Now that the festival season is upon us....

Stephen Cremin asianfilmlibrary
Fri Sep 3 16:41:06 EDT 1999

Thanks to Gavin for opening up the thread.  Yes, I'm referring to Hagiuda 
Koji's "Paradise Sea".  I think I saw it at the same time as Gavin, during 
the Tokyo Film Fest during the New Cinema from Japan sidebar organised by 
Atsuko et al.  I brough a lot of expectation to the film - Hagiuda worked 
with Iwai Shunji who had mentioned he was a very interesting guy and a 
director to look out for - but for me it just seemed a great shame that the 
film hadn't come out before Sento (Kawase) Naomi's "Suzaku".  Hagiuda had 
worked as assistant on that and it showed.  I'm not aware of it even being 
released in Japan.  But if someone does have a release date, do let me know.

Like Gavin, I've been thinking about the need for more collective 
programming.  Programming by committe, in my experience, doesn't work.  But 
I've been wondering why there isn't a more collaborative approach towards 
programming on the list.  Festival programmers regularly post questions 
about contact numbers for sales agents, but nobody dares ask other list 
members for programming advice.  I've just put in my proposal for a large 
film festival during Japan 2001 in the UK, at the core of which is an 
academic conference which I hope can become a KineJapan conference.  The 
overall theme is the visual image in Japanese cinema with various strands at 
different venues looking at, for example, the yakuza film over 75 years.  
One of the things I'd like to do with the various strands of the festival is 
make it much more collaborative as an experiment.  But something else is 
tugging at me.  Working in London I have enormous difficulties with Tony 
Rayns and this event presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go 
head-to-head with Tony who'll be using the National Film Theatre.  So, 
perhaps I'll be selfish on this one.

(Tony now has exclusive control over Asian films at the London Film Festival 
and National Film Theatre, has a veto option over Asian coverage in Time Out 
and Sight & Sound, while being official Asian advisor of the ICA.  The great 
shame of the Image Forum festival at the ICA this week is that it was 
initially programmed by Gregory Gordon who had a very distinctive approach 
having put a lot of research into it.  The ICA brought it Tony who changed 
50% of the programme and now its the same old, same old.  With the exception 
of the new films, its really a retrospective to experimental film at the 
Vancouver festival over ten years.  Which is fine, but the ICA should be 
nurturing new talent like Gregory if they want a diverse film culture in the 

Gavin's points about the psychological dependence of Asian directors on 
certain international critics is a valid one.  Particularly true in Korea, 
although we can see a backlash now against that which is very healthy.  
Valerie and Atuko (on the list) and I had a dinner at the close of the 
Berlin Film Festival this year.  Japanese critic Kawabara sat through the 
meal wearing his hat - forgive my faulty memory - and every few moments 
would state, "Oh, X ate him", referring to the sexual conquests of a certain 
film critic with various directors and actors in Asia.  Didn't quite put me 
off my meal, but did "up" my respect for Kawabara, already considerable for 
voting "Pride" the best Japanese film of 1998.  I haven't seen it, but I 
know Kawabara isn't a right-winger, so all power to his individuality.

I do think its dangerous to criticise other film festivals.  Obviously I 
have very different taste to Tony but I do think that his Vancouver festival 
has a distinctive personality and as such is a good thing, whether or not I 
agree with the programming.  (His programme is officially announced in seven 
days so I should really send the list my predictions: "No Sun", "Shikoku", 
"Nowhere to Hide", "Les Insurges", etc.)  Same goes for Jean Viala's fest in 
Orleans in November.  Both well researched.  Although I'm not a fan of the 
Stockholm I.F.F., I recognise that Jakob on the list really does a good job 
on the Asian section.  And other members on the list I could compliment too. 
  My problem with Toronto is that its lazy programming, and that's what's 
unforgivable.  It does seem that Montreal are becoming more and more 
interesting: all praise to them for - I presume - the first Western 
screening of "Bayside Shakedown".  While I recognise that Toronto is a 
festival of festivals, I can't help feeling sorry for Derek Elley and others 
now on the festival circuit who'll have nothing to see when they arrive 
there in a few days.  (Derek certainly has seen the lineup of features at 
Toronto this year, while he usually can find a number of films to review for 
"Variety".)  I do recognise that international premieres are not the be-all 
and end-all of festivals, but Toronto has a power and it just seems to have 
been wasted this year.  People say that the strong point of Toronto is that 
distributors can see how a North American audiences responds to films: but 
Toronto also has a responsibility to its audience and Asian film culture.  
Well, I think so.  The programmer has obviously spent too much time hanging 
out with Joo Kiyo, Araki Keiko and Nishimura Takashi ... as much as I love 
them all too.

Finally, a plug for another festival.  The Korea-Japan Young Film Festival 
(3-7 September) takes place in Asan, South Chungchong Province, South Korea. 
  Details on  I haven't seen the lineup yet, but it does 
have Park Chul-Soo on its organising committee which is a sign of quality.  
(He pulled out of the Pusan organising committee feeling that it had lost 
its direction in the second year.)  Anyway, earlier this year on the list I 
suggested that a festival somewhere should organise a Lee Sang-Eun concert 
to tie in with a screening of Isomura's "Give it All".  She's on stage on 
the opening two nights so it sounds like Asan is THE place to be this 
weekend.  Her CDs are available in Shibuya's Tower Records.

Stephen Cremin
The Asian Film Library

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