The Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta) debuts this year (September 20-October 28) as a sprawling amalgamation of 18 events running alongside the Tokyo International Film Festival (see sidebar, below). Key international events include the Tiffcom market and its attendant Tokyo Project Gathering (TPG).
Tiffcom (October 22-24) is entering its fourth year, as it strives to become Asia's premier event to buy and sell films, TV, publications and adaptation rights. Meanwhile, the TPG (October 21-24) is Japan's answer to Pusan's Pusan Promotion Plan and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum.
Despite competition from these events - and the American Film Market in November - both Tiffcom and the TPG are expanding. Tiffcom director Keiji Hamano says Japanese registrants are currently double last year's number, and overseas registrants are up 20%. US buyers are up from 35 last year to more than 80 in 2007.
'Tiffcom is becoming more important for us in terms of Asian sales,' says Tadayuki Okubo, manager of international sales at major studio Toei. 'The number of buyers from Asian countries has been increasing each year.'
Nevertheless, Okubo says Pusan's AFM remains 'the biggest market for Toei's Asian sales'.
Most of the Tiffcom screenings are market world premieres, including Izuru Narushima's Midnight Eagle, Suzuki Matsuo's Welcome To The Quiet Room and Shunichi Nagasaki's Black Belt.
Unlike Cannes and Pusan, there is something to be said for a market that is held in a city where film companies are based.
'Having Tiffcom where we live and work is very comfortable,' says one executive. 'It gives market visitors a chance to get to know Tokyo and develop closer relationships with us.'
Tiffcom director Hamano adds: 'French-brand goods can be bought in almost any big city around the world, but isn't it better to go to Paris where all these great products originate' Why not come to Japan to buy Japanese content' Not just films, but anime, TV and for the first time this year, adaptation rights.'
The potential in buying rights for existing Japanese projects is explored in the TPG's Adaptation Interface, aimed at international producers. 'Most successful Japanese films are based on novels, manga and TV dramas,' explains TPG's director Hiroaki Uchiyama. 'Foreign films such as Ring, Initial D, Oldboy and Battle Of Wits are based on Japanese content. Japanese companies get a lot of foreign offers for such rights - but sellers didn't have a venue and infrastructure for negotiations.'
TPG's line-up of co-production projects has grown to 38 from 28 last year. With only local projects in TPG's first edition in 2005, Japan accounts for just 13 projects this year, with participants from a number of countries. Projects boasting directors such as Shinji Aoyama, Pan Ho-cheung, Alain Resnais, Rithy Panh and leading Korean producers Eugene Lee and Lee Tae-hun are part of this year's line-up.
Two of Japan's major studios, Toei and Nikkatsu, are presenting projects this year.
The success story of last year's TPG was the production deal for Hachi Honey, a project based on the novel by Banana Yoshimoto, to be directed by Naomi Kawase.
'It's not about numbers - it's about quality. The number of strong projects with known names attached has been surprising,' says Uchiyama.
TIFF AT A GLANCE
Opening film: Midnight Eagle (Dir: Izuru Narushima)
Closing film: Silk (Dir: Francois Girard)
Retrospectives: Edward Yang (Winds of Asia); Tokyo in focus: how Tokyo has been depicted in post-Second World War cinema
Key awards: Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix ($50,000), special jury prize ($20,000), best actor, best actress, best director ($5,000 each), audience award ($10,000), best Asian film ($10,000), Akira Kurosawa Award ($100,000)
International competition jury: Alan Ladd Jr (president), Serge Losique, Nicola Piovani, Wu Nien-jen, Kyoko Kagawa, Yasuo Furuhata
THE TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
TIFF (Oct 20-28) remains a showcase for upcoming releases
In its third decade, the Tokyo International Film Festival (Tiff, October 20-28) is Japan's biggest film event, although its impact outside the territory is debatable.
The event's original incarnation as a showcase of upcoming theatrical releases remains its core purpose. The Special Screenings programme consists entirely of international and local titles set for release through local Hollywood and Japanese distributors.
This year's 15-film competition programme features three world premieres, down from four last year. In recent years Tiff has been trying to increase the number of undiscovered films in competition, though there are four confirmed releases in this year's line-up including Reign Over Me, starring Adam Sandler, set for release in Japan in January 2008 through Sony. The Sakura Grand Prix has this year been halved to $50,000. Nonetheless, the extensive Winds of Asia programme has grown into a fairly important event on the Asian calendar while the Japanese Eyes programme is a flashy launch pad for local producers and film-makers.