Japan, NEWS — 01/05/2012 10:43 PM

Japan: the sleeping documentary giant (C21Media)

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The first documentary pitching session held in Japan took place last month. NHK’s World Documentary executive producer Ken-ichi Imamura tells Clive Whittingham about his hopes for the future of the region’s documentary market.
Ken-ichi Imamura is a frustrated man. Frustrated, but optimistic. As the executive producer of the World Documentary strand on Japanese public broadcaster NHK, it is his job to select the best factual programmes from around the world to air at midnight four nights a week. The task is to find things that are different from the normal documentary programming on NHK. Afghan Cricket Club and Football Under Cover, the latter about the Iranian women’s soccer team, are titles that certainly fit that bill and have already aired in the strand.

At the recent International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Imamura spoke with the makers of Danish film “Break of Dawn”, about a budding Iranian astronaut who defies her strict uncle to follow her dream, and “Happiness”, about the arrival of the internet and television in a remote village in Bhutan.

But Imamura wasn’t simply at IDFA for acquisitions; he also helped to represent Korean film “Here Comes Uncle Joe” at the Forum pitching sessions in Amsterdam. The film, about a grocery delivery man and the complex relationship he has with his customers and family, was well received by Europe’s main broadcasters but Imamura wants to be able to bring programmes from his homeland to IDFA next year.

“I want to encourage Asian documentary makers to sell their projects abroad,” he says. “In 2010, I went to IDFA with a Chinese filmmaker; last year I supported a Korean filmmaker and this year I hope I attend with Japanese filmmakers. Usually, we see no Japanese filmmakers in foreign film festivals because they don’t know how to go abroad.”

Clive Whittingham

C21Media (05-01-2012)

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