ARTS-CULTURE: Germany Strengthens Film Ties with Japan

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By Jutta Wolf

As Germany and Japan celebrate 150 years of friendship, Berlin's twin city of Tokyo will host the first Talent Campus in Japan during the renowned film festival TOKYO FILMeX from November 21 to 26.

Presented by the TOKYO FILMeX organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, the Talent Campus Tokyo will invite about 15 talented young directors and producers from East and Southeast Asia to attend workshops, master classes and panel discussions with high-profile experts and filmmakers.

In 2010, a successful pilot programme, entitled 'Next Masters Tokyo', featured 20 young filmmakers from nine different Asian countries and regions. Experts included, among others, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Amos Gitai, and Iranian filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami and Amir Naderi.

Hou is an award-winning film director and a leading figure of Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement. He generally makes rigorously minimalist dramas dealing with the upheavals of the Taiwanese (and occasionally larger Chinese) history of the past century by viewing its impacts on individuals or small groups of characters. A City of Sadness (1989), for example, portrays a family caught in conflicts between the local Taiwanese and the newly arrived Chinese Nationalist government after World War II. It was groundbreaking for broaching this long-taboo subject and became a major success despite its seemingly non-commercial nature.

Weerasethakul is a Thai independent film director, screenwriter, and film producer. Working outside the strict confines of the Thai film studio system, he has directed several features and dozens of short films. Themes reflected in his films include dreams, nature, sexuality, and Western perceptions of Thailand and Asia. His films display a preference for unconventional narrative structures (like placing titles/credits at the middle of a film) and for working with non-actors. Cinephiles affectionately refer to him as "Joe" (a nickname that he, like many with similarly long Thai names, has adopted out of convenience).

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a Japanese filmmaker. He is best known for his many contributions to the Japanese horror genre. Kurosawa first achieved international acclaim with his serial killer film Kyua (Cure) (1997). Also that year, Kurosawa experimented by filming two thrillers back-to-back, Serpent's Path and Eyes of the Spider, both of which shared the same premise (a father taking revenge for his child's murder) and lead actor (Show Aikawa) but spun entirely different stories.

Amos Gitai (Amos Weinraub being his original name) is an Israeli film director. Gitai began his career directing documentaries that showcased his increasingly leftist politics. Field Diary, a critical look at the Lebanon War, was partially censored by the military in 1983, leading Gitai to leave Israel for France, where he would base his working life for the next decade, until the electoral victory of Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo Accords convinced him to return to Israel permanently.

Young filmmakers from East and Southeast Asia can apply June 1, 2011 onwards. Programme details, experts, and participants will be announced in autumn. The Talent Campus Tokyo will be held in cooperation with the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Goethe Institute Tokyo.

"Considering the current situation in Japan and in light of the 150th anniversary of German-Japanese friendship, this is an important project to intensify film relations with Japan and Asia in the future," said German Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Bernd Neumann, commenting the announcement of the first Talent Campus Tokyo.

"The Berlinale Talent Campus is a unique initiative for artistic exchange that links international talent to the German film industry," he added.

The Campus is an initiative of the Berlin International Film Festival, a business division of a cultural event company, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media upon a decision of the German Bundestag, in cooperation with MEDIA Training programme of the European Union and 'Medienboard' Berlin-Brandenburg.

Five finalists have been selected for the ninth round of the Berlinale Talent Campus' short film competition. 15 directors were invited from about 170 applications to present their short film ideas to selected producers at the Campus, the Campus said in media statement.

After the Berlinale, five short film projects were chosen to be produced in collaboration with Berlin-based production companies and with support from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. These films will be completed by the end of 2011:

1. Ana Lily Amirpour (USA) and her compelling A Little Suicide, an animated short about a suicidal cockroach that will be produced by Ambrosia Film. Ana Lily Amirpour was already present at this year's Berlinale with her short film Pashmaloo, which screened in Generation 14plus.

2. In A Stands for ABC, Madli Lääne (Estonia) accompanies a young Liberian named Vele as she fulfils her big dream: to learn how to read. The short film will be realised by DETAiLFILM, which produced the 2009 Berlin Today Award-winning film Wagah.

3. Batman at the Checkpoint by Rafael Balulu (Israel) tells the story of six-year-olds Yuval from Israel and Mahmoud from Palestine, both stuck with their parents in traffic at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem. The film will be produced by Lichtblick Media.

4. Five Ways to Kill a Man by Christopher Bisset (South Africa) will be produced by Filmgestalten and is a surrealistic examination of global responsibility and how people deal with consumer goods in their everyday lives.

5. Finally, the documentary film The White Lobster by British director David Lale will be produced by SLP Filmproduktion and takes us to Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, where cocaine-littered shores have been both a curse and a blessing for the surrounding area.

The five short films will premiere during the 10th Berlinale Talent Campus (February 11-16, 2012). The winning film is selected by a jury and receives the Berlin Today Award.

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