Japanese governmental agencies/film culture promotional policies

Lorenzo Javier Torres Hortelano ljth2006 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 5 05:35:33 EDT 2008

As Aaron and others are talking about Japanese government, I guess it is
interesting I talk you about an experience I had with Japanese Embassy in
Madrid: It was five years ago, just when 2nd invasion of Irak was beginning.
In that date I was trying to arrange an exhibit of Japanese cinema in
Círculo de Bellas Artes, one of the most importants cultural centers in
Madrid, located at the beginning of 'Paseo del Arte' (Museo del Prado,

At the Embassy were very polite to me, gave me a huge list of avalaible
movies of 35 and 16 mm with Spanish subtitles from an archive of Japan
Foundation in México. I was able to choose any movie from that list -all
periods were represented, may be more from the 50's. Besides, politely they
would bring the movies from México -as you can guess, very expensive- by
diplomatic bag. 

The problem was that I tried to focus the exhibit in movies about war. When
some days passed, they told me that Japanese government couldn't support
that. May be I was a kind of naïve. May be culture should help to make World
politics better...

Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano
Profesor Titular
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
Fac. Ciencias de la Comunicación
Camino del Molino s/n
28943 Fuenlabrada (Madrid)
Despacho 244b

-----Mensaje original-----
De: owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
[mailto:owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu] En nombre de Aaron Gerow
Enviado el: viernes, 05 de septiembre de 2008 3:34
Para: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Asunto: Re: Japanese governmental agencies/film culture promotional policies

Thanks to Jonathan for calling for precision.

As I have discussed on Midnight Eye and elsewhere, the Japanese  
government as a whole has been actively involved in film promotion in  
the last few years. The calls some have made on the list for the  
government to do something are not quite on the mark because the  
government has been doing things. The Agency for Cultural Affairs,  
especially when Terawaki Ken was there (and Saeki-san is still there,  
by the way; Aoki Tamotsu, the current chokan, is also not  
unsympathetic to film), was engaged in a number of projects. The Film  
Center has been the clearing house for several of these, which  
include promoting subtitling and preservation. List members may  
recall my long posts a few years ago about the committees set up to  
promote film culture.

There are thus some things going on, but my complaint is that film  
policy is now largely swayed not by cultural but by economic policy,  
and the hand of METI is apparent. When culture and economics thus  
clash, it is usually economics that wins out. In this age, that  
economy is the "contents industry" and, according to a current  
interpretation of that industry, everything is geared towards  
creating contents and preserving property rights over them. Cultural  
rights over film are irrelevant in this economy, except maybe when  
pop culture is used to promote the nation (and that is where Aso  
often comes in). As I have written before, this economy can be linked  
to the impending death of film criticism in Japan and the lack of  
interest in film studies. The economy demands consumers, who at most  
may write one sentence good or bad comments on the internet, not  
active readers.

Personally, I think this economic policy is short-sighted because,  
unlike fashion and keitai, where obsolescence is planned, "contents"  
are really valuable only to the degree they have a long shelf life.  
Companies don't buy back catalogs unless they expect that people will  
want to view them. But Japanese companies these days mostly don't  
realize that sometimes it is in their interest to promote cultural  
policy and to slowly but steadily spread their goods in order to  
develop an audience that will pay for not only new contents, but old  
ones as well. Such long-term planning is important in the contents  
industry, but they don't get it. And METI and others don't seem to be  
pointing them in the right direction. Especially the overpromotion of  
intellectual and digital property rights has the great potential of  
killing not only film culture, but even the contents industry itself.

I definitely realize the problems with arguing in this way on behalf  
of a contents industry, but I still think there can be strategic  
linkages between companies and festivals and academia and audiences  
that are not all about the latter three paying the former. There can  
be mutual benefits here that are not reflected in the "new economy."  
I just wish someone--not just in government, but in power--had some  
vision and clout in this regard.

Aaron Gerow
Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University
53 Wall Street, Room 316
PO Box 208363
New Haven, CT 06520-8363
Phone: 1-203-432-7082
Fax: 1-203-432-6764
e-mail: aaron.gerow at yale.edu
site: www.aarongerow.com

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