Festival, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kadokawa Holdings, Inc.
By Mark Schilling
Tsuguhiko Kadokawa is at the top of the Japanese film world in more ways than one. The
president and CEO of the Kadokawa media group, which includes Kadokawa Pictures,
Asmik Ace Entertainment and Nippon Herald, Kadokawa has, since last year, served as
General Producer of the Tokyo International Film Festival -- the largest film festival in
When Kadokawa took over TIFF in March of 2003, the festival was still reeling from the
embarrassing disqualification of three films from the competition section of the 2002
edition. It was also losing ground internationally to the upstart Pusan Film Festival, which
was successfully riding the wave of the Korean film boom.
"I did about half of what I intended to do last year -- and I'll do the rest this year," says
Kadokawa. Kadokawa and his team aim to re-position the festival as, not just a junior
version of Cannes, Berlin and Venice, but an event holding a unique, leading position
among Asian festivals, while promoting Japanese films and other media contents to the
Thus the launch of two new markets this year. The first was the Tokyo International
Entertainment Market 2004, held from October 22 to 24, which specialized in comics,
anime, games and films. Exhibitors included major Japanese publishers, animation
houses, TV stations and film companies. The second was the Tokyo International Film &
Contents Market 2004, held from October 25 to 27, which presented Japanese films and
other contents to international buyers. "The markets are a major priority for us this year,"
says Kadokawa. "We want to show the world the rich variety of contents Japan has to
Thus the introduction this year of the Kurosawa Prize, to be given to what Kadokawa
describes as a "world-renowned filmmaker, either a director or producer, whom Akira
Kurosawa would have applauded."
Thus the doubling of the Winds of Asia section for Asian films from 15 entries to 30, to
better draw attention to talented Asian filmmakers, including Hong Kong director Pang
Ho Cheung, Indian producer Yash Johar and Hong Kong action auteur Chang Cheh.
Thus the start of the new Japanese Eyes section for independent Japanese filmmakers,
both newcomers and veterans, with one million yen prizes awarded to the best film and
the best talent, either in front of or behind the camera. "We want to expose the audience
to good Japanese films they might have otherwise missed," Kadokawa explains.
Abroad, the strongest genres for the Japanese film industry have long been animation,
samurai period dramas and monster movies. Godzilla forever! But now, Kadokawa notes,
foreign tastes in Japanese films are more diverse. "Hideo Nakata's Ringu opened the door
in the US and elsewhere for Japanese horror," he says. "The scares in Japanese horror
films come from a deeper place (than the Hollywood equivalent), but American audiences
can understand them."
While upbeat on Japanese contents, Kadokawa sees a Japanese film market in turmoil,
with smaller distributors falling into the red as competition with the majors intensifies
and profit margins thin. "Film festivals have a role to play in addressing this problem,"
says Kadokawa. "We can give these companies a platform for their films."
Also, while pronouncing himself pleased with Hollywood's interest in Japanese films, he
adds that he doesn't "want to stop at remakes." "I think we should be making films with
Hollywood," he says. "And just not by providing financing, but by working together on
the creative side as well."
To co-produce effectively, however, Japanese filmmakers need to become more savvy
about the Hollywood system, Kadokawa believes. "It's tough to make movies there on
your own," he explains. "You have to work closely with lawyers and agents." Kadokawa
has been learning these and other lessons directly: Last April his company invested $100
million Dreamworks, in return for Japan rights to Dreamworks product. "Dealing with
Dreamworks has opened my eyes in a lot of ways," he says.
He cites producer Taka Ichise, whose horror hits Ringu and Juon: The Grudge have
inspired Hollywood remakes, as another Japanese filmmaker who is making the cultural
leap across the Pacific. "He's like the ballplayers Ichiro (Suzuki) and (Hideki) Matsui --
someone who is testing himself in the US," he says. "We need more like him."