'My Small Land'

Source: Gaga Corp

‘My Small Land’

Momo Films, a new distributor with a focus on Japanese cinema, is launching in Canada with the acquisition of Emma Kawawada’s My Small Land from Gaga Corporation.

Aki Takabatake, founder and CEO of the Toronto-based distributor, said the firm will initially aim to theatrically release two to four films a year and is in talks on a number of titles.

“I want to distribute good quality Japanese films in Canada and be a cultural bridge between Japan and Canada,” said Takabatake. “I also want to give back to the Japanese film industry and support Japanese directors.”

Momo Films’ first release will be My Small Land, which premiered in the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus strand and received a special mention from the Amnesty International Award jury. The film follows a teenage Kurdish refugee living in Japan whose life is thrown into chaos when her family’s refugee status is revoked. It marks the debut feature of Kawawada, previously assistant director on Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Third Murder.

My Small Land is also set to screen at the Busan International Film Festival next week as part of its Discovering New Japanese Cinema showcase.

Takabatake is a former film buyer for Japanese distributor SPO Entertainment from when she was living in Tokyo. She also founded the Toronto Japanese Film Festival (TJFF) in 2012, where she continues to be artistic director. Takabatake also programmes for TJFF in Hibiya, an outdoor film festival in Tokyo organised by Midtown Hibiya that screens Japanese films with English subtitles for free.

“As I am incorporated in Canada, I can apply to Canadian film grants and tax credits such as Telefilm funds or Ontario Creates funds,” she explained. “If there is any opportunity for Japan-Canada co-production or any Japanese producers or directors who want to film in Canada, I can help by applying to those grants or be on-site coordinator.”

Takabatake has experience working for North American productions shot in Japan such as Netflix’s docu-drama Age Of Samurai and is an associate producer on upcoming Canadian documentary Hand-Drawn, about animation and animators. Directed by Felicity Morland, the film includes interviews with ex-Disney animator Glenn Keane and Japan’s Hosoda Mamoru.