Patrice Boiteau • Director of the Osaka European Film Festival
Focus on diversity
by Vitor Pinto
A Frenchman in Japan, Patrice Boiteau is the Artistic Director of the Osaka European Film Festival. Already in its 13th edition, this year the festival offers a programme particularly focused on Eastern European films while also building a bridge between recent European productions and the auteurs of the past, with a retrospective on Czech cinema and another dedicated to Luchino Visconti on the 100th anniversary of his birth in Milan, which for 25 years now has been a sister city to Osaka. In the interview, Boiteau also reflects upon the visibility of European films in the country of the rising sun.
Cineuropa: What was your motivation for founding the European Film Festival in Osaka and how has it evolved since its creation 13 years ago?
Patrice Boiteau: I have been living in Japan for 18 years now. In the beginning, I was struck by the smashing presence of American films, on the one hand, and of the national production on the other. Apart from these two trends, little room was left for other types of cinema and I felt that it was urgent for Japanese society to experiment, through films, another outlook on the world. This was missing here, especially outside Tokyo. We decided to organise an event that would welcome European (geographical rather than political) cinema in all its diversity.
The now mature festival is just as we wanted it to be from the start, but it was very difficult to convince Japanese partners. We started with only one section, dedicated to recent productions, while we now also offer, in addition to the main section, many side sections, retrospectives, children's films, exhibitions, and conferences at the university. We try to apply this policy of diversity not only to films, but also to the organised events.
You have programmed a rather eclectic choice of films. We understand your concern to show less known national types of cinema, however, French cinema (which is, together with British cinema, the best distributed in Japan) is this year only represented through shorts.
For half of the selection, we are working with Japanese distributors, who will release the films in the months following the festival. The other half is made up of films still looking for distribution in Japan.
We cannot, mostly for obvious budgetary reasons, offer visibility to all European countries, every year. France had an important part in the previous editions. This year, the focus is on French short films as was the case last year for German shorts. In addition, we have also decided to open up the festival to Eastern European cinema, very rarely seen in Japan, with a Polish film (I am by Dorota Kedzierzawska), a Slovenian film (Gravehopping by Jan Cvitkovic), the Golden Bear-winning Austrian/Bosnian Grbavica [+see also:
interview: Barbara Albert
interview: Jasmila Zbanic
film profile] by Jasmila Zbanic, and a Czech retrospective.
European cinema is still little known in Japan. What should be done to increase its visibility and to convince Japanese sales agents?
According to the latest reports, this year saw a double decline: in the number of European films bought as well as in the number of admissions for these films. French and British cinema were no exceptions to this rule, though they remained the most popular among European cinema.
I think that rather than sell films, we should concentrate on broadening the audience for them. If sales have dropped in Japan, it's because there is a lack of audience, and exhibitors are less confident about European cinema. The career of European films here is most of the time reduced to a few weeks distribution in Tokyo, and possibly in Osaka. Investment in the promotion of European Film is practically non-existent. Even the specialised distributors lack ambition for these films. We are in need of a really ambitious policy, capable of finding a new audience for European movies. That's what the festival has been up to for 13 years.
Besides, European films are up against not only American but also Asian cinema, the latter which is being discovered on this continent, notably by the younger generation. This year alone, 32 Korean films were onscreen. At the same time, Asian films are cheaper than European films, which is a recurring complaint of Japanese distributors.
If our festival contributed to increasing films' sales, we would be very glad, but this is not our main objective. This would influence our decision-making in selecting the films and would force upon us unwanted constraints.
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