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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

heavens.jpg 
Japanese director Takahisa Zeze's 278-minute opus on crime and punishment.
from The Hollywood Reporter (c) 2010 Heaven's Project



At the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany,
which has been ended two weeks now, I think it is a bit late to talk about
but maybe I should. Because....

Director Takahisa Zeze's film HEAVEN'S STORY won the Best Asian Film
Award and the International Critics Association Award.
The film participated in the Forum section, which is for novel films.

Japanese directors have won the International Critics Association Award
for three consecutive years. Sion Sono's LOVE EXPOSURE,
the year before last, and Isao Yukisada's PARADE last year.

Though almost all of the news broadcasts stated, without hesitation,
that "it won the award", but what sort of award is this?
Two of the films that Japanese directors won this award for
are very long; in fact over four hours long!!!

Let me see, I am interested in reviewing the criteria.
Even Wikipedia does not give a clear picture as the awards are not
well-known.
Why doesn't the media add a bit more explanation for the likes of me.

Even the official Berlin International Film Festival website only gives it
a simple description. I am non the wiser.
This makes me more and more interested in the award.

"What is its value?"

Berlin International Film Festival official website:

Other independent award.
Some individual judges give awards.
Some of the awards are purely for the specific section they were entered into.
The winning qualification for each film is different and depends on the
purpose of the award. These independent awards are FIPRESCI Award,
Ecumenical Jury Award, Golden Bear Award , etc.

This is all the website states. So no real meaning in any of that.

This time I decided to look further into the awards although
I am getting fed up with trying to understand them.

First of all, FIPRESCI is from the International Federation of Film Critics.
According to their website the purpose of the award is as follows.
"The purpose of the FIPRESCI award is for the furtherance of film art
and to encourage young directors".

It means, that the award is chosen from the viewpoint of the
International Federation of Film Critics from the films shown at
each of the film festivals around the world by judges
who are appointed by the International Federation of Film Critics.
It is not an award conferred by the Berlin International Film Festival.

In other words, the judges are not appointed by the festival.
This is what is really means.

Now I see.

More than three and less than nine judges are appointed.
Incidentally, the judges this year are: Diego Lerer
(who is he? But he is the head judge);
And Kenichi Ôkubo.
What a surprise!
He is a Japanese commentator who looks kindly on young talent.

I don't know about the rest of the judges so
I will just keep a record of their names:
Joao Antunes, Jurica Pavicic, Ingeborg Bratoeva,
Daniela Sannwald, Carmen Gray, Gulnara Abikeyeva and Silvia Hallensleben.

The International Federation of Film Critics has members all over the world.
The Japan Movie Pen Club is a member,
hence Kenichi Ôkubo taking part as a judge this year.

I see.

By the way, one more point is on my mind.

When I read the article I feel into the misapprehension that
director Zeze only won the International Critics Association Award,
in fact, this award is chosen from the Competition, Forum and
Panorama sections. Director Zeze was elected from the Forum section.

Well, Director Zeze won another award.
This was the Best Asian Film Award (commonly called the NETPAC Award),
which is an abbreviation for the Network for the promotion of Asian Cinema.
So this is an award from an organisation that aims at the global promotion of
Asian films.

Here the members are critics, authorised film festival personnel, curators,
distribution and entertainment participants. It has a headquarters in S'pore.
I heard that "it was established to increase the exposure of
young Asian talent".

However, the members from Japan are the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute,
the film commentator Mr Kenichi Ôkubo, Mr Tadao Satô,
and Mark Schilling from the Japanese National Press.
That's all; that's four people (organisations).
These aren't distribution and entertainment participants.

Jia Zhangke, Stanley Kwan, Lee Chang-dong, Kim Ki-duk, Naomi Kawase
and Yôichi Sai from Japan have been selected.
Director Koji Wakamatsu's UNITED RED ARMY received the winning prize
at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival.
This is still fresh in our memory.

Wait?
Are you sure that it supports young talent?

