Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs is to raise $20m (Y2.5bn) for a range of activities to support the local film industry and promote Japanese films abroad.

In its proposal for the fiscal 2003 budget, the agency detailed a number of new schemes with which to boost national film production and export Japanese product to the international market.

In addition to backing the submission of 25 films to Cannes, Berlin and other prominent international film festivals, the agency will provide funds for up to three booths at film markets. In addition, it will support the screening of up to 20 films in theatres abroad. The agency is also planning to underwrite the rental of cinemas for Japanese film retrospectives and other special screenings. It intends to appropriate $2.4m (Y290m) for these purposes.

To improve the quality of the films themselves, the agency will support the training of young filmmakers. It will solicit proposals from directors and scriptwriters with one or two film credits and award $3.0m (Y360m) production grants for the best six. The winning projects will be judged on their value as entertainment that introduces contemporary Japan to general audiences, as well as artistic merit. The agency will also grant $4.9m (Y600m) for the production of ten films with regional themes.

The agency already operates a programme for supporting Japanese films, which includes monetary prizes given to eight features and three shorts annually, as well as subsidies for independent film screenings and study fellowships for young filmmakers. The program, however, is relatively small and industry insiders have long considered it inadequate for addressing the continuing stagnation of the national film industry.