Tokyo Content Market Opens With Record Attendance

Issue 35 BKLOT Tokyo - H 2013
Jose Fusta Ragan/Corbis

Issue 35 BKLOT Tokyo - H 2013

Foreign-language Oscar candidates are among the titles on offer as the market for the first time takes place before the Tokyo Film Festival

The TIFFCOM market of the Tokyo International Film Festival got underway Tuesday with record attendance by buyers and sellers from Japan and around the globe.

The scene on the market floor was predictably boisterous throughout the day, as 331 exhibitors and 1,158 registered buyers got down to business.

The biggest national pavilion at TIFFCOM this year is Taiwan's, with 27 film and TV outfits present in the country's booth, up from 23 companies last year.

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"Our country has enjoyed a close cultural relationship with Japan for decades and our dramas and films have historically done very well here, even before Korean dramas came into the Japanese and greater Asian market," said Sylvia Huang of the Taipei Multimedia Production Association. "Our films have begun to find a place in the Japanese market, too."

James Cheng, distribution and acquisition manager for Taiwan's Creative Century Entertainment, said he expects to acquire three to five Japanese films for theatrical distribution in Taiwan. "I've been coming here for the past five years; I expect this to be a busy market," he said.

Two titles attracting interest at the Taiwanese pavilion were the country's official foreign-language Oscar entry Ice Poison from Burmese-Taiwanese director Midi Z and Partners in Crime, Taiwan's sole film in the Tokyo International Film Festival's official selection.

"There are always too many titles in the market, so having a film in TIFF's official selection usually boosts business," said Eric Chou of Taipei-based Double Edge Entertainment Corp., which is handling sales on Partners.

With TIFFCOM sandwiched between Busan and the American Film Market (AFM) on the international calendar (the former concluded earlier in October and the latter begins Nov. 5), negotiations on deals sometimes stretch across the three events, according to some exhibitors.

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"I was in Busan a few weeks ago and they had moved to a bigger venue, but there were fewer people there. A lot of the buyers weren't at the market," said Nikkatsu's Emico Kawai. The company's A Courtesan with Flowered Skin is also part of the festival's official selection.

Thai production company GTH said it is hoping to ride the recent success of local box-office record breaker Pee Mak ($33 million in Thailand in 2013) during deal talks this week in Tokyo. Pee Mak opened across Japan on Oct. 18, with distribution handled by Sony Pictures and Sumeno, marking the first time in recent memory that a Thai film has gotten a wide release in the world's third-largest movie market.

GTH has brought to TIFFCOM the romantic comedy The Teacher's Diary, which is Thailand's foreign-language category Oscar entry. "We're hoping Pee Mak's success will translate into continued interest in Thai romantic comedy here," said GTH’s senior director of international business Yongyoot Thongkongtoon.

Luna Kim, director of international sales and co-production at South Korea's Finecut, said her company typically closes many of its larger deals at AFM, but the Tokyo event remains a key sales opportunity for meeting mid-size Japanese companies in what remains the world's third-largest film market. "TIFFCOM has always been a good place to do business with the smaller players who don't travel as much," she said.

Finecut's Made in China, written and produced by South Korean art-house favorite Kim Ki-duk and directed by first-timer Kim Dong-hoo, will get its world premiere later in the week at the festival.

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Titles with the provocative Kim Ki-duk imprimatur tend to sell well in Japan, but Kim said she was slightly concerned that the film wouldn't get as much sales buzz thanks to its inclusion in the Tokyo competition as it might have in past years, due to a change in event scheduling. This year, TIFFCOM is taking place during the three days preceding the Tokyo film fest, rather than at the same time, as in year's past. "Many of the buyers will have left Tokyo by the time the festival starts and the reviews are out," Kim said.

Nevertheless, the market not running alongside the main festival was not a major issue, according to many other buyers and sellers.

"We've had a lot of interest from Hong Kong buyers this year, with negotiations beginning by email before the market," said Aya Takagawa of Wowow, Japan's biggest cable network, which has been producing more original content in recent years. "Our mini-series are getting more attention these days, we've become more recognized for them."