Archival Film Festivals and Japan


A couple of years ago, I wrote a review of Tokyo FILMeX's "Nippon Modern" retrospective of Shochiku films from the 1920s and 1930s for Undercurrent, the online journal of FIPRESCI. It was a critical take on not just the retro, or even Sato Tadao's article for the catalog, but of a longer history of Japanese critics and institutions declining to think sufficiently about Japanese film history, in part by not thinking about the history of thinking about cinema in Japan. The piece was another in my efforts to think about the history and problems of film theory in Japan, which I mentioned in my last entry.

The Undercurrent article caught the eye of Alex Marlow-Mann, who asked me to expand on it for a volume in the "Film Festival Yearbook" series put out by St Andrews Film Studies. This volume, number five in the series, was on archival film festivals. My piece, entitled "Retrospective Irony: Film Festivals and Japanese Cinema History," sketches the history of retrospectives of Japanese film originating in Japan, beginning with those organized by the Kawakita Nagamasa and his wife Kashiko (the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute), and explores what kind of Japanese cinema they were constructing, especially for a foreign other. As with the Undercurrents piece, I note how these retros frequently did construct a Japan or Japanese cinema that was itself not supposed to be the object of critical theory, even when these events were held at home.

My piece is a bit of an outlier in the volume, which has many excellent pieces on the issue of archival festivals, on specific festivals like Pordenone and Bologna, as well as interviews with some of the key players. You can get the book at Amazon:

Alex Marlow-Mann, ed. Film Festival Yearbook 5: Archival Film Festivals (St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, 2013)

Note that the same series has another volume on festivals in East Asia, with a number of good pieces by colleagues like Abé Mark Nornes, Chris Fujiwara, Julian Stringer, and Tom Vick:

Dina Iordonova and Ruby Cheung, eds. Film Festival Yearbook 3: Film Festivals and East Asia (St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, 2011)

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