It is ‘The Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges’, and Seigo Tono, Festival Director of the prestigious Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, believes that his country shares a more spiritual connect with India than with any other nation….writes Natalia Ningthoujam
As part of the “friendly exchanges”, Tono was here inNew Delhi earlier this month for the screening of a few Japanese short films and a talk session at the Embassy of Japan.
Do films help to strengthen ties between two nations?
“Yes, of course, because when… For example, when (Indian filmmaker) Gitanjali Rao came to Japan in 2007, she wore a sari all the time. So, at the festival (Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia), people were fascinated by that. They asked about her and took pictures with her. She also explained about India. There was a nice communication as well,” Tono said.
“In general, Japanese people share a lot of things in common (with India)… More spiritual than with other countries. So, I hope Japan and India, as countries or governments, collaborate more in a good way. There is a great future,” he added.
It was his maiden visit to India, but he didn’t get any cultural “shock”.
“I feel I’ve known Indian culture since my youth because in my school (in Japan), many of my classmates were Indians. I am not sure how Indian they were, because they were born in Japan and spoke in Japanese.
“When I went to their house, I was shocked to see my friend’s mother eating with hand because that’s something you don’t generally get to see. But it was very natural. So, yes I was a little bit familiar with Indian culture,” said the 49-year-old.
And, yes, he has seen many Indian films.
“Not only Bollywood films, but as a film student… everyone has to watch Satyajit Ray’s films,” said the Festival Director, who finds India “so huge” that just one or two trips are insufficient to discover India.
Talking about short films, he said that back in 1999 when the festival dedicated to the format began in Japan, the future didn’t seem to be bright.
“People asked us ‘Why short films now? There’s no business.’ But now with mobile phones, more and more short films are in demand. There is social network, so I think there is a great future for short content.”
Feature films, on the other hand, in cinemas will always exist, he believes.
“We always want to be thrilled in a big theatre with amazing visuals like ‘Star Wars’. Those films may get screens, but most mediocre independent films… I think it will be hard for them, as it is relatively easier to make a film now and so the competition has increased,” said Tono, who started off with making short films as a student.
Any advice for budding filmmakers?
“Sriptwriting is the most important part of filmmaking. You need a good story. Also, if they can spend more money on something, they should spend more on actors. Hire good actors because sometimes what happens is that when you are making an independent film, you don’t have much money.
“So you hire your girlfriend, brother or sister in the film and that is quite a disaster because they don’t have the skills to play a character on screen. Take real actors so that the audience can believe in the story,” he advised.