Friday, February 10, 2006

"Yamato" sets sail for international waters

Distributor Toei claims to have received offers from 40 countries and 100 companies for its WWII epic "Yamato" (Otokotachi no Yamato).

The film is on show at this month's Berlin International Film Festival's film market, where Toei are trying to close the various deals on the table. Offers have been received from countries including the U.K., France, Germany, Taiwan and Singapore. As the only footage distributed internationally so far is a 3-minute promotional video, the Berlin film market screening will be the first time the entire movie has been screened outside Japan.

Since it opened on December 17th of last year, "Yamato" has been seen by 3.4 million people in Japan alone, and has racked up over 4.2 billion yen (roughly US$35 million) in box office receipts in the process. Its scheduled eight-week run in theatres has been extended, largely thanks to producer Kadokawa Haruki's skill in parlaying the film into a social phenomenon. Tours visiting the gigantic set for the movie in Hiroshima and the nearby Yamato Museum are proving to be extremely popular, while a range of Yamato-branded products including curry, coffee and sake have gone on sale.

Kadokawa is adamant that his film won't be sold cheaply. "In my style of filmmaking, I always think about creating something that can measure up to foreign productions. I make films with a strong awareness of the overseas market." This explains the prominent display of the film's English title "Yamato" in all domestic promotional materials, and possibly also the English refrain of the theme song "Close Your Eyes," written and sung by Springsteen-esque rocker Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi.

He also denies claims that the film romanticizes World War II from a Japanese perspective. "The words 'long live the emperor' [tenno heika banzai] appear nowhere in the film. Pride and responsibility in being Japanese is important, but that's not the same as resorting to nationalism."

The resurgent producer is already working on his next film, a biopic of Genghis Khan entitled "Aoki Okami," which is being backed by the Mongolian government. In his view, "co-productions with other countries will probably increase because of Yamato." (source: Sports Hochi)

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