Q

Why did you start selling Japanese films and what is the key thing that convinced you?

A

Our company Fortissimo Films was founded in the early 1990’s by three people who had a great appreciation for Asian Cinema including of course Japanese cinema and some of the young Fortissimo’s early acquisitions were from Japan including “March Comes In Like a Lion (Sangatsu No Raion)” by Hitoshi Yazaki and “Love Letter” by Shunji Iwai; and there were others. They then and we now understand that Japanese cinema had many great filmmakers who were not being well represented on the world scene and so it was a matter of good business combined with a desire to be a part of the force bringing and exposing this cinema to the world.

Q

What do Japanese films mean to you? What makes Japanese films different to films from other countries?

A

Japanese cinema has always had its own voice, its own style-very idiosyncratic and unique in the world and that makes it at the same time very compelling and interesting while presenting numerous challenges. There has been this dichotomy where few real independent films are able to be mounted and most films have been financed and produced either by the entertainment giants or by multi –company multi industry consortiums. Which often have different rationales for being in the film business. With this, the Japanese domestic market has been the primary driving force for most productions and little thought was paid to the global market. Also the nature of the stories and the style of the story-telling made into films was far more oriented to the local market than you would find in many other countries filmmaking. Also very few international stars have been created who are known globally and speak foreign languages such as speaking English or French or Chinese. With that you ended up with this relatively inward looking and insular style of filmmaking. Still with all of that, there of course have been a number of gems and in recent years there have been more and more Japanese filmmakers showing up in the major film festivals with films that were financed and produced independently.


Japan needs to enhance its support and further nurture it’s filmmakers and producers so that those who have the innate talent to rise to the world scene are able to do so.
— Michael J. Werner

Q

Akira Kurosawa is still one of the successful Japanese directors internationally. What do Japanese directors,production companies, and producers need to do to reach his level of success globally?

A

Akira Kurosawa was one of the world’s greatest filmmakers…Japan needs to enhance its support and further nurture it’s filmmakers and producers so that those who have the innate talent to rise to the world scene are able to do so. And then I think that there has to be attention paid to creating a better environment for creative producers to emerge who have a fair footing with the financier and also have the respect of the directors so that there is a better balance.

Q

Is it difficult to sell Japanese films? What is the advantage and weakness?

A

These days, all foreign language cinema is more difficult to sell internationally than in the past so Japanese cinema shares in that. At the same time the idiosyncratic nature of Japanese cinema which tends to have a specific style of storytelling, often with longer running times and casts or storylines that are not known to foreign audiences adds to the difficulty. However for some audiences, that is also the charm and uniqueness of films from Japan and with that there are a number of filmmakers from Japan that have strong Festival and audience followings. That includes of course filmmakers like Shunji Iwai, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takashi Shimuzu, Sabu, Koki Mitani, Shion Sono, Takashi Miike, and Hirokazu Koreeda; many of whom we have had the pleasure of working with.

Q

What do you expect to Japanese films in the future?

A

I expect that those Japanese filmmakers who have been enjoying international acclaim and success will continue to do so, and that with ether local Japanese or international support and nurturing a new wave of Japanese filmmakers will have a chance to make their mark on the scene--- like what happened with a very nice modest sized film that we handle called “Capturing Dad (Chihi O Tori Ni)” from young director Ryota Nakano; for sure a talent to watch.