Patrice Boiteau • Director of the Osaka European Film Festival
European cinema, beyond the stereotypes
by Vitor Pinto
France’s Patrice Boiteau heads the Osaka European Film Festival, an event that offers a glimpse of the diversity of film production in Europe that is still undiscovered in Japan. He offers an analysis of the 14th edition.
Cineuropa: The poster for the 14th edition shows a woman looking through an eyehole. Is this how European cinema is seen in Japan? People watch it whilst maintaining a certain distance from it?
Patrice Boiteau: First of all, allow me to explain a detail that must have been lost on those who don’t speak Japanese. In fact, above the eyehole to which you refer, positioned vertically, there is a catch phrase that accompanies and clarifies the poster’s visual image, which roughly translates as: "Go ahead, look…a new world awaits you". The verb in Japanese suggests the idea of looking through something…without being seen. Considering the voyeuristic experience of the film-goer sitting in a dark cinema, we thought it would be interesting to try to attract the attention of the majority of the Japanese public who rarely go to the cinema (and very seldom to see European films) by encouraging them to dare to do something different and discover something absolutely out of the ordinary.
As regards the attitude towards European cinema in Japan, it’s difficult to describe because it’s often based on vague stereotypes. Overall, it has a reputation for being "difficult" and depressing. It is considered complex and impenetrable. In fact, the rich diversity of European cinema remains largely undiscovered here.
What is different about this latest edition with respect to previous editions of the festival?
There are new additions mainly on the level of logistics – for instance we have changed the location of the festival’s main events. The Night of the Adeaters, which has "opened" the festival for the past six years, took place on Saturday, October 27 in the region’s largest concert hall, the renowned Festival Hall. More than 3,000 people joined us for the event at this new location and convinced us that we’d made the right choice. The section devoted to Japanese avant-premieres will take place at the end of the month in the equally renowned Recital Hall: a beautiful 600-seat hall that will, we hope, enable us to host a large audience eager to discover the 11 feature films in the festival’s main section.
As for the programme, apart from the section devoted to avant-premieres, the festival is hosting two important exhibitions. The first one pays homage to the great Polish director Andrej Wajda, honorary president of this 14th edition of the festival, and the other Japanese artist Makoto Wada, inspired by fifty or so European films.
I’d like to just add, personally, the sense of honour and pride I feel at the thought of welcoming in a few days’ time all the talented artists who have come to Osaka to meet audiences and the press, one of the most distinguished of these artists being the wonderful actress Mirjana Karanovic.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from local industry professionals, especially distributors?
Reactions and comments from industry professionals have certainly been very varied. From what we hear, reactions appear to be rather positive, indeed very positive. A remark springs to mind, made by the president of a film distribution company who, after coming to the festival for the first time last year, regretted not having taken part in previous years. I’m sure he’ll be joining us this year.
As for the facts: four of the films screened at last year’s festival went on to run in cinemas, a video distributor is currently putting together a collection inspired by the films presented at Osaka and for one month the largest video rental network in Japan offered a collection of films selected by the festival over the course of previous years. What’s more, this year, three cinemas are closely involved in the organisation of the festival (two in Osaka, one in Tokyo) and five distributors (for six of the eleven films presented in the avant-premieres section) wanted their films to be included in official selection, some of which have become loyal partners. I think this testifies to the fact that many professionals here have confidence in us.
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