Japanese Cannes prodigy Naomi Kawase believes Netflix can help unleash the creativity of her country’s film industry, despite the outbreak of a feud with the American streaming giant that has plagued the French film festival.
Kawase, a regular at the world’s most prestigious film festival since winning the Camera d’Or in 1997, said she “had not made a single film with 100% Japanese funding” since. at least a decade.
“The Japanese film industry is getting harder and harder on directors,” the 48-year-old told AFP in an interview.
âThe sponsors are so focused on the cast,â she added, accusing Japanese studios of putting style before substance. “They want to use actors who can guarantee a large enough audience to be able to recover the money they invested.”
His latest work, Hikari (Radiance), a love story centered on a cameraman whose eyesight is starting to fade, nominated for this year’s Palme d’Or, was mostly funded by French sponsors.
When asked if she would like to work with Netflix, Kawase replied, “It would be a place for me to express myself freely. I wouldn’t deny it at all.”
Kawase cited South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, whose Netflix-funded work Okja was booed in Cannes, as crediting the streaming giant for giving him complete creative freedom.
âNetflix gives him as much money as he needs and doesn’t interfere,â she said. “He said it was a great environment for the filmmakers and I would say he’s right for sure.”
The Cannes Film Festival has declared war on Netflix, accusing the $ 70 billion movie and TV streaming service of ignoring the big screen and threatening to ban it from making films in the future.
French exhibitors have criticized circumventing cinemas to stream movies straight to TV, but without Netflix’s investment, many obscure and arthouse films would be in danger of collapsing.
Cannes jury chairman Pedro Almodovar was scathing in his criticism, but fellow sworn colleague Will Smith defended Netflix in a heated press conference.
âNetflix brings great connectivity,â said the Hollywood star actor. “In my house, Netflix was just a big plus.”
Kawase, known for the meticulous attention to detail in her cinematic achievements, said Japanese filmmakers are crippled by commercial constraints.
“It’s so difficult to sell an original screenplay,” said Kawase, who writes his own screenplays, adding that sponsors prefer novels or works that have already caused a stir in the market.
Last year, 610 local films were screened in Japan, and more than 70 percent of the top 40 best-selling films were based on blockbuster manga, cartoons and novels.
âThe filmmakers here aren’t really able to create what they want,â Kawase said. âThe reality is that we have to work with foreign sponsors with a scenario that doesn’t just require Japanese actors. But then they might not have commercial success in Japan – it’s difficult.â
His fellow Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda also criticized Japanese cinema – known to the world for its great filmmakers such as Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa – for thirsting for profit.
“There will be more directors who want to work with Netflix or Amazon, actors outside the Japanese film industry,” he recently told AFP.
“The whole area will only sink if it stays like this.”