Out West, looking east
Mysterious spiral shapes
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