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26.01.2019 00:00

Report written by Atsuko Saito (Japan)participant of 2nd Assembly of Asian film-critics - FIPRESCI members at the frame of 17th Dhaka IFF, 13.01.2019 


The 2nd Asian Film Critics Assembly - AFCA (13-14.01.2019) in the upcoming 17th Dhaka International Film Festival - DIFF, in association with the International Film Critics Association of Bangladesh - IFCAB.



Assessing the influence(s) of Eurocentrism and Orientalism on Film and Criticism in Japan:


Japanese Film History has begun with the first exhibitions of an American Kinetoscope, in 1896.The following year, in 1897, the history of Japanese film production was launched. With the exception of a few years during the World War II, the domestic film industry has maintained parity with foreign imports. The numbers of foreign and domestic films shown in Japan has been and continues to be nearly equal since the first decade of the 20th century.During the Golden Age of the 1950s, when the total number of films screened annually topped 800, the number produced by the domestic studios was well above 400. The digital era has brought an increase in the number of films produced: The year of 2017 saw the largest number ever, with 593 foreign films shown and 594domestic ones, for a total of 1187. Most of the ‘foreign’ films screened are from the West, but 92 were from Asia. Among those, 45 were from South Korea, 28 from China, 13 from Taiwan, 4 from the Philippines, 3 from India, 2 each from Vietnam, Iran and Turkey, and one each from Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. 


Japanese film criticism also began with the importation and study of more advanced theories from Europe.  Japanese intellectuals and students have long admired and loved French culture; many found inspiration in the theories of Louis Delluc andothers, andbegan to think critically about Film as an art form. The prewar assumption of Western superiority continued to inform the postwar generation which fell under the influence of the French New Wave. This ‘Wave’ spread far beyond just the large and extremely enthusiastic fanbase of its films, who adored Truffaut and Godard as much as their films.  The New Wave, in the form of the Cahiers du Cinema itself, inspired a whole generation of up-and-coming, iconoclastic critics and filmmakers, to such a degree that some of whomcame to be known as the “Shochiku New Wave.” Many familiar names, such as NagisaOshima, Masahiro Shinoda and YoshishigeYoshida, are still referred to as such.


The fact that recognition of Japanese films by Kurosawa and Mizoguchi at Venice and Cannes after the war injected a much-needed dose of confidence and pride to the beleaguered film community in Japan. In addition, of course, this has created a pattern in Japan: first vying for access to prestigious film festivals, especially Cannes or Venice, in the hope of winning recognition or receive prizes from foreign juries and critics and thus boosting cachet and critical reputation among domestic critics and audiences. The type of critic mostsusceptible to this tend to be popular film journalists, rather than principled film critics. One example is that of Takeshi Kitano who, before winning the Golden Lion at Venice for HANA-BI, had not been widely admired for his directing talent and skill. HirokazuKoreeda’s SHOPLIFTERS is another example where we can see a large difference between domestic critics’ and their foreign counterparts’ evaluations of individual Japanese films.  This could be seen as a type of “European Film Festival-centric” tendency; especially among journalists and reviewers.  Independently of such evaluations, most Japanese critics consider, approach and evaluate films from an auteurist perspective, not from an Orientalist [or Occidentalist], Eurocentric [or Japan-centric] judgmental perspective. The legacy of Cahiers du Cinema lives on very strongly in Japanese film criticism.                                                                          


Atsuko Saito, Japan


Atsuko Saito at the 17th Dhaka IFF