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Special Interview: Part 1 “The eve of the birth of the Kyoto Historica International Film Festival”

Part 1 “The eve of the birth of the Kyoto Historica International Film Festival”

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Just before we commence the interview, Mr. Takahashi’s mobile rings. It’s a call to tell him that tickets sales are through the roof for the screening of the complete “Rurouni Kenshin” series at the Kyoto Historica International Film Festival. Grinning from ear to ear, Mr. Takahashi assumes a victory pose. “We should have charged more” he laughs.

Matsushima (hereinafter “M”): Oh, we’re dressed the same. (laughs)

Takahashi (hereinafter “T”): Yeah, it’s like we arranged in advance to match. (laughs)

M: So, moving right along, perhaps some people mightn’t be familiar with the Kyoto Historica International Film Festival, but this year is actually the sixth time it’s been held, isn’t it?

T: That’s right. It’s the sixth time.

M: I went once. If I remember correctly, the director Takashi Miike came.

T: Ah, that was the year of “Nintama Rantaro”.

M: Yes. Kinugawa invited me.

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Kinugawa (hereinafter “K”): That’s right. That was the third time, so three years ago.

M: Why did you decide to start a film festival dedicated to period films and historical films?

T: It would be a very long story if I started from the beginning, so I’ll keep it brief.

M: Hahaha, give us the short version.

T: Firstly, the fact that period films aren’t being shot as much in Kyoto in recent years was a big influencing factor.

M: You mean there’s a lower volume of films being shot.

T: That’s right. So the Kyoto prefectural government was looking for a way to revitalize historical films as part of their promotion of local industries. The prefectural government asked us to put on a festival.

M: A festival?

T: Up until then the clients of Toei and Shochiku’s movie studios in Uzumasa, Kyoto were basically Japanese movie producers.

M: Now that you mention it, I guess so.

T: Yes. But, it was suggested that perhaps an event such as a festival should be held to bring in new clients, either in a different industry like computer games or animation, or to have people in the movie industry in other countries bring them in.

T: And I said “What about a film festival with only historical films?” The idea just slipped out of my mouth right there and then.

M: It just came out. (laughs)

T: Yeah, it did. And, actually, they scoffed at the idea at first.

M: Ahahaha.

T: That was six years ago in 2008, or was it 2009?

K: I think it was 2009.

T: In 2009 there was talk first of holding a “Kyoto Cool Japan Expo” in Kyoto using the national government’s industrial promotion budget. That lead to the birth of the official organization “KYOTO CMEX”. When they asked us to hold “that” film festival as a special feature in that framework we didn’t hesitate to say “yes”.

M: So the film festival started from those words that slipped out of your mouth.

T: I guess so. But back then I had no idea just how many historical films there are.

M: So you were jumping the gun?

T: Yes. But, there were some even then, like Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”. So I made the suggestion that if the city of Kyoto was to suddenly lend out Nijo Castle as a filming location, to allow it to be used for a feature film, they might get an offer from Hollywood. It would be a big chance to promote the industry. “Marie Antoinette” was filmed because Versailles Palace was made available to be lent out.

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M: So it started with a casual remark, and you were laughed at at first, but what was the process, or the primary factors, behind actually getting the film festival going?

T: The main thing was, as I mentioned before, the establishment of KYOTO CMEX, which gave us an unimaginably large budget.

M: I see. You obtained sufficient budget to run the festival properly.

T: That’s it.

M: You need money to make money.

T: Yes, that’s right. It’s not just a matter of Toei making money or the movie theaters profiting, but of developing the whole industry. That’s difficult without access to sufficient budget.

M: In that sense you had good luck and timing.

T: We did.

(To be continued)