In Japan, the great directors are mobilizing to save Japanese cinema



“It really is a matter of life and death for Japanese cinema,” does not hesitate to affirm the great Japanese director Suwa Nobuhiro, 62, after a very long press conference on Tuesday June 14 in Tokyo in front of dozens of Japanese journalists. Sitting next to him, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 60, Palme d’or 2018 for A family matter and Jury Prize in 2022 at Cannes for The Lucky Starsdrive the point home: “Japanese cinema is in very great danger and even risks disappearing if nothing is done. »

” It’s time to act “

Obviously, there is urgency. In one of the large press rooms of the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), in the heart of the business district, a dozen of the country’s most famous Japanese directors, screenwriters and actors gathered to announce the founding of a circle calling for the creation of a National Film Center (CNC) modeled on the French model of film support (1).

“We have been talking together since 2020 about the lack of public funding for Japanese cinema, explains Kore-eda in the preamble. It is time to take a step to improve the working conditions of the profession as a whole by creating a system of long-term solidarity. We must avoid the decay of our cinema. » The circle already has nearly thirty members.

Funding is falling, and so is quality

The tone is serious. The words are strong. But so is the sad reality. Thus, 75% of professionals in the sector are “freelancers” whose level of remuneration continues to plunge over the years. Some are barely earning a living, and a professional poll was alarmed at the ” sleeping time ” of these image workers: “between four and six hours a day! », for very commercial productions often of poor quality that are no longer up to the standards of those of the masters of the past.

Funding is declining, and so is quality. Seen from Europe, this situation seems unthinkable, “but we have no public support in Japan,” they insist, and the cinema depends on the Ministry of the Economy… There is no Ministry of Culture here. Just a sub-ministry of cultural affairs.

“I have been making movies for yearsinsists director Kazuya Shiraishi, 47. Previously, 100% of film professionals were full-time employees, there was a “cinema family”, even extras were salaried employees…» Not to mention sexual harassment against women, ” a calamity “, Judge Nishikawa Miwa, 54, director and novelist.

“We know it won’t be easy”

We feel a great fatigue among all these directors: “We’re tired of only talking about the deplorable working conditions of our technicians, actors, scriptwriters… It’s become obsessive. It is our responsibility to act. Cinema in France is protected by this CNC shield. »

Faced with these challenges, these professionals are committed to making things happen, but they feel that breaking conservatism and corporatism will take a long time. “At least we started to get together between directors, smiled Suwa Nobuhiro, a rare thing. This is already a good sign. But we know it won’t be easy. »

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