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Tokyo (AFP) – Japan’s film industry, underfunded and “inward-looking”, no longer attracts young talent, regrets director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who has collaborated with young directors on a series soon to be released on Netflix .
The 60-year-old filmmaker, crowned with the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018 for “A family affair”, considers that the smug attitudes and the harsh working conditions in the local audiovisual sector prevent Japanese productions from meeting the same success. abroad than South Korean works.
“Our creative environment needs to change,” Kore-eda said in an interview with AFP, pointing to the low salaries, long hours and uncertainties about the future faced by those starting out.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been able to focus on perfecting my craft. But looking around me, I see that young people are no longer choosing to work in film or television.”
To add his stone to the building, the director of “Still Walking” and “Nobody Knows” has chosen to collaborate with three young directors on a series to be broadcast in January on the Netflix streaming platform.
“It was rather me who stole things from them”, jokes Kore-eda, praising the qualities of his young colleagues and their “knowledge of the material, much better” than his.
Called “Makanai: In the kitchen of the maiko”, this production in nine episodes adapted from a manga takes place in Kyoto (western Japan) in the community of apprentice geishas.
Japanese animation is appreciated all over the world, but films and series produced in the archipelago struggle to exist abroad, compared to South Korean hits like the series “Squid Game” or “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho , the first feature film in a foreign language to receive the Oscar for best film in 2020.
The South Korean government has spared no expense in sustaining its audiovisual industry, enabling the creation of numerous global hits over the past two decades, but “meanwhile, Japan was looking inward” as the local market was enough for him, observes Kore-eda.
“That’s why there is such a gap” between the two countries, thinks the filmmaker, who himself recently chose to exercise his talent outside the archipelago.
Filming “La Vérité” (2019) in France with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche and “Les Bonnes étoiles” (2022), a South Korean film about child trafficking, allowed him to better understand the shortcomings of Japanese cinema, he explains.
Kore-eda and other Japanese directors called this year for the creation of a local equivalent of the Center National du Cinéma (CNC) in France to improve funding for audiovisual creation and working conditions.
According to a 2019 Japanese government poll, two-thirds of Japanese film workers were unhappy with their pay and long hours, and worried about the future of the industry.
“The filmmakers of my generation, and myself, we are resigned to the fact that we can no longer live only from our films”, says Hiroshi Okuyama, 26, one of the directors who participated in the new Netflix series .
Hirokazu Kore-eda and other filmmakers were also publicly outraged earlier this year after several actresses accused a Japanese director of sexual assault.
Their calls to fight bullying, in a country that has hardly been won over by the #MeToo movement that started in Hollywood in 2017, prompted the Japanese directors’ union to take action against bullying, “a big step in before,” says Kore-eda.
However, he calls for going further, in particular by putting in place protections so that victims can testify, and regrets that sexual harassment in Japan is still “considered as a problem of people, whereas it should be approached as a structural problem”.
Asked about his next projects, Kore-eda says he wants to address issues of immigration and abandonment, and work on “an epic”. “There are too many things I want to do,” he says.
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Japanese cinema is too “inward-looking” (Kore-eda to AFP)