By: Leon Zhi Wei Chen
The Japanese filmmaking industry has always kept to themselves for a long period of time. Being the third-largest market in the world in terms of box office, they were able to keep up their budgets and profits comfortably at a domestic level. However, with the introduction of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Japanese content has taken the world by storm unlike previous promotions via film festivals and co-productions.
Photo Source: BBC
One of the many co-productions introduced is Giri/Haji, a BBC production that was filmed in both England and Japan. The first bilingual Japanese-English show to be put on UK television and the big hit that BBC wanted to launch Japanese drama further in the UK market, Giri/Haji has become a show that boosted Japanese international involvement while introducing Japanese content to a greater audience, especially UK audience who would be interested in more Japanese language content.
Giri/Haji is not the only show with international involvement. Again, heavily driven by the streaming giant Netflix, the world was introduced to Naked Director and Alice in Borderland, the latter ranked as a top ten show in over 40 territories around the world. Japanese language content has reached a height of popularity where indie and art focused storylines are also yearned for. The iconic Shoplifters (2018) director Koreeda Hirokazu has been asked to direct a big budget feature for Netflix while also expected to be showrunner and co-director for another show. They have also begun contacting other creatives. Sakamoto Kaata, the VP of content at Netflix Japan appeals to creatives by promoting the path of streaming instead of the traditional film festival circuit into the theatre route, especially for younger filmmakers. This new streaming process has recently become more accessible, but more importantly gets global viewing reach that a festival circuit could not match.
As streaming services begin to get more and more popular, so does the awareness of Japanese language content. Hopefully the filmmaking industry of Japan starts to embrace international involvement more, while increasing viewers around the world enjoy the slow ramp up of content from a fresh perspective.