Efficient Market Draws Praise in Tokyo

China's Machinations Have No Impact on Start of Market

TOKYO -- Film buyers and sellers were hopeful Monday on the eve of the Tokyo International Film Festival's three-day TIFFCOM content market, with guests lauding the efficiency of the event's seventh edition and the quality of the companies gathered.

Despite some Chinese officials bowing out of the festival over a disagreement about how organizers would refer to Taiwan -- which China calls a renegade province -- by the afternoon, plenty of Chinese companies were setting up booths at the market, ready for business.

Organizers said no Chinese companies have canceled their registration, and a walk of the market floor revealed that some Chinese buyers had begun meetings with Japanese sellers, even though company booths at Asia's highest-grossing movie market weren't due to open officially until today.

As the space began taking shape, the event's growth -- up 4% to 222 exhibitors this year -- was evident on the 40th floor of the gleaming Academyhills tower in the Roppongi district.

"The scale has grown since last year," said Thomas Nam, organizer of the market at South Korea's Puchon Fantastic International Festival. "Booths and projects have increased, and the atmosphere is more organized."

Nam also complimented the choice of a casual coffee shop for the networking reception at the market's co-production forum, the Tokyo Project Gathering. "Last year, the networking reception was held at a private club that was quite distracting," he said.

Leading the wave of TIFFCOM exhibitors arriving from overseas is South Korea, which is bringing 39 companies. Another 29 firms hail from China, and 11 outfits come from Thailand.

"I like the fact that producers and directors at TPG can request meetings with companies they are interested in," said director Kim Young-nam, in Tokyo to promote On Your Journey from Momoo Pictures. "At the Pusan Promotion Plan, only buyers could request meetings with certain producers and directors they like. I have a list of companies that I want to meet while I'm here."

Jessey Tsang, director of the TPG project Big Blue Lake, said she enjoyed the "nice neighborly feel" of Academyhills and is pleased with the attendance from her native Hong Kong. "It's nice to know that we can meet them outside the city," she said.

Singaporean writer-producer Silvia Wong, whose Bobbing Buoy Films is pitching Camera at TPG, said she was glad to return to the event to discover it has been folded into the main market space.

"It's nice to know that the market and TPG are now on the same floor," she said. "Two years ago, TPG was on the 49th floor," a location that increased travel time between meetings.

Latvian producer Lida Krukle, who brought the Japan-Latvia co-production Tempura to TPG, said she is looking for distribution and sales in Japan.

"I believe the film will work in the market because Latvia and Japan have many things in common, and I don't need to explain to Japanese companies who our main actress Kaori Momoi is," she said. Krukle's company, Kruk, recently submitted Hong Kong Confidential as the Latvian entry into the foreign-language film Oscar race.

First-time TIFFCOM guest and buyer Francesco Simeoni of the U.K.'s Arrow Films said he has had his eyes on the horror and genre cult films popular in Japan, like Battle Royale, which his company released on DVD and Blu-ray. Simeoni said that, despite Arrow doing "rather well" with the theatrical release of Oscar winner Departures, his focus at the market would be on buying for the home entertainment market.

"U.K. audiences don't tend to watch a great variety of world cinema outside of European movies," he said.

Chungeorahm CEO Choi Yong-bae, at the market to pitch Host 2, the sequel to the mega-hit monster flick, said Korean producers like Japanese partners because they can make flexible investments of the right size.

"We still find that the Chinese market is not so flexible in investing in foreign films, so TIFFCOM is a good place to be," he said, noting that 10 companies are lined up to meet with Chungeorahm about "Host 2."

-- Park Soo-mee contributed to this report.

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