Japan Foundation 16mm prints

Eija Niskanen eija.niskanen
Wed Sep 3 02:29:23 EDT 2008

Getting JF films is not so easy as it might sound. I was involved in
putting together one series, and we spent months negotiating with the
production companies, paying them screening fees etc. in order to get
the film prints we wanted. Some companies never gave us permission to
screen the JF print, some demanded ridiculously high sums of money for
one or two screenings. The problem is that Japan is really lacking the
kind of institution like Goethe Institute in Germany or Centre
Culturel Francais for France, who can quite freely show their films
abroad for cultural and educational purposes.

On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 4:48 AM, Mark D. Roberts
<mroberts37 at mail-central.com> wrote:
> Beat,
> 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.
> M

Eija Niskanen
conference co-ordinator, Imaginary Japan
tel +358-9-191 21672
mobile +358-50-355 3189

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