JF Waste?

Mark Roberts mroberts37 at mail-central.com
Tue Nov 10 07:31:40 EST 2009

On Nov 10, 2009, at 8:51 AM, Roger Macy wrote:

> Marcus said: 'If  there IS one pressing problem it is that they keep  
> the list secret.'
> Surely it's more than that:  this is the first time I've understood  
> that there IS a prepared list.  Surely, the JF's commitments to  
> rights-holders cannot extend to keeping the EXISTENCE of a list  
> secret, a la SCAP ?

The existence of the catalog is not a secret, but its contents are.  
The first time I inquired about it, the exact response was: "We cannot  
make our film collection list public due to our agreement with the  

> To borrow an americanism, why isn't this a no-brainer ?  Why can't  
> the JF say on their websites something to the effect that
> " The Foundation maintains a collection of film prints in various  
> formats, subtitled in english, roughly comprising the periods :-
> 1920s n
> ...        nn
> 2000s nn
> The Foundation welcomes enquiries from  aaaaas and bbbbbs about the  
> supply of prints, subject to prior agreement with the rights-holders  
> and will be happy to give further advice."

I'm not sure which JF site you're looking at. The sites for all the  
regional offices might not include a description of the A-V materials  
program. I notice that the London office site does say: "The Japan  
Foundation holds a stock of Japanese films (35mm or 16mm) with English  
subtitles in Tokyo for loan (subject to availability)." The main site  
in Japan elaborates on this and includes a comprehensive list of  
overseas screenings and retrospectives, past and present <http://www.jpf.go.jp/e/culture/media/oversea/index.html 
 >. While they don't say that they welcome inquiries from anyone, they  
do mention "joint sponsorship with film specialist organizations".  
This seems reasonable, given the resources they actually have available.

Aside from the secret catalog, the disconnect here is perhaps that the  
JF wants all inquires to come through the regional offices first, but  
the web sites for some of them may be less comprehensive. The main  
site could also have more detailed information, but it's not totally  
derelict. Building a really good web site actually isn't a no-brainer,  
and thus many organizations have mediocre-to-bad sites. The main JF  
site seems generally reasonable. I never feel frustrated looking for  
information there.

The film catalog, though, is a no-brainer. If the secrecy issue were  
resolved, they could just put it into their regular database, along  
with the hundreds of other media items already there (e.g., NHK  
documentaries with titles like "Japanese vagueness"). It looks like  
they have the electronic infrastructure in place. A public catalog  
would also make it possible to set up a standard workflow for film  
requests going through the JFIC site. It could even save their staff  
some time.

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