Out West, look­ing east

Mys­te­ri­ous spi­ral shapes

Pasatiempo - - For the New Mexican - Robert B. Ker

haunt the denizens of a small Ja­panese town. A wash­ing ma­chine has a per­son­al­ity of its own and causes a rift in a fam­ily’s house. A punk rocker em­barks on a soul-search­ing jour­ney through the 1980s Tokyo un­der­ground. A man with cere­bral palsy sets out for re­venge af­ter his best friend steals his se­cret love.

These sto­ries are told in Asian movies ( Uzu­maki, The Beau­ti­ful Wash­ing Ma­chine, Car­ni­val in the Night, and Late Bloomer, re­spec­tively) that have trav­eled across the Pa­cific Ocean and are dis­trib­uted through­out the United States via a Santa Fe of­fice on Cer­ril­los Road. Tide­point Pic­tures’ li­brary en­com­passes films and film­mak­ers from Ja­pan, China, South Korea, In­done­sia, and Malaysia and in­cludes lesser-known works by cel­e­brated di­rec­tors such as Hideo Nakata ( Ringu), Takashi Mi­ike ( Au­di­tion), and Sion Sono ( Sui­cide Club). The com­pany screens one of its films, Tak­ing Fa­ther Home, on Sun­day, June 13, as part of the Asia Now film se­ries at The Screen.

“Ba­si­cally, we choose films we like and would like to share with many peo­ple,” Tide­point’s co-founder and pres­i­dent, Tet­suki Ijichi, told Pasatiempo. “I like see­ing and pro­mot­ing films that have an in­di­vid­ual voice and artis­tic vi­sion, with vis­ual sense and/or mar­ketable el­e­ments. I also like the films that will open peo­ple’s minds up through their style.”

Ijichi, who was born in Ky­oto, Ja­pan, first had his mind opened up to the po­ten­tial of in­de­pen­dent cin­ema when he was study­ing film at Waseda Uni­ver­sity in Tokyo. At the time, he had been plan­ning to be­come a jour­nal­ist or film critic. But some­thing funny hap­pened along the way. He pro­duced a film that went on to win a prize at a stu­dent film fes­ti­val. Both the film’s bud­get and the prize were mea­ger sums, but the prize was nearly twice the cost of mak­ing the film. Not a bad re­turn.

Af­ter he grad­u­ated, he went to work at an ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany while or­ga­niz­ing screen­ings of in­de­pen­dent films at night. He pro­duced some short films and fea­tures, in­clud­ing Tami No Car­ni­val (Car­ni­val in the Night), and went on to work in dis­tri­bu­tion at Kuzui En­ter­prises, help­ing bring films such as Stop Mak­ing Sense and Pump­ing Iron to Ja­pan. While work­ing in dis­tri­bu­tion, he met his wife and fol­lowed her back to the United States, even­tu­ally mov­ing to the San Fran­cisco Bay area in 1996.

“Af­ter my wife and I founded Tide­point, I started sell­ing Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dent films that mostly were pro­duced lo­cally in the Bay Area at that time,” he said. “As my goal was to sell Ja­panese films to Amer­i­can dis­trib­u­tors, I also started to work as the U.S. rep for Ja­panese pro­duc­ers to sell their films to the North Amer­i­can mar­ket. Af­ter we re­leased a film called Junk Food, I saw po­ten­tial and fo­cused on Ja­panese film dis­tri­bu­tion in the U.S.”

He also no­ticed that many Amer­i­can cinephiles knew di­rec­tors such as Kuro­sawa, Ozu, and Mi­zoguchi but were largely un­fa­mil­iar with con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese film­mak­ers. In the pre-in­ter­net, pre-DVD era, it was dif­fi­cult to even find Asian in­de­pen­dent cin­ema out­side of film fes­ti­vals and large ur­ban ar­eas where im­ports and bootlegs could be pur­chased. Slowly, that be­gan to change.

“Al­most all Amer­i­can film dis­trib­u­tors didn’t know if there would be au­di­ences for the films in the U.S. at that time. Then, af­ter Ja­panese an­ime and an­i­mated fea­tures got pop­u­lar in the youth au­di­ences, they rec­og­nized some of the Ja­panese con­tem­po­rary genre films. Hollywood’s new gen­er­a­tion of di­rec­tors like Tarantino and the Wa­chowski broth­ers also pushed them.”

Tet­suki Ijichi, pres­i­dent of Tide­point Pic­tures Right, Wang Jie and Xu Yuu in Tak­ing Fa­ther Home

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