Tokyo mart feels Euro, U.S. absence

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The market side of the 19th annual Tokyo International Film Festival, dubbed TIFFCOM, ended its three-day run Wednesday, with some content sellers giving it a thumbs down because of weak attendance from the U.S. and Europe.

Despite the grumbles, organizers confirmed the highest attendance in the event's three-year history.

"The number of visitors and exhibitors have both increased on last year's figures, and it's all about gradually building a bigger and better reputation in the industry," market spokeswoman Asana Ito said. "We are really building something here, and we are already looking forward to next year."

But Ryo Kano, of the international business division of TV Tokyo, complained: "We've done nothing in the last three days. TIFFCOM is very small in comparison to MIPCOM and Pusan, and all the issues that we needed to talk about were done there already. The timing of this event is pretty poor for us."

Other exhibitors expressed similar concerns, with some suggesting that companies are skipping Tokyo in order to devote more attention to the Pusan festival in South Korea and the AFM.

Makito Sugiyama, deputy vp content business at Tokyo Broadcasting System, agreed that it was difficult to attract buyers from the U.S. and Europe because of the timing of the schedule, sandwiched tightly between MIPCOM and the Pusan festival beforehand and the American Film Market that follows. But he noted that the market had still been a success for him because of good attendance from other regions.

"We have met a lot of people in the industry that we have never met before, and even though we have not signed any deals, it's all about building relationships for us," he said. "A lot of what we are doing (involves) ongoing projects, and we are following through on deals that were first discussed in Cannes and Pusan."

Despite the shortfall from the U.S. and Europe, some sellers echoed Sugiyama's view that the market was still a success.

Miwako Fujitani, of animation specialists Buildup Co., said buyers had expressed interest in its productions, particularly those designed for mobile and Web distribution.

"We're very optimistic about building on the contacts we have made here, and it has been very good to meet new people," she said.

Final figures on the number of people who attended the event will not be available until the end of the week, according to organizers, though they said it will be an improvement on last year.

"Bearing in mind all the other events that are going on around us, we have attracted more people than we thought we would," said Azusa Soya, of the international promotion department of UniJapan, which helped produce the event.

The film festival continues through Sunday, when the winner of the Sakura Grand Prix will be announced.

On Wednesday, the 1958 movie "Endless Desire" was screened as part of the Shohei Imamura retrospective, along with eight films in the Winds of Asia category. Competition titles unspooling included "The Art of Crying," from Danish director Peter Schonau Fog, and the Michel Hazanavicius comedy "OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies."
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