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PRODUCTION IN JAPAN


and like Sono, incorporated some ele- ments of the events of March 11, 2011. Kazutaka Akimoto, operating offi cer


of motion picture production & acquisi- tion at Shochiku, shared his thoughts on the historic studio’s place in the post- disaster cinemascape. “Shochiku fi lms have always focused on human and family relationships, reflecting the times,” Akimoto comments. “In the wake of last year’s tragedy, making such fi lms holds even greater purpose. Our line-up this year clearly refl ects themes of ‘family’ and ‘hope’.” Indeed, Shochiku’s Montreal jury prize winner Chronicle Of My Mother, starring Koji Yakusho and Kirin Kiki, opened in fi fth place on 223 screens at the end of April, during the highly competitive Golden Week holiday period. Shochiku begins pre-sales of Tokyo Family in Cannes. Naturally, a number of fi lms focusing


award at the UK’s Terracotta Far East Film Festival in mid-April. UK distribu- tor Third Window Films releases Himizu in London on June 1.


A crossover success Though not at the mega-hit level of Departures’ box offi ce, Himizu is a rare case of a Japanese fi lm doing well both overseas and at home. In Japan it has earned just over $2.5m to become the iconoclastic fi lm-maker’s most success- ful release yet. Deeply affected by what he saw in Tohoku, Sono continues his exploration of the disaster’s effects with The Land Of Hope (market listings, p16), which has just completed post- production. The fi lm thinly fi ctionalises the feared meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in a story of a family torn apart by radiation paranoia. An even higher profi le project affected by the events of March 2011 was major studio Shochiku’s Tokyo Fam- ily (market listings, p15), directed by veteran Yoji Yamada. The homage to Tokyo Story was put on hold for a year while Yamada re-worked the screenplay,


Chronicle Of My Mother www.screendaily.com


on or tangentially referencing the triple disaster emerged. Among higher profi le titles have been Masahiro Kobayashi’s Women On The Edge (which screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rot- terdam), Yoshihiro Nakamura’s Sendai- set dramedy Potechi, independent documentaries No Man’s Zone (which played in Berlin) and Pray For Japan (AMC Theatres US) and Isamu Hiraba- yashi’s award-winning short animation 663114 (which was selected for both the Sundance and Berlin fi lm festivals). As 2011’s constant news images of


destruction and nuclear paranoia grad- ually gave way to hope, rebuilding and healing, perhaps the lost appetite for on- screen violence returned, too. The recent teaser for Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Beyond (market listings, p15) is filled with sounds of ricocheting bullets as the names of the cast scroll by. It is a vis- ceral, and welcome, return to bigger- budget genre film-making alongside further upcoming titles including Takashi Miike’s outrageous gang romance musical For Love’s Sake (p13), and horror reboot Sadako 3D (p15). Kitano held off filming a sequel to


bloody 2010 Cannes Competition entry Outrage in light of the human toll of March 2011, but is now in production for a 2012 release. Kitano has promised Outrage Beyond will be a bigger sequel, with the brutality spreading nationwide. France’s Celluloid Dreams begins sales on the Croisette. 


s May 2012 Screen International 3 ■ PRODUCERS TURN AWAY FROM 3D


Avatar ushered in 2010 as ‘the year of 3D’ across all visual media in Japan, where it was referred to as the format’s “gan’nen” (the fi rst year of an era). The box-offi ce clout of Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, Toy Story 3 and local blockbuster Umizaru 3: The Last Message two years ago was intoxicating for distributors and exhibitors. However, by early 2011 local


studio heads were already expressing uncertainty about producing fi lms in the third dimension after audience demand decreased sharply. Preference for 2D has led to an almost complete abandonment of pricier and lengthier 3D production in the territory. Toho CEO Yoshinari


Shimatani commented on the situation at the Motion Picture Producers Association 2011 review at the end of January: “Japanese fi lms are more about human drama than spectacle. The number of local 3D releases will decrease.” By April, none of Japan’s


three major studios — Toho, Toei and Shochiku — had 3D releases or productions slated for the rest of 2012, despite having released several each in the previous year. The third instalment of


Toho’s nostalgic Always: Sunset On Third Street franchise, which opened this January, saw less than 30% of its box offi ce come from 3D screens. “We thought it would be an even split but audiences much preferred the 2D version. Perhaps because of the series’ appeal to


older audiences and the fact the fi rst two fi lms were 2D,” speculated a Toho rep in March. Takashi Miike’s 2011 Cannes


Competition entry Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai generated less than 20% from 3D. Again, a mature demographic group felt no need to pay extra money and overwork their eyes to enjoy the fi lm’s classic storytelling. Kid-centric hero series such


as Kamen Rider saw a turn back to a 2D majority last year after a lively 2010, prompting studio Toei to cancel this summer’s 3D plans. Only Kaibutsu-Kun: The Movie showed a demand higher than 50% for the format in 2011. Almost alone on this year’s


3D slate is the long-haired, ghostly fi gure of Ring hauntress Sadako, who stars in Sadako 3D, released May 12. The fi lm smartly plays to the format’s strengths, making audiences jump but also enhancing familiar imagery such as the well in which Sadako festers. Even 3D revenues for


format-justifi ed Hollywood titles are on the wane, with Oscar winner Hugo grossing 60% of its $12.5m from the format this spring. Exhibitors will be very conservative with the 2D-3D ratio of upcoming releases such as Prometheus, The Amazing Spider- Man and The Hobbit. With budgets only a fraction of Hollywood’s, Japan will have to be creative if 3D production is to continue, otherwise 2010


The Amazing Spider-Man


will truly remain a one-off.


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