FFY3: Film Festivals and East Asia

January 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

I am pleased to announce the publication of our new volume from the Film Festival Yearbook undertaking, the third one in a row. Co-edited by myself and Ruby Cheung, this one is dedicated to Film Festivals and East Asia and is available to order from our web-site; it is also possible to order it in combination with our previous volumes, Film Festivals and Imagined Communities and The Film Festival Circuit, at a special price. Working on this volume was extremely engaging and exciting. The collaborators were based all over the world, as usual, and we managed to gain insights into a little known but thriving area for film festivals.

The table of contents features:


East Asia: ‘New Localism’, ‘Full Service’ and Film Festivals
Dina Iordanova

Part I: Contexts

Asian Film Festivals, Translation, and the European Film Festival Short Circuit
Abé Mark Nornes

East Asian Film Festivals: Film Markets
Ruby Cheung

Japan 1951-1970: National Cinema as Cultural Currency
Julian Stringer

News for Whom?: Critical Coverage of the 10th Jeonju International Film Festival
Adrian Martin

Washington, Pusan, Rotterdam, Udine and Back: Programming East Asian Films for American Audiences
Tom Vick

Comrades and Citizens: Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals in China
Ragan Rhyne

Part II: Case Studies

Bulldozers, Bibles, and Very Sharp Knives: The Chinese Independent Documentary Scene
Abé Mark Nornes

Programming Southeast Asia at the Singapore International Film Festival
Felicia Chan and Dave Chua

Taipei Film Festival: Creation of a Global City
Yun-hua Chen

Tourism and the Landscape of Thai Film Festivals
Adam Knee and Kong Rithdee

North Korea’s Pyongyang International Film Festival
James Bell

Between Europe and Asia? A Chronicle of the ‘Eurasia’ International Film Festival (Kazakhstan)
Birgit Beumers

Part III: Resources

The Resources: Necessary Groundwork
Dina Iordanova

1. ‘I believe in “film as art”’An Interview with Li Cheuk-to, Artistic Director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF)
Ruby Cheung
2. A Platform to the World: An Interview with Kim Ji-seok, Executive Programmer of the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF)
Seunghee Lee
3. ‘It’s very simple. We like to give the audience the chance to see good films’ An Interview with Hayashi Kanako and Ichiyama Shozo of Tokyo FILMeX
Chris Fujiwara
4. Do Vodka and Sake Really Mix? An Interview with Natalia Shakhnazarova, Executve Director of Pacific Meridian: Vladivostok International Film Festival of Asian Pacific Countries
Alex Fischer

Location Map (Alex Fischer)
Table 1: The Asia-Pacific Film Festival (1954- ) (Sangjoon Lee)
Table 2: East Asian Festivals by Decade (Ruby Cheung and Alex Fischer)
Table 3: Festivals Featuring Significant East Asian Cinema Content (Andrew Dorman and Alex Fischer)
Table 4: Film Festivals in Mainland China (Ma Ran)
Table 5: Film Festivals in Hong Kong (Ma Ran)
Table 6: Film Festivals in Taiwan (Yun-hua Chen)
Table 7: Film Festivals in Japan (Alex Marlow-Mann)
Table 8: Film Festivals in South Korea (Yun Mi Hwang)
Table 9: Film Festivals in Singapore (Dave Chua)
Table 10: Film Festivals in Central Asia and the Asian Part of the former USSR (Birgit Beumers)
Table 11: Documentary Festivals in Asia (Abé Mark Nornes)
Table 12: GLBT Festivals in Asia (Ragan Rhyne)
Table 13: Monetary Value of Awards at Top Festivals in East Asia (Alex Fischer)

Bibliography: Film Festivals and East Asia (Alex Fischer)

What is New in Film Festivals Studies Thematic Bibliography on Film Festival Research: Update 2010
Marijke de Valck and Skadi Loist

Screen International: International Blockbusters

November 23, 2009 at 1:51 am

I am wondering what the magazine is actually covering by way of reviewing international films. Indeed, there are a number of articles discussing the dynamics in international and particularly Asian film industry lately. When it comes to reviewing concrete films, however, there is a strange discrepancy to be observed. There are always reviews of the American films that are at the top of the international box office, as well as of some of those from Europe. However, almost none of the Asian films that appear in the top forty (or, for that matter, even in the top ten) listings, are being reviewed. Over the past several months, for example, Screen International offered a somewhat belated yet adequate coverage on the Nordic hit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Danish-Swedish co-production, but barely any coverage on the other top-40 European films, which in most cases originate from countries like Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Russia. One of the few box office hits from Asia to see a more detailed review was Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, the tale of the fateful dog that waited on the city train station in Shibuya for his dead ‘salaryman’-owner every day for a number of years after his dead. It is a beloved Tokyo story; the statue of the dog can be seen at this most famous intersection in the city.

However, except the brief ‘capsula’ reviews of some of these titles, endurable 2009 box office hits from Asia, such as South Korean Haeundae and Take Off, Indian Kambakkh Ishq, Kaminey, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, or the Japanese 20th Century Boys and April Brides were not written about.

The most endurable Asian presence in the global top ten box office of this past summer (2009), the Japanese baseball drama Rookies, which made nearly a hundred million from its very limited territorial distribution, was not covered either. It is interesting to note that at the time of this writing it appears there is no entry for the film at the IMDb, either. It only lists the TV series on which the film is based.

