Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend a most warm welcome to all of you on the second day of this festival of the latest Japanese films, Premiere Japan. The three-day programme brings to us various genres of Japanese films, including animation, fantasy and family entertainment. Today's offering, Hidden Blade, directed by Yoji Yamada, is an acclaimed jidaigeki or historical drama; at the same time it is a human drama about a samurai warrior at the end of Japan's feudal era.
Jidaigeki is a well-established genre of Japanese film, which perhaps reached its pinnacle with Kurosawa's Kagemusha. When I was a child, jidaigeki was a major source of entertainment either on TV or in the cinema, although this is less the case today now that society has so many more material comforts to enjoy. Yet I am convinced that jidaigeki provides valuable hints about the spiritual and social backbone of today's Japan.
Quality films move the audience through their masterly depiction of human agony, grief, psychological dilemmas and joy. They often become valuable tools for fostering mutual understanding and cultural exchange across borders. Unlike, for example, opera, films are easily accessible by everyone. In contrast to literature, they require no expertise on the part of the audience. In just a couple of hours or less, they open the door to a different culture and society. They may even take us to a totally imaginary world that we have never experienced before, as in Howl's Moving Castle, shown yesterday. Yet we relate in a real and meaningful way to the human experience or sentiments of the hero or heroine in the film. A good film thus has the power to inspire people to pursue their dreams. That is the thinking behind this film festival, and that is the reason why we are gathered here today.
That said, let me now pay tribute to everyone involved in making this event possible. In particular, I would like to thank Japan Airlines and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for their sponsorship. I am also grateful to BAFTA for providing such a splendid venue for this venture.
Well, I think I have exhausted what I had to say about Japanese films. Now I will make way for someone who definitely knows what he is talking about! The British film critic Tony Rayns, our special guest this evening, is a world-renowned commentator on East Asian films. In this regard, he has played an important role in making Japanese films better known worldwide. Indeed, the international fame now enjoyed by Takeshi Kitano for his film Zatoichi reflects in no small measure the respect commanded by Tony's film reviews. Tony has, of course, played a key role in organising this festival by selecting the films for it and promoting the event through the media . So, without further ado, may I ask Tony Rayns to step forward and tell us something about Hidden Blade?
Past events: Premiere Japan '05
Speech by Ambassador Nogami