Japan’s filmmakers expand their idea of overseas opportunity

The Japanese film industry has long been insular, making films by and for Japanese with little input from, or concern for, the outside world.

One reason is that its home market is large — Japanese moviegoers buy more than 100 million tickets annually — and makers of even big-budget commercial films can recoup domestically. They thus have less incentive to sell their products abroad than their counterparts in Hong Kong and other, smaller Asian territories. Freed from the perceived need to please outlanders, it makes films that cater almost exclusively to the local audience. You’ve never seen the hit TV show to which the movie is little more than a “special episode”? You’re not a fan of the idol star, better known for her TV commercials than her acting chops? Too bad, the film is not for you anyway.

But ever since Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” won the Golden Lion award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival — and made the world aware of Japanese cinema, then at its creative peak — directors and producers here have set their sights on the “Big Three” festivals: Cannes, Venice and Berlin. Not a few have succeeded, including this year’s Cannes invitees Naomi Kawase (“Radiance”), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Before We Vanish”) and Takashi Miike (“Blade of the Immortal”)

Japan’s filmmakers expand their idea of overseas opportunity



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