Marrakech Fest: Japanese Cinema in 'Crisis' Claims Hirokau Kore-Eda (Q&A)

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Hirokazu Kore-Eda

"The stars are no longer going to Tokyo but to Shanghai," says the director of Cannes winner 'Like Father, Like Son'

The boom in Chinese and Korean films is overshadowing Japanese cinema in Asia, according to acclaimed Japanese director, and Cannes Jury Prize winner, Hirokazu Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son).

The filmmaker, head of the Japanese delegation to the Marrakech Film Festival, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the state of his national cinema, as Marrakech pays tribute to Japanese films with a week-long homage that includes 1955’s Floating Clouds, animation classics Akira and Spirited Away, and Naomi Kawase’s Cannes Competition title Still the Water.

How does it feel to bring Japanese cinema to this part of the world that might not have been exposed to it before?

I’m very pleased and very honored. It’s a fantastic experience to have so many films shown in here and to have so many great Japanese directors with me. I think it’s a heavy burden to be the chief of the delegation but it is also a very happy time.

It’s a very important opportunity for us. It’s impressive that they chose to show the people here the history of Japanese cinema going as far back as (Yasujuiro) Ozu, (Kenji) Mizoguchi and (Mikio) Naruse. I think it’s a very unique experience to show the diversity of Japanese cinema and the historical side of it.

What is the current state of the Japanese film industry?

It’s in a kind of a crisis. It’s not only Japanese film though, cinema is in crisis all over the world.  But we do have a crisis in Japan.  However it is difficult to see from the outside, because Japanese films can support themselves in the Japanese market, so it’s not an open-aired crisis. The problem is that Japanese films get enough revenue from inside, but don’t look outward.  The problem is that our films have difficulty exporting themselves and getting outside Japan.

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Is it the language or is it a point of view that doesn’t translate well to other markets?

There’s the language, of course, but the fact is that we are people living on an island and we live in a very closed world. It is the “island complex.”

Among the members of the delegation we have three members who have decided they will film outside of Japan. Mr. Nakata has the experience, and Mr. (Kazuyoshi) Kumakiri and Mr.(Kiyoshi) Kurosawa are preparing films outside Japan. They are going to shoot in France. The members of the delegation are conscious of the fact that we need to open our minds to the outside, and work outside.

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Is this coming from pressure from South Korea or China, other countries in the region with exploding growth in cinema?

It’s true that when Hollywood looks to Asia they are no longer looking to the Japanese market they look to the Chinese market, and the stars are no longer going to Tokyo but to Shanghai. I think it will continue like this for the next decade but I don’t think Japanese filmmakers are feeling it yet. I don’t feel we are frightened by the other markets; I think we are more stimulated by it.

I don’t think in terms of the Japanese market share. I just think the Koreans are making good films, and I am more stimulated by them and I try to make as good films as they do. In film it’s not necessary to think in terms of the World Cup, where we need to “win.” If we fight in the world, we fight against Europe, and we are going to lose. But inside Asia are we winning or not? This isn't soccer. In terms of Asia, we want to grow together. Be stimulated by each other and grow together.

Is the Japanese film economy impacted by internet viewing or video games in a culture that is very mobile?

We do feel the culture of cinema against the Internet, but it’s not my generation to answer this question. We have to live when we have been born. For example, a film is made to be seen in the theater, to share the emotion, the laughter with other people. The internet is an alone culture. I don’t know if it will be called a film in this new culture, but the new generation born with internet will have to answer that.

For our generation, you are born buying books, reading books, going to the bookshop where you meet people and discuss the book and talk with the shop keeper. Amazon has changed it completely. Is a book bought on Amazon the same as a book bought in the bookstore, with the shop keeper? I don't know, I cannot answer that.  It’s the same with a film.

But we have to be aware that it’s the same as when television appeared. The cinema world decided to create a barrier between those who were working for cinema and those who were working for television. The result was that television won.

How will the closing or changing of Studio Ghibli impact Japanese film?

It will have a big impact on animation in Japan. I can say that the studio will be smarter and thinner after Mr. (Hayao) Miazaki and Mr. (Isao) Takahata retire. They will continue the production of short films for the museum, but they fired all the animators.  Maybe they will make some non-animation fiction going forward. I know Mr. (Toshio) Suzuki. He is very bright, has many ideas and I’m sure of he’s thinking of something to innovate the studio.

It will be a loss but we are grateful to Mr. Miyazaki for making many great masterpieces. He is a kokumin sakka (after much back and forth, roughly translated as a national treasure beloved by generations within the island).

How far along are you on your next film Umimachi Diary?

It is based on the manga Umimachi Diary. It will be Kamakura Diary, which is outside of Tokyo. It is the story of four sisters in four seasons. I have already finished the first three seasons. I still have five days to shoot when I get back to Japan to do the winter season, then shooting will be finished.  Then I have to edit, then that’s all [laughs].

Will it be finished in time for Cannes?

I’m not even finished the shooting!  I don’t know if it is possible, but if it is I will try.  It would be great to have the world premiere in Cannes.

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