Whose Japanese Cinema?: Japan's Transnationally Invisible Popular Film Cultures
Rayna Denison - Lecturer in Film and Televisions Studies, University of East Anglia, London
Academic writing reveals, in many cases, an understanding of Japanese cinema based on a selective transnational canon of films. Consequently, the majority of academic writings on Japanese films are about films that have received at least limited transnational distribution. Often times, these writings are about those films that have most emphatically crossed between countries. For example, we have much more academic work on Japan’s famous “Golden Age” directors like Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, and more work on critically lauded newer directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Takeshi Kitano, than we have on the vast majority of domestically successful directors. This talk is therefore an attempt to begin to rethink whose history of Japanese cinema we are writing; the history of cinema in Japan; or, a history led only by those films that circulate beyond Japan’s borders. Refocusing attention on the contemporary domestic market for films, this talk traces several new trends in Japanese filmmaking (animated and live action) that are largely invisible to a transnational definition of “Japanese cinema.” It highlights several new production trends, as well as intensifications of long-standing traditions in Japanese genres, industrial structures and production techniques to make visible some of the hidden popular majority of Japanese filmmaking. In performing this re-examination of the domestic Japanese film markets, the aim is to reconsider how we conceptualise Japanese cinema, to move away from notions of transnational and “quality” filmmaking and closer towards what audiences in Japan are actually watching.