang
. Others are young filmmakers who are represented by their first or
The Shinji Somai retrospective is especially interesting, as he's not as
known outside Japan, but very famous in the country. How did his films
come to your attention for inclusion in the festival?
For years, Somai had been for me only a name - someone whose
work, I knew, was highly regarded in Japan. I had no way of appreciating
the reasons why he was held in such esteem until I saw his films at the
retrospective at TOKYO FILMeX last November. They were absolutely
astonishing me and they continue to astonish me the more I watch them.
How difficult was it to pull together an entire retrospective?
It was very difficult. Somai worked for a number of different
studios, and the rights to his films belong to different companies and
have to be negotiated separately. Also, finding the prints was a major
undertaking. We couldn't have done this retrospective without the help
of TOKYO FILMeX and without the help of Koji Enokido
, a film producer
and director who started his career as Somai's assistant. Enokido-san is
one of an informal group of former Somai associates who are dedicated
to safeguarding his legacy and bringing his films to a wider audience.
They call themselves the Somai-gumi, or the Somai team.
And on the subject of filmmakers who have trouble finding an audience
outside of Japan: We've just run an article about the unfortunate end of
Third Window Films' theatrical distribution run. It sparked quite a bit
of debate about the market for Asian film in the U.K., especially more
adventurous stuff that doesn't fall into internationally accepted genres
associated with Japan (Samurai's etc.) As someone who seems to be
trying to make sure Asian cinema still has a home in the UK, what are
your thoughts on the current demand in the UK for Asian film?
I don't know the UK audience so well yet, having lived here only since
January. I was very sorry to read Adam's letter, sorry that Himuzu
not do better theatrically here, and sorry that he's decided to get out
of theatrical distribution. I believe that the audience needs to be
educated, and that there are opportunities for this to happen in the UK,
where there are many film festivals, many people doing good critical
writing on film, and many universities with film studies courses. A
potential audience exists for adventurous films. It's just necessary to
reach them and show them why they would want to go to the cinemas to see
these films. I know Adam has done a lot of this work; now others need
to join him.
The Philippines new wave program also caught my eye. Can you talk some
about the process of putting together this program and your perception
of Filipino cinema in general right now?
Khavn De La Cruz,
very prolific filmmaker and musician, curated this program. I think
the Philippines is currently the most exciting country in the world for
cinema. There is a community of independent filmmakers there working
with little or no institutional support, with few opportunities to show
their films in regular cinemas in their own country, and they are
helping one another get their films made and shown. Khavn's program is
an example of this effort.
What are a few of your favorite discoveries in the festival program
among the newer Asian cinema playing?
is a beautiful film, a very simple, brief, closely observed
study of an ordinary Seoul married couple in their thirties who are
considering having a baby. It won the prize in the Korean section at the
Jeonju International Film Festival where it premiered shortly after we
had already programmed it for our festival. We also have the world
premiere of the Chinese film Here, Then
the first feature directed by
- a really remarkable film about the occupations and obsessions
of a diverse group of characters. The first part of the film is set in a
desolate resort town, the second part in Beijing, and it's visually
extraordinary, reflecting the influences of both Michelangelo Antonioni
and finding an original way of working with these
influences. I would also mention DJ Chen
's Young Dudes
, from Taiwan, a
mysterious and very pleasant film about how three young people face the
imminent end of humanity.