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Women On The Edge


Himizu


New beginnings J


ust over a year on from the cata- strophic events of March 11, 2011, tourism in Japan is fi nally back up


to 2010 levels. Survivors continue to struggle in different ways, and will do so for years to come, and there remains uncertainty surrounding the true extent of the Fukushima nuclear situation. However, Japan is recovering remarka- bly, as it has done throughout history, and the fi lm business is no exception. While March 11 surely had an impact


on the industry, the extent to which last year’s 18% decrease in box-offi ce reve- nues can be attributed to it was perhaps overestimated by some. In fact, video rentals shot up in the months after the disaster. The earnings of many local and Hollywood sequels released were in line with previous instalments, but it was a weak year for mega-hits. Even the ever- reliable Studio Ghibli’s From Up On Poppy Hill could not provide a home-


■ 2 Screen International May 2012


‘Through March 11, people’s concept of happiness has


changed’ Satomi Odake, Gaga Corporation


Potechi


With many scripts reworked to reflect the impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown of March 2011, Jason Gray investigates how Japanese cinema has changed in the wake of those events


grown tentpole. However, expect Studio Ghibli to make a major comeback in 2013 with new fi lms from studio found- ers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, both in production. Japanese audiences have returned to


their usual movie-going habits. As reported at the end of April, combined box offi ce fi gures for the top 13 Holly- wood and local distributors for the fi rst three months of 2012 are even up slightly, with a 2% increase over the same period last year. Satomi Odake, operating officer of


acquisitions and planning at producer- distributor Gaga Corporation, suggests the disaster may have affected things in a subtler but deeper way. “Through March 11, people’s concept of what con- stitutes happiness has changed,” she says. “It has had an infl uence on movie trends and the types of screenplays now being developed. But as far as the


number of fi lms slated for production or scheduling matters, Gaga hasn’t been affected.” One of the notable projects most


altered content-wise by the events was Gaga’s own Himizu. Unlike other fi lm and TV productions which were put on hold, director Sion Sono forged ahead when the earthquake and tsunami struck during pre-production. “The screenplay was rewritten to refl ect the events,” explains Odake. Much of Himizu’s shoot was relocated


to the outskirts of Ishinomaki’s tsunami- hit area, powerfully weaving together the junior high-school protagonist’s inner struggle with Japan’s own challenges. Never afraid to take risks, Sono’s gamble paid off. Himizu won best acting awards for its young leads Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido at the Venice fi lm festival later that year, followed by further prizes in Deauville, Brussels, and the audience


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