Film | Wide Angle

The foreign element at the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival

by Mark Schilling

Special To The Japan Times

While covering the recently ended second edition of the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival, I again realized that being a non-native isn’t always such a bad deal in a country that prides itself on its omotenashi (hospitality) to outsiders.

Sponsored by Yoshimoto Kogyo, an Osaka-based talent agency, the festival organized a special program for foreign journalists.

Unfair privilege? Not entirely. Our Japanese colleagues were also able to quiz the multitalented Yoko Narahashi — whose 1995 directorial debut about World War II kamikaze, “The Winds of God,” was on the program — and veteran actress Kaori Momoi, present to promote a documentary about the making of her second film as a director, “Hi Hee” (“He and She”), in which she stars as a mentally unbalanced arsonist.

But only we foreign reporters had the chance to chat with them casually in English — Narahashi’s is native-level fluent, Momoi’s is getting there. We not only got acting tips from two experts (“You have to forget everything and focus on the moment,” said Momoi), but also insights into why both women have homes in Los Angeles. (“I’m a total nobody there,” Momoi said with a happy smile.)

Hearing that Momoi was still looking for money to finish “He and She,” I suggested she try Kickstarter. She had never heard of it but seemed interested. Would I have felt as free to pipe up this way if I had been a Japanese journo in a mass press conference? Maybe not. But her film, which looks to be an acting tour de force, is worth supporting. We outlanders in this business have our uses.

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