香港有藝術發展基金，臺灣有輔導金，韓國電影委員會也有無數基金支援國內的獨立或商業電影，但日本的導演卻沒有其他亞洲國家那麼幸運。UNI J APAN和文化廳的輔導金除名額少數外，因為製作成本需超過5000千萬日元的電影才有資格申請，明顯是為電影大公司錦上添花，實際上永遠不會落實到製作成本很少的獨立電影。獨立電影的輔導金不是沒有，由當年力挺山下敦弘、熊切和嘉等導演，發起大阪藝術大學新浪潮運動的富岡邦彥所主導的大阪市電影人輔導金（CO2）就最具代表性。但它所提供的輔導金卻只有嚇人的六十萬日元！可是你別小看這區區的輔導金，大渡海的導演石井裕也在大阪藝術大學求學時就受過CO2恩惠。他憑CO2的兩部作品讓鹿特丹電影節為他辦回顧，香港亞洲電影大獎頒給他楊德昌新人獎。
原來很多即使無法入圍PIA或獲得海外電影節賞識的獨立電影，在國內都可能找到發行管道。雖然現在東京的藝術戲院已經沒有二十年前那麼蓬勃，但艱辛耕耘的還是不少，比如UPLI NK，中野BOREBORE，新宿劇場，EUROSPACE等，主場上映有發行公司撐腰的藝術電影外，都願意把早場和八點以後的夜場（LATE SHOW）空出來放映日本獨立電影。戲院當然不會偉大到不考慮經濟利益，其實大家都打著各自的如意算盤。因為近年即使在康城，威尼斯等電影節風光獲獎的藝術電影的市場已經嚴重萎縮，反而上映日本的獨立電影可以取得更好的成本效應。獨立電影每場的平均動員數都可能比任何主場的觀眾多，因為有關電影的導演、演員、製作團隊都會用盡自己的人緣資源去賣票，每天還場場謝票，搞觀眾見面會，或找有名文化人對談。
此外，AUDIT ORIUM澀谷也是日本獨立電影元老級導演山本政志主宰的CINEMA IMPACT工作坊的電影發行基地。在CINEMA IMPACT工作坊10萬日元製作費制度下誕生的名導系列絕對是將來日本電影史輝煌的一章。這工作坊的運營費用完全來自夢想成為演員，進入演藝圈的無數年輕人或中年人所交付的學費。許多名導如林海像、阪本順二、矢崎仁司等都無法抗拒江湖大佬山本政志的邀請，負責擔任工作坊十天左右的導師。在這十天內導師必須和學員完成一部作品，而製作費就只有10萬日元。打著發動電影界暴動旗號的CINEMA IMPACT到目前為止已經完成了 20多部電影，因篇幅所限無法詳談，大家不妨參閱其網站。而裡面票房最成功的例子莫如大根仁的「戀之渦」，是AUDIT ORIUM戲院開始以來最賣座的獨立電影，而且還繼續擴大全國上映版圖。
濱口竜介東京大學畢業後卻不走其校友進入名門大企業和政府部門的精英之路，反學其大前輩増村保造、三島由紀夫殺入電影圈。但此時非彼時，當年片廠制度的輝煌歲月不再。做了幾年電視副導後，他進入當時東京藝術大學剛成立的電影系碩士班，師從北野武和黑沢清。這幾年來東京藝術大學電影系已經培養無數英才但濱口竜介肯定是最出位的一位。出道不久已經拍攝了7部長片（其中被日本許多重量級批評家喻為2010年後日本最重要的劇情長片「親密」長達6個多小時!）和 8部中短片。除了劇情片，他和酒井耕共同執導的「東北記錄映畫三部曲」也被評論家們認為是有關311最好的紀錄電影。這次選映的三部短片，「一切從這裡開始」，「永遠愛著你」和最新的電影「觸不到的肌膚」（「寄生獸」男一號染穀將太 零義務主演！）希望是香港觀眾認識濱口竜介的一個小小開始。濱口的電影，只需要看到任何一瞬的畫面，聽到任何一句臺詞或音效，就會義無反顧地欲擺不能。未來十年最有機會成為新一代日本電影大師的導演非他莫屬。
三宅唱的「男人四十之輪流轉 」，黑白闊銀幕膠片沖洗，影像恢巨集格局成熟，野心和才氣並重，看不出是一位28歲年輕小夥子拍攝的處女長片。2012年LOCARNO電影節主席在日本選片時一看到電影的初剪版本就驚為天人，立刻選定此片為當年主競賽單元作品。在AUDITORIUM澀穀獨家公映時，評論一致讚好被選為「映畫芸術」全年十大第三位，勇奪多個國內電影節最佳新導演，更讓大家觸目驚心的是此片竟出現在日本最牛影評人蓮實重彥在美國權威電影雜誌Film Comment 所選的十大名單上，令許多看蓮實影評長大的導演們羨慕地咬牙切齒。
其實進入21世紀後的日本獨立電影，百花齊放，有通過網路籌集拍攝基金的MOTION GALERRY，把獨立電影放上網上發行收費的LOAD S HOW，紮根在京都資助新導演在京都拍攝的志摩電影公司，許多地方城市的電影節比如夕張奇幻電影節，沖縄國際映畫祭，也有資助新導演拍片，還有無數的電影工作坊，其複雜和多元發展實在無法在這有限的篇幅說完，再加上這次電影節的資金有限無法介紹更多的日本獨立電影，也是一遺憾。但相信通過這次精選的電影和通過認識這幾位在未來十年可能會改寫日本電影史的新導演，大家可以更進一步瞭解日本獨立電影的傾向。希望這篇文章和這次的特集可以打開一扇窗，讓大家在未來的日子可以接觸更廣大更全面的日本獨立電影風景。
Talk About Japan Independent Films Tendency in Recent Years and
Some of the Future Master
There was a time I read a film review saying that most Japanese movie masters, who are not widely-known within the country, rely on the recognition of foreigners who have taste for films. This writer probably does not have in-depth knowledge about the field. In fact, many talented directors who had long been overshadowed by Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, including Seijun Suzuki, Tatsumi Kumashiro, Daisuke Itō, Tai Kato, Kazuo Mori or Kenji Misumi, might not have become noticeable without recommendations of local film critics. That we can now appreciate their work actually relies greatly on these critics. However, how these masters prosper is not the main focus of this article. Through introducing excellent independent films, which have usually been overshadowed by fairly-made commercial productions and overlooked at large-scale Film Festivals such as Venice Film Festival or Festival de Cannes, I would like to share with readers some of my thoughts concerning the trend of Japanese independent filmmaking in recent years.
While most local governments in Asia, including those in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, would provide different kinds of funding to support commercial and independent filmmaking, the Japanese government only provides little. Not only does UNI JAPAN and cultural department have limited quota for people to apply subsidy, but their subsidies are only offered to films with production cost exceeding fifty million yen. This is obviously a policy which clings to benefit big companies with huge productions, but not independent films with low budget.
