Asian cinema, film festivals & us

Banjong Pisanthanakun et al. posing for the camera

Film journalist and program adviser for the Udine festival, Mark Schilling, has published a piece addressing the question, “Is Asian cinema caught in a festival feeding frenzy?”

Based on his long personal experience, Schilling writes about the difficulties today for small film festivals to program Japanese / Asian movies. There are now many festivals dedicated to asian films around the world, which means more competition to get “hot” titles. A situation that has been exploited by sales companies, as Schilling recounts:

In the early days, we could secure films for the Udine festival — even entries in the popular horror franchises “Ring” or “Juon” (“The Grudge”) — with little more than a phone call. Today negotiations can stretch out for weeks or months as sellers mull their options or haggle over everything from screening fees to the size of a star’s entourage.

There’s also the fact that international film festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, have become main spots for screening new films for highly-acclaimed asian film directors — like Kitano, Kore-eda, Kawase…

As Schilling writes, small film festivals have also many options: organizations can help promoting local films, there’s a lot of possibility to find new talents among the almost 600 films released in Japan in 2014… After all, Japanese companies want to show their products somewhere in the world.

Yet, some points are left untouched. The lack of renewal from prestigious international film festivals — always the same few names to be selected. New talents “failing” to become well-established names, even among cinephiles — remember this interview. The current quality of the Japanese film production — artsy as well as mainstream…

Ten years ago, when we talked about asian films, it was a niche. An alternative to american movies (for example) with clear and visible talented directors making engaging films (like Johnnie To, Tsui Hark…). Today, it feels like a niche within the niche.

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