Japanese governmental agencies/film culture promotional policies
Mark D. Roberts
Thu Sep 4 11:44:20 EDT 2008
Thank you, Jonathan, for sharpening the discussion.
I was also thinking of the NFC, but I hesitated to mention it because
the original topic of discussion was the Japan Foundation and its
policies for providing films for screening overseas. That is a fairly
specific mission, and without wishing to divert attention from the
needs of programmers, I was curious to have a better understanding of
the bigger picture.
My sense is that there has been some overlap between the mission of
the Japan Foundation and other institutions, but you are absolutely
right that each should be kept in perspective. The Japan Foundation
hasn't been trying to be a Japanese equivalent of the BFI. They are
not attempting to be a film library for researchers, let alone the
general public. It has, nevertheless, been possible for researchers to
screen films at their office in Akasaka, largely because of their
generosity and desire to promote film heritage. They have a collection
of books and periodicals on Japanese culture and society (which they
very modestly renamed as an "information center") which serves
researchers, but it does not include access to their film holdings and
they don't pretend that it's a film library.
To run with your question about services, I agree that it's a good
idea to distinguish several different circuits. Programmers have
certain needs, the Japan Foundation has been providing a service to
them, and there's evidently an ongoing conflict with the rights
holders, which might be described as a disconnect around cultural
policy. Insofar as the Japan Foundation is a branch of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, perhaps there is no institutional mandate to explore
broader policies for film heritage and its promotion, policies that
might help to get beyond the impasse with the production companies.
The Ministry of Culture, on the other hand, does seem to have this
mandate. They have seemingly been involved in policy-making, animated
by the so-called "Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and
Arts" of 2001, and so one could expect them to be more pro-active.
This is speculation on my part, and I throw this out in hopes that
somebody who actually understands the politics will chime in with more
detail. What, specifically, are their policies?
To respond to the second part of your question about services and
expectations, I think it's fair to say that a number of people on
KineJapan would be happy to see more emphasis on support for
researchers. I'd assume that institutions other than the Japan
Foundation would play a key role here. The NFC seems a logical one,
but they are seemingly not equipped to receive researchers, or at
least not in the capacity that I'd expect. This is unfortunate, and
thus also a situation that makes me wonder about Bunka-cho, about the
execution of its policies for promoting film as a part of cultural
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