Japan Foundation 16mm prints

Mark D. Roberts mroberts37 at mail-central.com
Tue Sep 2 21:48:44 EDT 2008


The best course of action is to speak to the Japan Foundation  
directly, but I would think that there are definitely rights issues.

For example, the two times that I made requests to screen films at  
their archive in Tokyo, they would not even show me the catalogue of  
their films. I had to have my research need vetted by somebody in  
their organization assigned to my home country (e.g., as an American  
doing research in France, it was considered a breach of etiquette for  
me to inquire through a European office), then speak to a  
spokesperson, then be referred to an archivist, and then ask: "Do you  
have title X by director Y from year Z?" and then they would answer  
yes/no. Apparently, the terms of their relationship with the  
production companies forbids a public catalogue of their holdings. All  
inquires must be vetted.

Moreover, my impression was that they had no real budget or staffing  
for any of this. While everybody at the Tokyo office was helpful, it  
did not seem to be part of their charter to do much beyond the public  
screenings as they exist now. I'd be surprised if they had resources  
to transfer their holdings to DVD. As for inaction on the part of the  
Japanese government, that would not surprise me at all. I wouldn't say  
"renounce" because that ascribes intention where there is seemingly  
none. I gather the rationale for this arrangement is that the  
production companies see the films as their intellectual property, and  
that at some future date they may release them on DVD themselves  
(though most likely without any subtitles). They have thus legally  
tied the hands of the Japan Foundation.

Others more knowledgeable than I may jump in to correct this, and you  
should of course talk to the Japan Foundation, but there is evidently  
some conflict of interest between the production companies' policies  
and aims of those interested in promoting film heritage. I would  
think, though, that given the cost of shipping 16 and 35mm prints  
around, it might be possible to make a business case for DVDs, which  
are much cheaper to send overseas. Of course, the production companies  
might resist out of fear that "some foreigners" could pirate and  
torrent the DVDs, etc., but the prints are all pretty old.


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