Director Wakamatsu is a contemporary of Clint Eastwood in both in terms of
age and career. It gives me some doubts.

There were three other competition selections this year apart from at the
Berlin International Film Festival.

The judges this year were Lorna Tee, Pimpaka Towira and Nora Bierich.
Lorna Tee is a Malaysian producer. She co-produced COME RAIN,COME SHINE,
which was selected as the sole Asian film in the Competition section.

Incidentally, two Japanese films have won a NETPAC Award.
Director Yû Irie's SR: SAITAMA RAPPER at the 2009 Puchon International
Fantastic Film Festival, and Director Minoru Kurimura's MESHI TO OTOME
(aka RICE AND THE MAIDEN)
at the 2010 Moscow International Film Festival..

By the way, although I am looking into these awards,
it is not just to be able to criticise them.

However, the more I read about them, the more it might add a nuance of
meaning that a Japanese director like Zeze can gain recognition from cineasts
around the world in Berlin, which is one of the three big film festivals
in the world.

Surely in this day and age, when trends come out of nowhere due to Twitter
or Facebook, it should be possible to convey the essential value of this award
and to promote it's universal excellence.
This is just my opinion.

"Who" gave this award, for what "tastes" and for "what reason"?

Director Zeze has made a grand film, which is four and a half hours long,
and has delivered it to the world.
Although it will be very hard for it to become a commercial product,
his courage and capacity to portray an insight into humanity has won him
the highest praise from both Asian and worldwide critics who support
independent films.

I think this is the essential ingredient of this award.

I am sure the reason for it's winning the award is due to the
"director's resolution not to just chase the money".

So, when director Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY won the Golden Bear
Award at the Berlin International Film Festival,
it was a story of a different quality.
(It doesn't mean that Miyazaki was just after commercial viability).

"So what, it won an award in Berlin.
It's not that important to the Japanese film business".
If we misinterpret this point, box office success can't be gained by winning a prize.
I think this sort of feeling is starting to infiltrate the industry as a whole,
which is not good in my opinion.

Director Zeze said that he is "deeply moved to know that my film is shown and
praised throughout the world".

Don't you think we can now get to know the background
and that director’s comment will live on?

Only animated films and Toho films are getting large audience attendances,
and nowadays independent films are being buried.
It would be great if we could convey sufficiently well to general audiences
a film's standing. I think like that.

Film is a composite art.

Some are totally artistic; some are completely commercial.
Both are intermixed in this world.

What does the director want to say?
How does the world appraise?

I think it is time that a film should be in it's correct standing position
and that audiences are allowed to appraise it themselves.

In that way, every year the award winning Japanese films can convey
to the world the significant message that Japanese films are worthy.

However...

When I have been to film festivals all over the world I hear plaudits for
Akira Kurosawa(!), even now.
"Speaking of Japanese film directors, Akira Kurosawa is the only one.
Nobody can exceed him".

This is the reality.

How many years has Kurosawa been in this ruling position?

I want someone to exceed Kurosawa and I want you to change the order of
things in the world of Japanese films.
I would welcome such a person entering the industry and
I would be unstinting in my logistical support for you.

Half of the population might say,
"Why do we have to get world recognition?",

and the other probably say,

"Why don't we get world recognition?"

Neither position makes any difference to me,
but if no opposing view appeared at all the film industry would be a
very dull place. Don't you think so?

I am getting excited about seeing Nagatomo (Yûto Nagatomo)
playing for the Milan International Football Club.
I was excited when Mokkun (Masahiro Motoki) went to the Academy Awards
Ceremony.

Don't you want that level of excitement?

Well, by the way, director Akira Kurosawa didn't make films for the world market.
The point of the argument is not whether it "is for the Japanese market or
the world market". I don't want you to misunderstand this point.

Ah, however, it is four hours and thirty-eight minutes.
What a long film.
In total it is nine chapters.
I really need considerable energy to go the cinema.

Well, the trailer is already too long.


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