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Friday, Sept. 18, 2009

FILM INTERVIEW

Underground fruit

Women in film: Atsuko Ohno talks about Peaches


By JASPER SHARP
Special to The Japan Times

Peaches Film Festival organizer Atsuko Ohno talks to The Japan Times about a unique event, held every March since 2007, to produce and screen works by recent female graduates of the Film School of Tokyo (Eiga Bigakko).

News photo
Got good taste: Peaches Festival organizer Atsuko Ohno

Can you tell me more about the Peaches Festival?

I'm a graduate of the Film School of Tokyo. About four years ago, I was talking with some friends about putting together a showcase of works by other recent women graduates. The first year we decided to produce five movies, which we screened for just one day at the school to students, teachers and other friends in the industry, not for the general public. Last year, as the event got bigger, we moved to Eurospace cinema in Shibuya and we screened 12 films, including the five from the year before. This year we showed nine.

Where did the name come from?

From Momo Matsuri, the coming-of-age celebration held for girls every March 3rd in Japan. Actually screenings have never taken place on this date because of scheduling difficulties, but it always takes place in March, in Tokyo at least. This year we also toured the program to Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Kochi.

You're a producer too, right?

Yes, I worked on the "Bancho" series, a project of 11 films that fell under three categories, Horror Bancho, Eros Bancho and the comedy Wara Bancho. It was organized by the Film School of Tokyo and the works, which included Takashi Shimizu's "Marebito: The Stranger from Afar" and Mari Asato's "Samurai Chicks: Girls for Independence," screened at Eurospace in 2004.

How did you select the films?

I look at the filmmakers' previous work, then I meet and talk with them and see if they're willing to participate. The films aren't produced through the school, but independently by the filmmakers. Usually the budgets are around ¥300,000. They finance the films themselves. I mainly provide them with the opportunity to screen them.

Did you feel there was a need for this festival?

I wasn't sure if there was a need exactly, but I'm a woman, I have a lot of women filmmaking friends, so I thought, "Why not?" I'm not a women's lib-type. I thought maybe it's just a convenient way of categorization. I feel a little bit strange about it, but I just wanted to do something fun with my friends, who are very talented and don't really have much chance to be promoted. The film directors may be women, but they're not shooting as "women directors."

What kind of audiences do you get?

We got about 1,500 attendees over two weeks this year, with a 50-50 mix between men and women. We promoted the event really strongly, and the directors were also great at promoting themselves. The audience for jishu eiga (amateur) indie films are usually men in their mid-30s or 40s, but I tried to grab more attention with potential women viewers, because I wanted to show what's possible in the modern world. The flyer has a girly, pink, flowery design, but the films are all a lot harder than this visual might suggest.


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