Perspectives from the Nara International Film Festival (Part 1)


Naomi Kawase talks about the power of movies to nurture young people and change Nara

The Nara International Film Festival has been held since 2010. In odd-numbered years, we invite young film directors as a pre-event, and hold a film production set in Nara, a screening of completed films, and a workshop for the youth generation. Events such as film screenings and red carpet events have been held. This year, which is an odd-numbered year, the name was changed from the previous "Nara International Film Festival Pre-Event" to "Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021," and it was held from September 18th to 20th.



Naomi Kawase, an internationally active filmmaker from Nara Prefecture, is the executive director of the Nara International Film Festival, which is celebrating its 11th year this year. She talked about the past and future of the Nara International Film Festival, the significance of holding an international film festival in Nara, and what is expected of the film industry today.

Opening Ceremony “Prayer Red Carpet” and Ryukyu Dance


For the first time at the opening ceremony of the Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021, a red carpet of prayers was held at Kasuga Taisha, a world heritage site. Approximately 60 people, including youth project participants and staff, solemnly climb the red carpet that has been laid out on the approach from the Ni-no-Torii gates to the main shrine to worship. Afterwards, a dedication dance by Ryukyuan dancer Shigeo Miyagi was performed in the ``Ringo no Niwa''.


``With the full moon rising and gradually tilting to the west, we solemnly walked along the red carpet that was laid out on the ``Kami no Michi'' from the torii gate to the main shrine and prayed. Shigeo Miyagi performed ``Shuduun'' on a stage that was lit only by bonfires and moonlight, without using any artificial lighting. Both participants and those who watched it on YouTube said they were impressed."

Around September 18th, when the opening ceremony was held, there was a forecast that a typhoon would make landfall in the Kansai region. Officials said they were worried that the outdoor ``Prayer Red Carpet'' and Ryukyu dance might not be able to be held.


``I was calm and confident that everything would be fine,'' Kawase declared, ``I believed that the god of Nara would follow me.''

Ryukyuan dancer Shigeo Miyagi performs the "Dedication Enbu." The women performed the ``Shuduun'' dance set to a song that earnestly expressed the feeling of not being able to meet the people you want to meet. ``I requested this performance with the hope that it would calm down the turbulent times we live in,'' Kawase says. The Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021 ``Prayer Red Carpet'' and ``Dedicatory Dance'' were broadcast to the world on YouTube.

Further strengthening the youth cinema project with “Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021”


Up until now, the year before the main festival, which is held in even-numbered years, we have invited young film directors from Japan and abroad as a ``pre-event'' to produce films set in Nara and carry out a number of projects to convey the appeal of film. For the past four years, we have been holding the ``Youth Cinema Project,'' a workshop aimed at young people who will lead the next generation, every year. This year, our main focus is to further strengthen this project and develop it by changing the name to ``Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021'' in order to make it the mainstay of the ``Nara International Film Festival.'' Let's introduce the program.


The ``Youth Cinema Project'' is a project in which youth take the lead in conducting three programs with the objectives of ``creating movies,'' ``watching and judging,'' and ``showcasing and delivering movies.'' With the help of professional advice. .

“Nara International Film Festival for Youth2021” “Nara International Film Festival for Youth2021”

Everyone who participated in "Nara International Film Festival for Youth 2021".

"Youth Film Production Workshop" "Youth Film Production Workshop"

The ``Youth Film Production Workshop'' is an event in which middle school and high school students aged 13 to 18, recruited from all over the country, take the lead in creating a film, from conception to editing.

cinema intern cinema intern

An online meeting of the ``Youth Cinema Intern'', which is mainly comprised of people between the ages of 15 and 18, and takes on the challenge of distribution and promotion to reach general audiences.

What is the significance of holding an international film festival in Nara?


Why did they decide to hold an international film festival in Nara in the first place?


“That's because I myself was discovered at an international film festival.In 1997, I made my first theatrical debut and my first 35mm film, ``Moe no Suzaku''.・The 27-year-old won the award for Best New Director, making him the youngest director in history, the first female director, and the first Asian director to win the award. I learned the power of international film festivals because they evaluated my films and discovered me."


