This past week, Coventry University’s East Asian Film Society was privileged to have Jasper Sharp in house to offer a rare screening of Tetsuaki Matsue’s Annyong Kimchee complimented by his lecture on independent filmmaking in Japan.
While having only discovered Japanese Cinema over a decade ago, British born Sharp’s extensive work has seen him a regular contributor to Sight and Sound, author of seminal text Behind the Pink Curtain and editor of the influential Japanese cinema website Midnight Eye.
Sharp is known as a leading figure in the field of Japanese cinema, but he is quick to point out the variety of journalistic opportunities continually opening up in other niche or emerging markets- for those who take a proactive approach. Acknowledging that the film industry is not the singular body we tend to identify with Hollywood, but rather made up by many groups, it is important to remember that to be successful “you’ve got to create roles around yourself”.
It is as curator of London’s Japanese Film Festival, Zipangu Fest that his belief in this approach is most evident: “I wanted to be control of every single aspect and reach out to the audiences I knew were there, also finding ways of attracting new audiences. Writes Nadia Baird…
“I consider this screening we’re doing now [at Coventry University] to be part of Zipangu Fest- we definitely want to get people to engage in Japanese cinema, not just to have something showing at one cinema or have one event going on, so then people who aren’t there will never hear about it.”
His desire to bring many films out of relative obscurity through the website, his reviews and the festival would no doubt have been impacted by his own experiences as a film enthusiast in the days before the internet. He recalled a time before his journalistic work on Japanese Cinema began, saying: “Literally I think the longest I have spent was twenty years tracing down one film – Mind Feast – which of course is now available on DVD everywhere in the world. But at the time I saw it in the 80s there was a still of it in a book and I thought, it’s mad I want to see it!
“So I get a big kick at the moment just being part of this process. For example if I see a film I really like in Japan and then have it shown in America, it starts creating these waves around the world that weren’t there before. I think that’s the interesting thing for me; broadening people’s ideas and giving people shared experiences that they won’t forget.”