TIFFCOM Market Opens at Tokyo Fest With Record Exhibitors

8:37 PM PST 10/24/2011 by Gavin J. Blair

The UniJapan Entertainment Forum got into full swing Monday as the focus at the Tokyo International Film Festival shifted to business.

TOKYO -- The TIFFCOM market opened its high-rise doors Monday, as the UniJapan Entertainment Forum got into full swing and the focus at the Tokyo International Film Festival shifted to business.

With tourism way down post-Fukushima, and some entertainment artists still avoiding Japanese tours, many market participants expressed pleasant surprise at the record 226 exhibitors and overall traffic at TIFFCOM.    

“The turnout is really good. We were worried whether people from overseas were going to come. It’s good to see the support for Japan,” said one local exhibitor.

The U.K. was one of the new country pavilions, with eight companies, including BBC Worldwide, under the Pact (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) umbrella.

“Markets like the U.S. are already well exploited, but Japan is still relatively untapped for many of our member companies,” said Dawn McCarthy-Simpson, senior policy executive at Pact, who reported there were 27 applications for the eight pavilion slots.

The expanded booth spaces at TIFFCOM were all taken and foot traffic was typically brisk for a first market day. However, there were gripes about the rearrangement of the market layout on the 40th floor of the Roppongi Hills tower.

“There’s a new company doing the organizing this year, and there have been a lot of mix-ups with screenings, badges, stuff like that. And the tables in the aisles that we used to use all the time for meetings are gone. Compared to many markets, it’s still well organized, but not to Japanese standards,” said another exhibitor who asked not to be identified.

For many buyers and sellers, Tokyo has become the middle section of a Busan-TIFFCOM-American Film Market triple, during which prolonged negotiations take place.

Meanwhile, the UniJapan Entertainment Forum has expanded rapidly in its first few years and is now billed by organizers as Asia’s largest. With one seminar kicking off proceedings Sunday, things stepped up a gear Tuesday as four seminars took place across the 40th and 49th floors.

"Promoting and Protecting the On-Line Distribution of Films and TV Content in China" was packed beyond capacity as a six-member panel from China, Korea and the U.S. discussed how to tap the fast-growing market and the threats from piracy.

Lucia Rangel, head of anti-piracy for Asia-Pacific and Latin America at Warner Bros. spoke about how her company had cooperated with illegal file-sharing sites to turn them into legitimate partners and revenue providers. Zhu Huilong, vp of one of those former pirate sites, Youku, was now a fellow panelist at the event. 

Nearly 50 floors below the seminars and negotiations, legendary actress Kyoko Kagawa was being feted for her long career and recent award from the International Federation of Film Archives. Kagawa appeared in the films of Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Naruse and Ozu during the golden age of Japanese cinema in the 1950s.

“Seeing the remastered version of Chikamatsu Monogatari [A Story from Chikamatsu by Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954] -- which was one of the toughest films for me to make -- filled me with joy,” said Kagawa.

A retrospective of Kagawa’s films is being screened during the fest.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair

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