Who is Nobuhiko Obayashi?
One of Japan’s longest working movie directors. Although his expression is in a mainstream popular style of cinema, he has always remained an independent artist in full control of his projects. His work has left a strong mark in the history of Japanese cinema and has borne some timeless classics.
Why a retrospective?
Very much respected in his country, OB remains unjustly unknown outside Japan. We believe his work deserves to be better circulated globally and his talent recognized by film academics and general audience alike. The goal of this project is to find a new audience for his films and have his contribution to cinema gain international recognition. This will be the 1st Obayashi retrospective worldwide.
At 75, OB has now a large body of work behind him. Stylistic and thematic patterns can emerge, as well as a certain philosophy vis-a-vis filmmaking. What’s more, he continues to be active and to turn out exciting new movies. It is a privilege to have him at hand to discuss his career and present his most recent work.
What does the retrospective consist of?
It is hoped this retrospective can host the world premiere of his upcoming new movie due for release in May 2014.
Aren’t 16 movies too many?
One of the most attractive aspects of OB’s career is its diversity: coming-of-age comedies, woman’s portraits, fantasy, middle-age dramas, social thriller… All films have been carefully selected to give a truly representative sample of his prolific filmography. This project is not meant as an “homage” or an “introduction” but as the 1st full-fledged retrospective in the director’s lifetime. Consider that for 16 films selected, 30 more have been left out.
What venue for the retrospective?
Whether a film festival, cinematheque or cultural center, we hope to find a venue that’s open to the local community, where interaction between OB and the public will be encouraged. In tune with OB’s approach, we see this as a grassroot rather than ‘red carpet’ event. OB has already confirmed his willingness to attend the retrospective, provided there is no conflict in his schedule. A good time would be at the time of release of his new movie in May 2014.
Can OB’s movies attract a non-Japanese audience?
Yes, because his films have:
narrative techniques for the most part straightforward and understandable to all;
–themes that transcend culture: the loss of innocence, the persistence of the past into the present, the longing for lost ones…
–a strong sense of traditional Japanese locale: countryside, old houses, temples, festivals offer us a glimpse into a Japan we foreigners all love;
–a poetic use of imagery, sound and music that strives for more than mere storytelling.
Obayashi movies have an undeniable emotional impact, one that has been confirmed by non-Japanese already familiar with his work.
The last decade has witnessed a global surge of interest in Japanese culture. Having been exposed to aspects of it like never before, we believe Western audiences have now the necessary background and their curiosity have been sufficiently aroused to be able to appreciate a Japanese sensitivity such as Obayashi’s (as an example of the readiness of Western audiences to discover lesser known Japanese directors, see the success of the Shinji Somai retrospective at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2012).
What positive outcomes will the retrospective have?
–A wider recognition among the international public of Obayashi as a major figure of Japanese cinema. No efforts will be spared for media coverage. The cultural press and bloggers will be contacted and offered a chance to interview OB.
–Distribution opportunities: very few OB movies have been issued on DVD outside Japan. The large number of subtitled films in the retrospective will be a welcome incentive for new releases. Active promotion will be made to DVD distributors in the host country and around the globe.
–Publication of an official catalogue that will include in-depth interviews with Obayashi discussing his career, with a special focus on the films presented in the retrospective. This will hopefully stimulate the interest of film historians and be the basis for further publications.
–A special website dedicated to the event will be created, including movie trailers, in order to create anticipation and attract unfamiliar audiences.