Although CO2, which was founded by Kunihiko Tomioka, who supported Nobuhiro Yamashita and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri to initiate the New Wave campaign in Osaka University of Arts, is still subsidizing independent filmmaking in Japan to a certain extent, its subsidy is really low, amounting only 60 thousand Yen. Yet, despite the small amount, it has helped many great directors. Yuya Ishii, the director of The Great Passage is definitely one of them. Not only had CO2 subsidized his studies in Osaka University of Arts, but two of his films, which were produced with the CO2 funding, later even granted him a retrospective at The International Film Festival Rotterdam and “The Edward Yang New Talent Award” at Asian Film Awards (AFA).
While the fact that China becomes the world’s second largest economy has not yet threatened Japan’s economic market and potential in the world, its affluence apparently does not benefit the film industry much either. Whether it is for commercial or independent filmmaking, the production costs are lower than those in many developing countries. Perhaps directors as famous as Yoji Yamada and Takashi Miike might be getting salaries lower than any amateur commercial film director in China. In fact, all of the productions made before “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” by Sion Son are low-budget films costing only about thirty to forty million yen. Think about his influential status of international film festivals in recent years. You can imagine how low pay Japanese commercial filmmakers generally get. Besides, Japanese directors are not as lucky as those in the third-world countries since they are not allowed to apply for funding offered by some European film festivals. Most new ones work part-time to save money for film-making. Once they have saved a few hundred thousand yen, they will excitedly start recruiting crews and preparing their debuts, aiming to get their films into PIA, the largest scale independent film festival in Japan. As we know that
In fact, the production cost of Japanese independent films selected to be screened in many international film festivals generally range from 1million yen to 5 million yen only. Sometimes in order to cut cost, the directors or producers can even make a movie with not more than 1 million yen. It is so surprising that the production cost can be so low while quality can still be maintained. It becomes a common knowledge that joining the film industry is hard to earn a living. However, including independent films, there are over 1000 films annually produced in Japan, with around 700 independent films applying for PIA every year. Many people may question why Japanese independent films have such flourishing development.
It is because many independent films, even though they cannot be nominated in PIA or do not receive any award in foreign film festivals, can still be distributed in Japan. Although nowadays art theatres in Tokyo are no longer as flourishing as 20 years ago, many art theatres are still operating in spite of difficult condition, such as Uplink, Theater Pole-Pole Higashi Nakano, Theatre Shinjuku and Eurospace. Apart from doing screenings regularly for films supported by film distributors in prime time, they are willing to screen Japanese independent films in the morning or evening session after 8pm (late show). Of course, these theatres still concern about profit. Yet, perhaps because even the market of the art films, which are awarded in Cannes and Venice Film Festival, has been shrinking in recent years, these theatres find that screening Japanese independent films may have more viewers and income. Besides, director, actors, and the crews of independent films usually try their best to sell tickets through organizing post-screenings and meetings with audience as well as interviewing famous cultural critics to discuss the films.
