TIFFCOM delegates complain that uncoupling the Tokyo International Film Festival and its market is having a detrimental impact.

In previous years, Japanese-subtitled festival screenings to local press, industry and general audiences had been an attractive boost for sales agents, who complained on and off the record this year that the split between the market (Oct 21-23) and festival dates (Oct 23-31) were a let-down.

“We have Partners In Crime in the TIFF World Focus section, but the first P&I screening is on October 24, after the market closes - and then some industry people will already be getting back,” said Eric Chou, sales exec at Double Edge Entertainment from Taiwan.

“It was better when the market and festival blended all together.”

Market attendees were trading rumors of a rift between the festival and organizer UniJapan, but TIFFCOM head Mika Morishita said: “The reason is just because of the venue booking.

“The dates are very challenging. The Japanese domestic economy has grown, and there are lots of parties and functions. This hotel is fully booked. It’s very crowded and we are thinking about the timing. Maybe after this year, we can get an answer.

“The challenge this year was that it was the first time not having the market and festival overlapping. But otherwise we are happy. We were able to meet new people from places like Myanmar and Cambodia for the first time, and we focused on having more space for the seminars. This year we held them in two rooms instead of just the one we had last year,” she said, referring to the seminars on co-production, book-to-film adaptations and regional TV and film opportunities.

Buyers numbers up

TIFFCOM hosted more than 1,100 buyers compared to last year’s 1,074 with eight national umbrella booths including Canada, Malaysia, Taiwan and Korea.

“We welcomed lots of local TV stations, with an increase of around 40% compared to last year because they can get support from the government’s J-LOP subsidy,” said Morishita.

“Film exhibitors are the same as last year but we have an increased number of buyers and TV sellers. Buyers coming from East Asia and Southeast Asia increased by 90% compared to last year.”

The TIFFCOM head added that Europeans and Americans were at the same level as last year.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council had a stand promoting Hong Kong films and their own market, Filmart.

HKTDC assistant manager Polly Fung said: “There is more variety than just TV and film here, with anime and content like this Gundam showcase, but it’s basically Japan-focused.”

In general, the market floor seemed busier than last year, although as usual, the major Japanese companies were in constant meetings while other sellers could sometimes be seen twiddling their thumbs.

 “The market booths seem noisier and closer together this year. It’s a little distracting,” said Choi Eun-young, head of International Business at 9ers Entertainment from Korea.

“But I had lots of meetings here, following Busan. We aren’t ready to announce, but I’m closing deals with people I did and didn’t get to see there.

“It’s worth coming since it’s regionally close, and good to carry on directly after Busan and sometimes you close at the American Film Market (AFM).

“There are the small and mid-size buyers who only come to Asian markets, and then the bigger ones you can take business to from Busan to Tokyo to AFM.

“It would be better if the festival and market were together. There’s a synergy to be had for Japanese films, too, and we would push films to go to the Tokyo festival and add support.

“But it’s not good to have the market and festival split.”