OSAKA — The 20-odd people sipping coffee and tea in a shop in Chuo Ward here haven’t come in just for the beverages. They also want to see free short videos made primarily by amateur filmmakers such as high school students and citizens’ groups.

The videos, including documentary and dramatic features that run up to nine minutes, are being shown under a project called Cafe Hoso Terere, which was launched last month by the Osaka-based film organization Video Kobo Akame to screen amateur videos in local coffee shops and bars.

Akame was formed in 1992 by a group of female film school graduates. By producing and editing videos and offering filmmaking classes, the organization hopes to enable women and other groups underrepresented in the media to express their opinions through film.

The videos being shown at the Amcan cafe/variety shop in Chuo Ward include a documentary made by a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian about her life in Japan. Another features a music performance by a feminist singer from South Korea. It takes about an hour to screen 11 of the videos.

“It was good that I could see a variety of films for free,” says Nozomi Tsujii, a 26-year-old photographer. “I often come to this shop because it’s cozy, and I think the video show suits the atmosphere here.”

Toshiko Kanno, Amcan’s owner, said it was nice to see so many people — including numerous first-time customers — gather and talk with each other.

Akame staff member Shuko Shimonobo, who is in charge of the Cafe Hoso Terere project, said she got the idea after seeing similar screenings of amateur videos in cafes and bars in Paris.

She visited Paris and other European cities with members of another group in August 2001 to see how people in those countries use various forms of media to express their opinions.

“One cafe we visited aired a video short about a civic demonstration, after which the viewers talked about it,” Shimonobo said. “I thought we could do something similar in Japan.”

The idea seemed perfectly suited to her search for ways to have amateur video shorts viewed by wider audiences.

“There are not many places in Japan that show video shorts made my members of the general public. The opportunity to receive feedback from an audience would definitely encourage amateur filmmakers,” she said. “Japanese people are not used to expressing their own opinions, thus we would hope to encourage those who want to try.”

Shimonobo also stressed the importance of presenting opinions to a live audience because face-to-face interaction has declined in the Internet age.

Although she initially feared there would be a shortage of films to present, her concerns were soon erased after the screenings began last month. With the amount of material she’s received and the interest that has been expressed, Shimonobo expects to be able to change the program on a monthly basis.

“Since the showings started, many people have contacted us, saying they have films they want to submit. One person offered videos made for those with hearing disabilities,” she said. “It is important for people with different backgrounds and experiences to express their opinions, and I hope the movement spreads.”

Videos produced by foreigners residing in Japan and Japanese living abroad are also welcome, she said, adding that shorter ones are preferred.

Shops and bars that are interested in hosting screenings are also encouraged to contact Akame, she said.

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