In my view, the function of the magazine which bills itself as ‘trade’ would be to serve the trade by bringing information on what is hot and what sells. If I am a distributor, I may be particularly interested in knowing more about films that made tens of millions of dollars elsewhere, as they clearly have got commercial potential. Instead, the review section of Screen International offers reviews of small festival films that are regularly assessed as lacking adequate commercial potential. On the one hand, there is information on the performance of global blockbusters but no information on the actual style/content of those. On the other hand, there are reviews of artistically worthwhile (or sometimes disappointing) films that lack in commercial potential. Ultimately, the message as I receive it, is: Only commercial cinema from the US merits coverage and attention, this is the only sphere where money can be made; the only aspect of international cinema that deserves our consideration includes arthouse and indie films with no popular appeal.

© Dina Iordanova
23 November 2009

Ozu’s Autumn Afternoon/ Sanma no aji (1962)

May 28, 2008 at 1:47 am

Saw Ozu’s last film, Autumn Afternoon (a.k.a. The Widower), certainly not a widely available one. Like other films by Ozu, it tackles themes of radical solitude, of egotistic parents and siblings, and of family politics. (Mariko Okada stars as the daughter in law).

The scene of the daughter’s wedding day from this 1962 film reminded me of the photo of a newly wed couple that we took in 2007 at the Shinto shrine in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.

Japan may have changed, but in some respects at least it looks the same as in earlier times.

Autumn Afternoon‘s use of bright color spots (blue, yellow, red, pink) on the background of generally monochrome interiors, has been replicated in cinema in films ranging from Tati’s Playtime (1967) to Kusturica’s Black Cat, White Cat (1998).

© Dina Iordanova
28 May 2008

Oshima’s Night and Fog in Japan (1960)

May 20, 2008 at 12:24 am

Saw Nagisa Oshima’s Night ad Fog in Japan/Nihon no yoru to kiri (1960), the earliest of Oshima’s I have seen so far. It is being released on DVD in France.

I could not warm up to the film, which tells stories from the Japanese Zengakuren youth resistance in the 1950s. Heavy in serious dialogue, the film is so different in style from other films of Oshima which I know (true, I have not had the chance to see much of his early work, the only other relatively early film of his I know is the memorable 1969 Boy/Shonen, which is a completely different affair in terms of psychological sensibility and narrative mastery). Night and Fog in Japan is very theatrical, all scenes are set in confined stage-like spaces, and shot with a static camera. The main setting is the 1960 wedding of two young leftists which serves as a frame of reference for the multiple flashbacks tracing events from previous years (as far back as 1952) that determine the fate of the protagonists, all engaged with the communist struggle and opposition to the evolving post-war neoimperialism. The endless bickering between the characters, all members of a the same party cell, mostly over the issue of what is the appropriate morality in the context of an overwhelming political struggle, reminded me of many Soviet and East European films that also deal with the dynamics of the intricate relationships within Comsomol groups, dominated by often stiff notions of what is the morals of the fight and how love infatuations should not be allowed to interfere. In the finest works of the East European tradition, however, these are usually shown as examples of twisted and perverse ‘morality’ and mostly satirized, probably best done in Hungary in Pál Gábor’s Angi Vera (1979)

The screening at the Filmotheque of Quartier Latin took place in the presence of film historian Jean Narboni, who has written extensively on Oshima. The film’s political background, and the history of its making and shelving by Shochiku is covered in Maureen Turim’s The Films of Oshima Nagisa: Images of a Japanese Iconoclast, in Donald Richie’s A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, and in Oshima’s own volume Cinema, Censorship, and the State: The Writings of Nagisa Oshima, 1956-1978. Good short reviews of the film can be found at Strictly Film School and Midnight Eye. See also the detailed Wikipedia article.

More of Oshima’s early films are becoming available in France, with the publication of his ‘Youth Trlogy’, containing Tomorrow’s Sun (1959), Town of Love and Hope (1959), and Cruel Story of Youth (1960).

© Dina Iordanova
21 May 2008

Kiju Yoshida and Mariko Okada at the Centre Pompidou

May 11, 2008 at 11:25 pm

The retrospective of Kiju Yoshida, the Japanese New Wave director (listed at the IMDB as Yoshishige Yoshida) has been going on at the Centre Pompidou since the time of my arrival here in March, but it is only a few days ago that I attended the screening of The Affair (Joen, 1970), a film closely related to Antonioni and Bergman’s aesthetics and themes of the same period.

The film was introduced by the director and his muse/wife, famous actress Mariko Okada, who are both 75 this year. While Yoshida spoke of his memories from the shoot, Okada referred to the beauty of the kimonos. Both clad in Yohji Yamamoto-style deep black loose clothes, the venerable couple possessed this uniquely exclusive air of intellectual superiority, finesse, poise and elegance that places the Japanese beyond compare.

Carlotta films, who have organized the retrospective, have released ten Yoshida films in two DVD packs, Coffret Kiju Yoshida, vol. 1: une vague nouvelle 60-64, which includes Good for Nothing, Akitsu Springs, Bitter End of a Sweet Night, Blood is Dry and Escape from Japan and Coffret Kiju Yoshida, vol. 2: contre le melodrame containing Flame and Women, A Story Written with Water, The Affair, Affair in the Snow and Woman of the Lake, as well as a separate DVDs of his famed Eros + massacre (a film which even has a book (Desser) and a blog named after it). As it is usually the case with DVDs released in France, they are only available with French subtitling.

Yoshida worked with Ozu and made documentaries about him. His book Ozu’s Anti-Cinema is translated into English and available from Amazon.

© Dina Iordanova
11 May 2008