Japan Foundation 16mm prints

Michael Raine mjraine
Sat Sep 13 16:11:41 EDT 2008

Sorry I missed this very interesting discussion of the Japan Foundation and
Japanese cultural policy. If I could offer my belated two cents anyway...

I agree with most respondents that the Japan Foundation's remit is to
generate cultural goodwill toward Japan abroad -- in film, what Kawakita
Nagamasa called in the 1950s "minzoku no PR" (advertising for the Nation) --
not to support individual researchers or to be a public archive. As usual in
large institutions, the managers' interests are not necessarily aligned with
that of the "owners" -- people there were very helpful to me when I was
researching in Japan and the recent film series seem to embody a
not-so-conservative view of "Japan" (perhaps Jasper was involved in
selecting Linda Linda Linda for this year's touring package?). Even so, it's
not surprising they didn't support a film series that might have embarrassed
a powerful ally! 

In combination with the Japanese Information Centers, the JF seems to me
quite active in outreach (very active, judging by the poor quality of most
of their 16mm prints...). I've had very good experiences with them (loaning
prints and arranging rights) through the University, DOC films, and the
summer screenings of the Chicago Film Festival. Those last screenings, by
the way, were on DVD (relying on Japanese DVDs with English subtitles -
seldom an option for other European languages, unfortunately). The JF films
themselves are not rare but they are subtitled, an expensive process: it
remains to be seen whether they could negotiate to subtitle DVDs of films in
the future. Perhaps on Blu-Ray, where there is less concern about ripping?

One solution is to use soft-subtitling and not rely on subtitled prints. The
Udine festival has done that for years, and it worked well with Marc
Walkow's Nikkatsu Action series, at least in Chicago this year. Perhaps in
the future the JF will be more of a clearing house: helping arrange
screening rights, and perhaps sponsoring events. I don't think the fees will
come down (as cultural events, films are cheap) but perhaps the JF will pay
them? Also, I'm not sure that studios are always obstructionist: Nikkatsu
has been very generous in reducing screening fees. But the Toei fee that
Aaron mentioned is pretty grotesque, and the one time I asked a certain
studio to lend me a certain war propaganda film, I was turned down flat... 


Michael Raine
Assistant Professor in Japanese Cinema
The University of Chicago
mjraine at uchicago.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Beat Frey [mailto:beatfrey at gmx.ch] 
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 5:30 PM
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Japan Foundation 16mm prints

As many of you know, the Japan Foundation has a catalogue of films which are
shown by or in collaboration with Japanese consulates and embassies in
several countries. The list of french-subtitled movies alone contains some
170 titles, of which some are of average interest, but there are also very
good ones among them. This and the fact that admission is free makes up for
the 16mm format and the poor quality of certain older prints and subtitles,
and at the semiannual screenings in Geneva and Lausanne, we have up to 300
people attending each time. However, we now face problems due to the 16mm
format, because less and less places are equipped with the respective

Does anyone know if there are plans to transfer the catalogue (or part of
it) to other formats, mainly DVD? Would this involve right issues with the
original production/distribution companies? Or are there plans to start a
new collection alltogether which would serve the same purpose? Since these
screenings are still much appreciated in many places, it would surprise me
that the Japanese government would renounce on such a marketing tool. On the
other hand, the investments into the catalogue seem to have been minimal
during the last two decades.

Thanks in advance for every feedback. And apologies in case this has already
been discussed on the list; I couldn't follow up on a regular basis these
last weeks.


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