A Twitter Adventure

I couldn’t believe my luck. For ages, I’ve wanted to learn about women in Asia who write and direct feature films. But with my limited language skills and networks I could’t easily access relevant information. I'd had a single conversation (five years ago) with a woman involved with the International Women's Film Festival in Korea, and that was it. And now, here was a Japanese woman, ‘ramuyaman’, on Twitter--

Ramuyaman had seen this ScreenTalk interview with Niki Caro:



And then she sent out a general tweet: I'd like to see the film The Vintner's Luck directed by Niki Caro but unfortunately, it's not yet released here in TOKYO...

Opportunistic as ever, I—as 'devt'—tweeted her. Was she a filmmaker who could tell me about Japanese women’s experience of feature filmmaking?

Ramuyaman replied: @devt I'm a cinephile and fan of Niki Caro. North Country told me a lot about human rights. Whale Rider, unforgettable.

I told ramuyaman I was writing about The Vintner's Luck. (I still am. But it's hard. It's going to take a while.) And then, on we went, in little bursts of 140 characters, slightly edited here.

@ramuyaman Have you got a minute to answer this question? Do as many Japanese women write & direct feature films as Japanese men do?

@devt Not many female writers and directors were in our cinema history. But these days, gifted female directors appear one after another.

@devt Naomi Kawase won the Grand Prix of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for Mogari No Mori. She is the most famous female director in Japan.

@devt Many Japanese women learn film making at university or film academy, and make their debut nowadays.

@ramuyaman Here (in New Zealand) there are also many women learning to make films, but they are less likely to make a feature film, for many reasons.

@devt It’s similar in Japan. See the ENGLISH/messages of this website. Maybe helpful for your question. http://www.h3.dion.ne.jp/~tantan-s/

@ramuyaman What proportion of your features do women write and direct? Are half your feature films written & directed by women? Or 20%? Or 10% as in New Zealand?

@devt I can't tell the proportion of women directors of feature films exactly but maybe not so many...

@devt Sachi Hamano is a famous but 'forgotten' director. She got many awards for Lily Festival which describes the sexuality of elderly women.

I resolve to find Mogari No Mori—The Mourning Forest —asap. And Lily Festival—Yurisai, a romantic comedy adapted from Hoko Momtani's novel, shown and awarded at various North American festivals and also shown at Raindance this year (&, who knows, maybe here in New Zealand, but I'd not heard of it before). Especially as each film features old people, just like Development-the-movie.



Then I follow the link ramuyaman gave me, and become very excited, because it tells me of another pathway to becoming a feature filmmaker, almost unheard of here in New Zealand.

According to a post by Hikari Hori, Sachi Hamano entered the Japanese film industry via low budget 35mm pornographic filmmaking, in the Pink Eiga underground erotica industry. In 1984, she founded her own production company, Tantansha (I think the link ramuyaman sent is to her site, mostly in Japanese); and has made over 300 films that portray sexuality from women's perspectives.



Then, in 1998, Sachi Hamano produced In Search of a Lost Writer: Wandering the World of the Seventh Sense/ Dai-nana kankai hoko: Osaki Midori o sagashite, which depicted the life and work of the 'forgotten' female writer Midori Osaki, funded partly through donations from over 12,000 women from all over Japan. In 2006, she completed another film about Osaki, The Cricket Girl, where—I found this an inspiration—during filming there were hot springs at every location to 'ease everyone's fatigue'. From the information about her work on imdb, she's made two more features since, not yet available in English.

So-- Sachi Hamano's pathway to making features is 'almost unheard of' here, but not quite. When I was tracking down the (at least ) 75 features produced by New Zealanders in New Zealand between 2003-2008, I learned about Astrid Glitter, who directed John, a feature she also wrote the story for—but not the script—and produced. Glitter Films is perhaps the only production company in New Zealand that proudly contributes to the World Wildlife Fund, has an online store (100% pure, orgasmic, fresh adult entertainment) that sells mugs and sweatshop-free t-shirts. Although her pathway to feature-making—or Sachi Hamano's—is not for me, I've learned something from Astrid Glitter's commercial focus, her knowledge of her niche market, her mission statement of 'arthouse for adult film', her ethical stance and her pride in being '100% New Zealand-made'. I couldn't find an image of her to use, but there's some Adrian Malloch portraits here.

Twitter, thanks again for being there. And ramuyaman, many thanks to you, too.

PS
@ramuyaman I have made a blog entry about our tweets: http://tinyurl.com/yj3mko9. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again & every good wish to you.
@devt I'm very glad to see your article. Thanks a lot ! By the way, I am a man. Sorry, I didn't write it in my profile. haha.
@ramuyaman That is really funny. I'm laughing here, at my assumptions! Have you seen the Vintner's Luck FB & blog?

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