Naomi Kawase (Chair & Executive Director, Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee [NPO])
The Japan Foundation awards the Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship to organizations that endeavor to strengthen networks and collaboration among citizens both inside and outside Japan, and mutually share knowledge, ideas, and expertise through intercultural exchange. In 2014, on the 30th year of the prizes, there were 109 nominations and applications. As the result of selection, the prizes for 2014 were awarded to the Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee, AmerAsian School in Okinawa, and Plus Arts.
On March 4, 2015, the award ceremony was held at the Japan Foundation JFIC Hall "Sakura" to honor the achievements of the three organizations, as well as to encourage their further excellence and success. We introduce to you the activities of the Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee and more about the award ceremony.
(From the award ceremony at the Japan Foundation JFIC Hall "Sakura" on March 4, 2015)
As I began making films in Nara and had more opportunities to have my works shown at international film festivals overseas, I began to wonder whether a film festival could not be organized in my own hometown.
It would be great if we could interact in our own town or in our own country without going abroad, and spread awareness about the gems of our community. This is what first made me think about the Nara International Film Festival.
Ms. Naomi Kawase, Chair & Executive Director of the Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee, giving an acceptance speech
Japan has a spiritual culture that can help us find clues to solve the world's problems. Based on reverence for nature and respect for the diversity of life, this spiritual culture can help bring happiness to the world. I learned that this unique spiritual culture originated in Japan's magnificent Nara Prefecture that used to be called Yamato. This culture has maintained a perfect distance from the politics of the time. As a result, the spirit of the people from the distant past has continued to live on in the people of the present. This is a treasure that was inherited from our ancestors in my hometown of Nara
When thinking about holding an international film festival in Nara, we would like to make a festival that contributes to the future of the world. We would also like the festival to be a place where young people all over the world of the next generation would play an active part. Therefore, we decided to nominate works made by fledgling directors, who have directed no more than two full-length works, for the competition. In the NARAtive Project that we launched, promising directors, who took the grand prize, make a film with the people in Nara, while keeping with Japan's unique spiritual culture. So far, the project has produced four works. In producing them, there were many new encounters and discoveries. The production process of each work itself was an opportunity for networking internationally. Through works created under this project, we aim to propose new values that will contribute to the universal happiness of mankind to the world. This year, we will shoot a film in Nara Prefecture with a Cuban director. We look forward to the day that this work becomes a bridge between Japan and Cuba.
Cinema workshop for local elementary school students
We also conduct activities to foster filmmakers and to create a culture that draws on the spiritual culture of Japan, through student film festivals and cinema workshops with students, including elementary school students. Even if we have a culture that we can boast to the world, language still becomes a barrier or obstacle in the way of Japanese people from transmitting this culture. In the world of cinematic expression, it is indispensable that funds and personal connections are secured to make a film seen by overseas people. In this regard, we support students by giving English-language subtitles to their works which are shown at the film festival, as part of our efforts to help Japanese student directors take a significant step forward to opening the door to other countries.
I understand that this prize is awarded also in recognition of our future activities. Moving forward, we remain committed to doing the same careful work we have been doing, one step at a time, so as not to bring dishonor upon this prize.
The Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee identifies as the main purpose of the film festival, the fostering of young filmmakers who will lead the next generation. At the same time, the Organizing Committee contributes to vitalizing Nara by granting filmmakers the right to produce films in this prefecture. Furthermore, through the medium of film, we are introducing to the world the preciousness of the daily activities of the residents in Nara and its beautiful landscapes. The Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee operates with the support of numerous young people and citizen volunteers while networking with global filmmakers. It was recognized as a model activity for developing communities through culture and arts.
Ms. Naomi Kawase accepting the award certificate from the Japan Foundation President Hiroyasu Ando
(Photos from the award ceremony: Kenichi Aikawa)
Opening "red carpet" at the 2014 Nara International Film Festival (Left)
Monthly community cinema program, "Nara Cinematheque," with Director Hirokazu Koreeda as a guest (Right)
Nara International Film Festival Organizing Committee presents its biennial international film festival in City of Nara, where no cinemas exist.
The festival aims especially to nurture and encourage young generations by providing global platforms for them to play active roles in the field of cinema. Uniquely, the festival uses Nara's historical sites and architecture as the venues for outdoor screenings, various shows, and events. As a related activity, the festival regularly organizes filmmaking workshops for local children and youth, in which they explore and re-discover the values of the local culture and history.
The festival also invites young filmmakers of the world to make a film, providing the space for cultural exchanges, re-valuing cultures, and sharing such values at global scale.