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Europe, Be Cool (Japan)!

A group of people walking in front of a sign

Have you noticed how we — in Europe — don’t see that much Japanese films being released in theaters? Well, Japan wants to change that.

As part of an economic partnership between Japan and the European Union, the Japanese government would love to see a change in the European “screen quota” system — which currently obliges theaters to screen a certain amount of domestic films.

The newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the Japanese government sees the system as “is an obstacle to a no-tax policy in principle”. It’s all about trade!

This is part of the Cool Japan strategy from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to promote Japan’s soft power around the world — films, books, fashion… This is basically what South Korea has been doing (successfully) for decades now, putting the country on the international radar (and that’s how “we” discovered Kim Ki-duk, because he received support from the government).

While one could argue about the Cool Japan term — inherently uncool — it’s quite surprising to see Japan willing to export local films when the cinema industry is facing important creative issues — Cool Japan is supposed to promote creative industries.

Moreover, when “foreign” distributors are interested in buying Japanese films, the negotiations are said to be difficult as Japanese producers aren’t selling cheap, ignoring the reality of “foreign” markets: foreign audiences aren’t that interested anymore. In France, Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son sold 387,594 tickets (it’s great) & Kitano’s Outrage 2 was released on video only (3 years after its Japanese release!!!).

What about the creators? Back in November ‘15, during the Tokyo International Film Festival, IndieWire talked to several Japanese independent filmmakers, one of them, Momoko Ando (director of 0.5mm) said “we need our government to be much more supportive to the filmmaking culture” pointing out many difficulties — constraints to finance, shoot and screen the film! They’re not cool enough?

In the end, where are officially government-approved cool Japanese films to be exported?

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