After that, I had the opportunity to participate in international film festivals held all over the world. When you attend a film festival held in a small town, residents of that town volunteer to attend to you and take care of things like meals and sightseeing. Many of them were young people.


``When I asked them why they volunteered, they all said, of course, that they love movies, but they also said that they love this town. In Japan's regional cities, young people grow up being told, ``There's nothing here,'' and they say, ``I want to go to the city. I want to spread out into the world.'' ' I thought as I left town. I wondered if I could change that."


Nara is an ancient capital. It has a history of 1300 years and is home to eight world heritage sites.


``The land is full of treasures that money can't buy, but young people say, ``There's nothing there'' and leave. The film festival is an opportunity to share this region's culture with the world, and at the same time it is an opportunity for the people who live here to rediscover the charm and beauty of their region."


However, since 2010, Nara City has become the prefectural capital without a single movie theater. Movie culture must not die out in Nara. With this strong desire, Kawase founded the Nara International Film Festival.


"Nara International Film Festival" is a place where things that are not supposed to meet meet.


Kawase says that the significance of international film festivals is that they are ``places where things that are not supposed to meet can meet.'' He spoke with this anecdote.


``Once, after the film ``Ajami'' by an Israeli director was screened at a film festival, a middle-aged woman who had seen the movie was calling someone in the lobby. She heard her exclaim in an excited tone, ``I just saw something amazing,'' and she knew, ``This is it!''


It's a work about the civil war in Israel with the Palestinians. The woman, who has lived in Nara for many years, would never have known about Israel or the civil war if she hadn't seen this movie.


“There are some movies that can only be seen at film festivals. Through those movies, you may encounter things and people that you would never have met, and that may have some kind of impact on the person who watched it for the rest of their lives.” I can't do it."


If you don't have the opportunity to watch movies, you may not realize the value of what you encounter. Therefore, since 12, we have been running a project called ``Nara Cinematheque,'' in which we screen one film every month as a weekend cinema 2013 times a year. If a film festival is a place to celebrate, a cinematheque is a place to celebrate. By getting them into the habit of watching movies, they will develop the ability to encounter movies, which will bring them even richer fruit.

Using the power of film to promote local PR and industry


The ``NARAtive project'' is a place to connect Hare and Ke. This project invites domestic and foreign directors who have won awards in the competition section of international film festivals to create films set in Nara. In the seventh film "NARAtive2020", Chinese director Pengfei's "Nara Reunion" was specially screened at this year's film festival. "NARAtive" not only communicates the charms of Nara globally, but also gives the people of Nara an opportunity to rediscover the charm of the land where they live while cooperating in film production.


I also joined the village mayors/mayors of Nara City, Kashihara City, Totsukawa Village, Gojo City, Higashiyoshino Village, Tenri City, and Gose City, which have been selected as the stage locations, to launch the NARAtive Network.


``Through movies, we can promote regional PR and promote industry.The power of movies is not limited to just movies.I think it will spread further,'' Kawase says, his eyes seeming to shine quietly.


Kawase's words will spread to the future of Nara International Film Festival and the culture of film. In the second part, we will talk about the spirituality that lives in the land of Nara, learn from international film festivals around the world, and talk about the current state of the film industry and the future of film.



(Titles omitted)

Naomi Kawase

He continues to create films based in Nara, where he was born and raised. She has won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, including the Cannes Film Festival. While expanding her field of expression around the world, she started the Nara International Film Festival in 2010 in her hometown of Nara, and is also focusing on nurturing the next generation. A major Naomi Kawase exhibition was held at the Center Pompidou in Paris from 2018 to 2019. She has been appointed as the official film director for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In 2025, she will serve as a theme project producer and senior advisor for the Osaka/Kansai Expo, and will also serve as the president of the Japan Women's Basketball League. In addition to directing movies, she continues to pursue her creative activities regardless of genre, including directing commercials and writing essays.In her private life, she is a mother of one child who grows vegetables and rice.

Text by Motoko Jitsukawa
Hair & Makeup Yoko Kizu
Photography by Ayumi Okubo (amana)

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