Here, we must highlight a theatre called AUDITORIUM Shibuya theatre. It was operated by The Film School of Tokyo two years ago. It has a prominent role in the independent film market just within two years as it always organizes retrospective exhibitions for new independent films directors by showing their films and promoting them. Last year, the retrospective exhibition of Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Chihiro Ikeda and Tetsuya Mariko were full house and had achieved great success. In recent years, an independent film organization “Kuzoku” has attracted the attention of foreign film festivals. (Its representative screening is Tomita Katsuya’s Saudade.) “Kuzoku” is an independent film organization, which was built due to the cooperation between the theatres and the directors.
Besides, Auditorium Shibuya, led by the legendary Japanese independent film director Masashi Yamamoto, is also the film distribution base of Cinema Impact workshop. The Cinema Impact Workshop only got 100 thousands production cost to produce Famous Director Series. This will definitely become a golden chapter of Japanese film history in the future. In fact, the operation fee of the workshop was all from many teenagers or adults who dream to be actors or actresses. A lot of famous directors such as Kaizo Hayashi, Junji Sakamoto and Hitoshi Yazaki accepted Masashi Yamamoto’s invitation to tutor a 10-day workshop. In the 10-day workshop, tutors and students only have 100 thousand yen to make a film. Cinema Impact which aims to bring the heavy impact on the film industry, has already completed more than 20 films so far. You may look at the details in the website if you wish to know more. Hitoshi One’s "The Vortex of Love" attains the biggest box office among all independent films since the Auditorium Shibuya has been set up. It will even be shown in more and more regions in the country.
After learning about the background, I would like to introduce the directors and films that we chose.
Sho Miyake’s “Playback” is processed by black and white, cinemascope wide screen, 35mm printing.The structure of this film is mature and aggressive. It is hard to imagine that the film is the debut of a 28-year-old young adult. Actually, even the chairman of LOCARNO festival 2012 was amazed when he watched the first cut of the film during screening. He immediately classified it as Competition Category of the festival. When the movie was shown exclusively in the Auditorium Shibuya, the film was nominated the 3rd place out of the year’s best 10 films in Eiga Geijutsu .Sho Miyake won the best new directors award in many local film festivals as well. In addition, the film was also listed on the Top 10 list by the most influential film critic Shigehiko Hasumi, in the authoritative American film magazine Film Comment. This news amazed many directors who grew up with Shigehiko Hasumi’s critics.
Keiko Tsuruoka learnt about films from the new wave superstar Kunitoshi Manda in university. “The town of whale” was her graduation work. This work was shown to Kiyoshi Kurosawa luckily; and Tsuruoka was able to enter the Tokyo University of the Arts and study at the department of film and new media to get her master degree under his strong recommendation. Moreover, she even won a big prize with this film in PIA. More than that, her film was also the only Japan film shortlisted for the New Wave Competition of the Pusan International Film Festival. We can see the talent of this young lady from this low-budget film. It is predictable that her graduation work of her master degree in Tokyo University of the Arts would be better and would astonish the world. If her new work appears on the list of the Cannes Film Festival next year, please do not miss it or else you will feel regretful about it! It is because the film was her debut work shot in her youth which came only once in a lifetime. We also provide Tsuruoka’s teacher, Kunitoshi Manda’s latest artwork, “Omokage” in the same screening.
Imaizumi Kaori actually uses six hundred thousand yen CO2 subsidy and her few hundred thousand yen savings to produce “Just pretended to hear”. Besides, she also got help from her husband’s production team. (Her husband, Rikiya Imaizumi is one of the most prolific indie filmmakers in Japan.) Maybe years later, somewhere on earth will organize a film festival which includes a retrospective of Imaizumi’s family. Although she needed to take care of her new-born baby while preparing her first long feature, she did not only win the CO2 Jury Grand Prize, but she was also shortlisted for the Generation Kplus in Berlin International Film Festival and won the 小孩评审团大奖. This is truly exemplary to many films of which the production budget is under one million yen.
In fact, after entering the 21st century, Japanese independent film is like a hundred flowers in bloom. While there are groups like Motion Gallery which raises funds for shooting from the Internet, other parties like LOAD SHOW, put independent films online and carry on online distribution. Besides, there are other sources providing subsidies to new directors too such as Shima Films rooted in Kyoto, Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Okinawa International Movie Festivals and some other film workshops. Yet, due to the limited length of this article, I am not going to articulate the intricacy and diversity of these sources. It is also a pity that the limited funding of this festival restricts me from introducing more Japan Independent films to you guys. However, I believe that the selected films in this festival and the aforementioned introduction of the new independent film directors, who will probably re-write the Japanese film history in next ten years, already provide you with a clearer picture regarding the trend of Japanese independent films. I wish this article and the recommended film series will broaden all of your views of Japanese independent films.